The anguish of letting go

Grief iconSometimes we hear about “the grieving process.” But really, there are as many ways to grieve as there are people. It looks different for everyone, and can differ one occasion to the next for the same person. There are some common themes, though: sadness, anger, feeling numb, the fact that it takes time to move through these feelings, and that we often don’t just move through a feeling and then we’re done with it.

Making meaning

One way of understanding how we grieve outlines five stages that we go through: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. (This is the Kubler-Ross model of grief.) It's important to realize that we move back and forth through these stages--it's not a straight line. Ultimately, though, as we move through the stages, our minds are working to make sense, or meaning, out of our loss, and the suffering that comes with it. Hopefully, the meaning we make of our loss allows us to continue to living and loving the memories of those we lose.

Grieving

Make time to grieve

Most of us don’t want to feel sad, or angry, or to feel the pain of losing someone. It can be easy to use schoolwork or job obligations as a way to avoid those uncomfortable feelings. What we know, though, is that those feelings won’t just go away. They’ll come back. So, while maintaining academics and our jobs, and other daily functioning is vital, it’s important to set aside some time to simply grieve.

Take care of yourself

Be gentle with yourself. Grieving takes a toll on a person—emotionally and physically. If it’s hard to find the motivation to maintain regular eating, sleeping, and basic exercise, try scheduling it. Whatever self-care activities suit you, make the time for them.

Loving memory

Honor the memory of your loved one. Make room for the stories that come to mind. Some people find it helpful to journal, write poetry, or make an art project. You could even volunteer for an organization that reminds you of something they cared about.

The big questions

Losing someone we love can cause us to ask the big, unanswerable questions. Talking with a counselor or spiritual advisor can be helpful, or seeking out the support of your spiritual community.

Connect

It can be tempting to withdraw when we’re grieving. We might tell ourselves that we’re a bummer or we’re in no mood to hang out with friends. And sure, we might need a different kind of connection than we did before our loss. Still, it’s important to find the kind of connection we need—to be able to share and process our feelings of loss with people we trust, people who care about us.