Spring is a time of renewal and transition, however, it can also be a time of reflection of the past and those we miss dearly. Additionally, for over 2 years now, we have been living with COVID-19 pandemic, adding to our experiences around loss. COVID-19 has surpassed roughly 993,000 deaths within the United States, leavings millions of Americans in a state of grief. In this current environment, we are likely to see more people whose grief doesn’t lessen with time. This has been emphasized by The American Psychiatric Association (APA) recently announcing the addition of prolonged grief disorder (PGD) to the newest version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5-TR) manual.
Many of us are familiar with the stages of grief. We are told that it’s a process and it has to run its course. The grief cycle (denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance) allows us the right to give ourselves grace for how we feel and the mental challenges we face during the grieving process. However, grief can leave many people feeling hopeless and frustrated with its long lasting affects. If you are grieving the loss of a loved one, here are 4 things you can do to manage your grieving process in a healthy way.
Self care is critical right now. Self care looks different for everyone and it is not selfish. Regular exercise, good nutrition, prioritizing sleep, connecting with trusted friends and family members, mindfulness, meditation, and connecting to nature are great ways to practice self care and put your needs first. Self care allows us space to tap into our subconscious feelings and thoughts and process them in a healthy manner. Self care lets us get to know the authentic person inside and embrace our emotional functions.
Practice Grace & Gratitude.
“Grace releases and affirms. It doesn’t smother. Grace values the dignity of individuals. It doesn’t destroy. Grace supports and encourages. It isn’t jealous or suspicious.” – Charles Swindoll
Grace gives us space to do the things we enjoy and honor our experiences. Focusing on what we have and those in our community who are loving and caring helps us stand firm in giving ourselves grace. Try making a gratitude jar. Put 20-30 things you are grateful for in the jar and every morning pull one new thing out of the jar you are grateful for. Practicing gratitude is an active way to give ourselves grace and be good to ourselves.
Say no to “should”.
Many of us struggle with I “should” send that gift, I “should” help that friend, I “should” have done more. The past is behind us, the future is uncertain but we do have the present. Telling ourselves we “should” instead of “can I” or “do I feel” keeps us in a space of punishing ourselves, which is the opposite of grace.
Ask for help.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Grief can be isolating and sometimes if we don’t find outlets to process our grief it can turn on us, leaving unhealthy ways to cope such as drinking, drugs, and other unhealthy behaviors. Know you are not alone. Talk to a mental health professional, a best friend, or someone in your church community. They can normalize your feelings and provide accountability for your journey in healing.