By Nance Ebert, Contributing Writer
REGION – There is something so debilitating about dealing with a loss, whether it’s sudden or expected. The range of emotions one feels can turn on a moment’s notice from feeling okay to suddenly being overcome with a flood of uncontrollable tears.
Self-care comes first
There are, however, some very helpful strategies that can be implemented to help deal with grief. First, and most important is taking care of yourself. Trying to eat nutritionally and getting enough sleep during this trying time can be challenging but it will not be helpful if you end up getting sick from the toll of emotional stress.
Give yourself permission to process your loss. This might look different for everyone. Some might choose to engage with others as connecting with friends and/or family can be helpful and comforting. Others might seek solitude. A support group can also be beneficial as those in attendance understand how you are feeling as they are dealing with loss as well. It’s difficult to heal if you cannot express your grief.
Seek help when you need it
“Grief is a very natural and organic process,” said Sairey Luterman, a certified thanatologist in Lexington. Thanatology is the scientific study of death and the practices associated with it. “There is no road map and it’s going to be different for each of us, and we need to honor that. We have all experienced some type of loss, whether it’s with divorce, a pet, a child born with a disability, aging parents and more,” she explained. “It goes well beyond solely dealing with a death. Accept the fact that you may need support.”
Loss affects everyone and can be quite traumatic and debilitating. For the person trying to deal with it, they can experience a host of emotions ranging from anger, shock, depression, denial and more. There is such a thing as Prolonged Grief Disorder (PGD) where the person is actually unable to resume their daily lives around the one-year mark after their loss. This is when outside help would be quite beneficial like a licensed counselor, therapist, or support group.
Some choose to seek out a rabbi, priest, minister or other member of the clergy to obtain spiritual support. Others create memories and ways to remember a loved one like creating a yearly ritual doing something they enjoyed together, planting a special tree or flower, or dedicating a bench in their honor in a park. Treasuring a loved one’s memory is the best legacy.
For some people, merely getting out of bed after experiencing a loss can be quite difficult. It’s important to set small goals, even if they seem inconsequential.
See it as a process
“Grief is a process, not an event. I tell my clients to ask for mutual support from family, friends and members of their community,” said Susan Kates, a Needham-based licensed independent clinical social worker who specializes in grief and loss counseling. “Tangible things like childcare and meals are so helpful. I also direct them to negotiate their priorities, so they are not getting too overwhelmed. Journaling is also a terrific way to express emotions and I encourage clients to honor their loss in a way that values the person,” she noted. “Be kind to yourself and breathe deeply as grief is hard.”
So many people over the last two plus years have experienced the loss of a loved one due to the COVID pandemic. For many who did not even get to say goodbye, the feeling of loss has been overwhelmingly painful.
“As the experience of death and mourning become more a part of life, two things happen: an increasing importance of remembering and including lost loved ones; and a growing awareness of their own mortality,” said Katherine Manners, a marriage and family therapist in Natick who also specializes in grief. “Normalize and explore these experiences without rushing. There is no timeline, and support their unique path of mourning while inviting an exploration into their own past, present and future.”