The blog this week deals with devastation, loss, and ways to cope and recover. After the horrific damage caused by this year’s hurricane season, many find their homes ravaged or completely destroyed, pets lost or knee deep in wreckage that may take years to repair. How do we cope with such loss? How do we go on?
Grief is inevitable with loss of any kind and it comes in hundreds of colors, shapes and sizes and looks different on everyone. One thing that may help is the concept of impermanence. In Buddhism, (you don’t have to be Buddhist to embrace this), everything both happy and sad are malleable. As a good friend of mine has said to me, “one thing we can count on is change.” When going through bereavement, knowing that you won’t always feel this horrible, or helpless, does help…eventually. It takes time to heal and it is important to your recovery to acknowledge your feelings.
Allow yourself time to collect your thoughts, try not to make any hasty decisions until after the fog has lifted. When you are in the throes of emotions, you may feel like running away or starting over somewhere far away, unfortunately your feelings will follow you. Wait to make life-changing decisions until you feel stronger and clear to exam the pros and cons. Give yourself permission to put things on the back burner and focus on what is essential in the moment.
Start slow and chunk out tasks. If you have to start over from a natural disaster, you may begin to feel the light poking through as soon as essentials are dealt with. Don’t take on everything at once. Prioritize, what you need first and foremost, then work from there. In other words, don’t put all of your worries and concerns in the same basket, it will be way too heavy a burden. Take care of your basic needs for shelter, food, safety first. Everything else can wait. Take help when it is offered, people often want to contribute in some way, be it bringing meals or watching your children. Let them.
Know when you are incapable of dealing with the loss and ask for help. If you find yourself unable to function or to get out of bed, reach out to a professional. There is a huge difference between profound depression and grief. The latter is temporary and may simply need time to fade the other requires treatment. If you are prone to depression, a significant loss may trigger symptoms, reach out to those around you, tell them your true feelings and get help.
Understand though that in reality, you need to give grief time and space to dissipate. You may begin to notice less sadness in three months, but don’t be surprised if you’re still glum, at least some of the time, months after your loss. For most of us, it takes about a year before we have consistent grief free days.
Let the light of laughter in when it shows up. Although there may be a string of dismal days allow the curtains to open and set aside your worries. Perhaps a laugh with friends over funny memories or a dinner you’ve been invited to. It is okay to give your grief a time out, to find joy again.