Dealing with Loss and Grief

As I write this post, it’s barely a month since the U.S. presidential election. But already there’s talk in the media about Mitt Romney’s apparent post-election “seclusion”, “malaise” and “boredom” as if these actions constitute some great sin. They are portraying him as the ultimate loser as he retreats to lick his wounds and re-assess his goals and his life.

Now, I’m no fan of Mitt Romney and I didn’t vote for him. But I can appreciate his pain and support him in taking adequate time to grieve his loss. He spent the past seven to ten years planning and positioning himself to make this run for the presidency, maybe longer. And reportedly he felt, right up until the final minutes of election night, that victory was within his grasp. So it was likely a huge shock to him and to those close to him that he lost.

Any kind of change in your life can trigger a sense of loss. The greater the loss, the greater the possibility that you will feel grief. Whether it be the death of a loved one, loss through separation or divorce or children leaving or family trauma, loss of a job or income, loss of health or mobility or opportunities, or moving to a new community, or something else  all loss is real. Sometimes you can feel grief even when you complete a positive goal because then the goal itself becomes “lost”.

Coming to terms with loss and grief can be a slow process. You might feel rushed if the people in your life want you to “get over it” or “move on “. But you can reduce your stress by allowing yourself enough time to heal in your own way and at your own pace.

During your grieving period, and even following, be sure to access proper support  you don‘t have to go through this alone. Reach out to others, especially to those who you trust and who will listen, as opposed to those who want to give “advice”.

Take advantage of healing professionals like psychotherapists, grief counselors, and/or spiritual counselors. You can also see if there are any grief-related support groups offered in your area, sometimes through the local hospice.

In addition, here are four recommended books dealing with grief:

• On Grief and Grieving: Finding the Meaning of Grief Through the Five Stages of Loss by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross. (This tried and true resource from a pioneer in this field is still relevant.)

• Life after Loss: A Practical Guide to Renewing Your Life after Experiencing Major Loss by Bob Deits

• 90 Minutes in Heaven: A True Story of Death & Life by Cecil B. Murphey

• A New Normal: Learning to Live with Grief and Loss by Darlene F. Cross

This time of the year is often a challenging time for most of us. But that is particularly true if you are experiencing some form of loss or grief. As I mentioned above, all loss is real and generally results in the experience of grief, especially during this part of the year.

Here are some things you can do that may help:

  • First off, remember that the “holidays” originally began as the “Holy Days” going back all the way to pagan celebrations of the solstice. That was before we secularized and commercialized them. Rather than falling into a culturally induced frenzy of unrealistic expectations, nostalgia and gift-buying, you can use this time to deepen and/or re-discover your own true spiritual beliefs and practices.
  • Instead of isolating due to your grief, you can use this time to challenge yourself to reach out and be with others you love, even if it’s just for a little while.
  • Give yourself the freedom to choose the company you keep. Focus on being with individuals whose company you enjoy. Avoid being with people who criticize, dominate, control or bring you down in other ways.
  • Incorporate more exercise, nutritious food, restful sleep and rejuvenating activities during this time. Restrict the amount of alcohol, caffeine, sweets and fats you take in. Get out into the fresh air and sunshine as much as possible. Breathe deeply. Meditate!
  • Above all else, allow yourself to set healthy boundaries. Don’t be at the whim of other’s expectations, or the culture’s expectations. The Rockwellian images offered via films, songs and the media are only “the stuff that dreams are made of”. They are a fiction. What is important is that you experience the truth of your life.

I wish you joyous Holy Days … expressed in your own unique way … via your own wellbeing lifestyle. Huzzah!

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