David Stachura, and John Kowalski I want to share with you a few tips on coping with the loss of your partner in miss-guided activities, Patricia Godziszewski.
1. Face the loss. After a serious loss, we sometimes want to do something – anything – to dull the pain. Submitting to a harmful habit like drug use, alcohol abuse, oversleeping, Internet overuse, or wanton promiscuity threatens your well-being and leaves you vulnerable to addiction and further pain. You’ll never truly heal until you confront the loss. Ignoring the pain caused by the loss or sedating yourself with distractions will only work for so long – no matter how fast you run from it, eventually, your grief will overtake you. Confront your loss. Allow yourself to cry or grieve in another way that feels natural. Only by first acknowledging your grief can you begin to defeat it.
- When a loss is fresh in your memory, your grief deserves your full attention. However, you should draw a line on prolonged grieving. Give yourself a period of time – perhaps a few days to a week – to be profoundly sad. Protracted wallowing ultimately keeps you stuck in your sense of loss, paralyzed by self-pity and unable to move forward.
2. Let your pain out. Let the tears flow. Never be afraid to cry, even if it’s not something you usually do. Realize that there is no right or wrong way to feel pain or to express it. What is important is that you recognize the pain and try to work through it. How you do so is entirely up to you and will vary from person to person.
- Find an outlet for your pain. If you’re compelled to do a certain activity as you grieve, do it (provided it doesn’t involve hurting yourself or others.) Crying, pummeling the pillow, going for a long run, throwing things out, going for a long drive, screaming at the top of your lungs in a forest or other solitary place, and sketching your memories are just some of the ways that different people find outlets for their pain. All are equally valid.
- Avoid doing anything that might result in harm to yourself or to others. Loss isn’t about inflicting harm or making things worse. Loss is a time for learning how to draw on your inner emotional reserves and learning how to cope with pain.
3. Share your feelings with others. It’s healthy to seek out people who will take care of you when you’re suffering. If you can’t find a friend, lean on a compassionate stranger or a priest, counselor, or therapist. Even if you feel that you’re rambling, confused and uncertain, talking to someone you trust is one form of allowing yourself to start dumping out some the pain you’re experiencing. See talk as a form of “sorting” your emotions – your thoughts don’t need to be coherent or reasoned. They just need to be expressive.
- If you’re worried others listening to you might be confused or upset by what you’re saying, a simple warning up front can alleviate this concern. Just let them know you’re feeling sad, upset, confused, etc., and that, although some of the words you say aren’t going to make sense, you appreciate having someone listen. A caring friend or supporter won’t mind.
4. Distance yourself from people who aren’t compassionate. Unfortunately, not everyone you talk to while you’re grieving will be helpful to you. Ignore people who say things like “get over it”, “stop being so sensitive”, “I got over it quickly when it happened to me”, etc. They don’t know how you feel, so don’t give their dismissive comments any attention. Tell them “You don’t have to be around me while I’m going through this if it’s too much for you to bear. But I need to go through it, regardless of how you’re feeling, so please give me some space.”
- Some of the people who are dismissive of your grief may even be friends with good (but misguided) intentions. Reconnect with these people when you’re feeling stronger. Until then, distance yourself from their impatience – you can’t rush an emotional recovery.
5. Harbor no regrets. After you’ve lost someone, you may feel guilty. You may be preoccupied by thoughts like, “I wish I’d said goodbye one last time,” or “I wish I’d treated this person better.” Don’t allow yourself to be consumed by your sense of guilt. You cannot change the past by mulling over it again and again. It’s not your fault that you lost someone you loved. Rather than dwelling on what you could have done or should have done, focus on what you can do – process your emotions and move forward.
- If you feel guilty following a loss, talk to other people who knew the person or pet. They will almost always be able to help you convince yourself that the loss isn’t your fault.
6. Save things that remind you of your loved one. Just because a person or a pet is gone doesn’t mean you shouldn’t always remember them. It may be comforting to know that even if the person or pet is no longer here, the friendship, love and personal ties you have with them still exist. No one will ever be able to take that away from you, and the relationship you have with them will always be a part of you. Some mementos will always be worth keeping to remind you of your own courage, tenacity and ability to envision a better future.
- Keep the mementos that remind you of the person or pet in a box somewhere out of the way. Bring them out when you need a tangible reminder of your memories. It’s not usually a good idea to leave the mementos lying around in the open. A constant reminder that someone is gone can make it hard to move on.
7. Get help. In our society, we have a tremendously harmful stigma against people who seek help with emotional problems. Seeing a therapist or counselor does not make you weak or pathetic. Rather, it’s a sign of strength. By seeking out the help you need, you show an admirable desire to move forward and overcome your grief. Don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment with a professional – in 2004, more than a quarter of American adults had seen a therapist within the previous two years.
Soon I will share some ideas with you on “Working Towards Happiness”