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Facing Grief

I am going through a hard time and I think it’s worth blogging about.

I recently lost my 16 1/2 year old dog and I am beside myself. He was my best friend and loyal companion for all of those years together and the void is deep and wide without him.

Here we are in the midst of global struggles during a pandemic. Many have lost their jobs and many lives have been lost or shattered due to COVID-19. Many of us feel like we can’t take one more blow this year, but many of us have.

Grief and depression can be overwhelming. Grief comes in many forms. I think a lot of us are grieving various losses right now. Some lost jobs they worked very hard to get, some households are facing financial struggles and others are grieving the loss of loved ones or battling health issues. So, for many of us, times are hard but even harder than usual. The pandemic just amplifies the day to day struggles with loss or suffering.

Grief is different for everyone and there is no right or wrong way to grieve. There is no set time frame for grieving. There are no rules. There are no guidelines.

As a person in deep sadness, I wanted to discuss some of the better ways you can help when someone you love is grieving.

  • Everyone is different. Advice on how to accept the loss or be stronger may not help your grieving friend. In fact, it may be hurtful. We all want to be helpful and we all feel compelled to lift our loved ones, but sometimes it’s best to just listen and comfort. Grief is definitely one of those times.

  • Reach out regularly. Just a simple call or text to check on how they’re doing makes a difference. Mourning can be a lonely experience but one person’s love can make all the difference. Because everyone processes loss on their own time, don’t stop checking after you think enough time is passed. Let your loved one let you know when they’ve stopped grieving by their actions.

  • Offer help. Aside from emotional support, check on their needs. Are they eating properly, continuing important life routines or getting proper rest? Maybe a way to help is to run errands for them or bring them items they may need such as groceries or a bottle of wine or a hot meal delivered to them.

  • Invite them to do upbeat activities. While they can be feeling overwhelmed, invite them to do low key, uplifting things like a visit to the beach or a hike in the woods or an afternoon at the cinema to just quietly enjoy a film. Unfortunately, because of the pandemic currently, many options are limited. Don’t forget you can always video chat with them and even live stream movies together on several digital platforms. (Here is an article about how to do a virtual watch together)

  • Give them space when they need it. Sometimes people need to be alone to work through their emotions. Keep reaching out and trying but accept it when they say they aren’t up for a chat or ready for interaction. Just remind them you are checking in and will be again soon because you care but also respect their space and their process.

Never judge a person’s grieving process no matter how foreign it may be to you!

Many psychology and mental health publications have taught us that there are 5 stages of Grief. This may not be true for everyone as the experience is not so organized and can offer some or all of these emotions in any order but the classic 5 stages are:

1) Denial - When the person cannot accept the reality of the loss and believes there is a mistake or simply denies the existence of the loss or pain. This would apply to a situation such as a relationship ending or a job loss more so than a definitive incident like death. Therefore, I do not believe every grieving person experiences denial. Even in the examples I provided, a person still may accept the reality even if they do not like it.

2) Anger - For some the reality is so upsetting they become angry. They may even be angry at themselves. Its a feeling of frustration and angst. Perhaps the anger comes from understanding the reality but not understanding why it happened. In a case such as my loss, there have been moments I question choices I made with my dog’s care and get angry at myself. There are questions I have about his veterinary care and what could have been done better. In the end, there was nothing I did wrong and nothing that could’ve been done differently but I couldn’t help but wonder why me? Why now when I have so much other heartache around me?

3) Bargaining - This has a more spiritual side to it whereas people tend to think they can negotiate or bargain spiritually with pleas to Go or positive behaviors or and actions for their spiritual side to ease their pain. If not spiritual, you may want to make big life changes such as an extreme haircut or purchasing something very expensive or perhaps relocating or finding a new job. The feeling is that a dramatic action for the better will be rewarded with removing the pain of the loss. This is a dangerous path some people take that ends in further disappointment unfortunately.

4) Depression - Is not accepting the reality as much as it is succumbing to it. While it is probably the most painful stage, it’s also very healthy. For instance, I am still in this stage. I am cloaked in longing for my companion and feeling a lack of purpose. I am struggling to get out of bed in the morning and pushing through my day’s work takes all of my energy. I am fatigued and crying usually by the time I lay down to bed. I am being honest with my readers because I think it’s important to know you’re not alone and you never were. My feelings are real and valid and so are yours. It’s ok to stay in your pajamas all day and cry. It’s totally ok.

5) Acceptance - Because I have grieved before I know this day will come for me and normally it comes for everyone who grieves. It’s probably the hardest stage to pinpoint as it just happens one day. You move on, you accept the loss and you look back perhaps still sad but able to understand it was a part of your life that had to happen and you are on the other side of it now.

If you or someone you love has reached a concerning level of grief, how can you know for sure? Without a clear model, it can be tricky to know. You know yourself best of all and you know your loved ones. So, if you recognize unhealthy long term lows in either yourself or a grieving loved one it may be time to consult with a mental health expert for advice. Complicated Grief is a diagnosed illness that has the same symptoms of depression. If you believe you are experiencing a mental health crisis personally or with someone you love, please make an appointment for help. A good starting point for this help is to contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration at 800-662-4357. SAMHSA’s national hotline is free, confidential and available 24/7.

In loving memory of Flash Gordon 2004-2020

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