In my years of practicing psychotherapy and providing grief and bereavement counseling in the Littleton and Denver areas, I continue to be struck by the uniqueness of the grief process for everyone. For so many, coping with the death of someone you care about can be more than merely painful, it can be debilitating emotionally, spiritually, and physically. I’ve also learned that, while there are some ways of coping which can aid in the healing process after a significant loss, there are also things not to do when grieving, which can both complicate and inadvertently intensify your despair.
5 Things Not to Do When Grieving
Based on my many years of experience with grief therapy, here are 5 Things Not to Do When Grieving:
- Do not try to self-medicate your emotional pain away. Trying to dull the pain you’re feeling with alcohol or drug use is a losing proposition. The “grieving process” is described as a process for a reason; it requires certain courses of action to achieve a result. One of these courses of action is feeling the pain of your loss, so that you may eventually adapt to life without the deceased, and regain emotional balance. While it is an understandable human desire to seek relief from pain, the use of alcohol or other substances, while perhaps providing momentary relief, can ultimately lead to increased depression, anxiety, and problems sleeping.
- Do not avoid the pain you feel. Trying to hide from your pain will also get you nowhere, and will only prolong your pain. Dealing with your loss in the moment is the best course of action, by far. It is the first step in the process described above, and is critical to your eventual healing.
- Do not hide yourself away from friends and family. The support of others will help you beyond measure. Allowing friends and family to “be there” for you, even though you may feel like seeing them is the last thing you want to do, will be the foundation of your recovery from your loss. It’s OK to let them help you. It’s also OK to have some alone time if it feels helpful but, be careful of isolation. Remember that connections and sharing help healing.
- Do not focus on regrets, choices you’ve made, or past actions you’ve taken. It’s very common to feel guilty about things we might have said, or things we might have done differently, when we lose a person we care for. Self-recrimination is extremely harmful, for there is nothing you can do about the past. Instead, move forward with your life and try to avoid the same “mistakes” with others you care about. It can also be helpful to remind yourself that whatever you did or didn’t do or say, you did the best you could at the that time with what you knew.
- Do not make major, life-changing decisions. The impulse to “make a change” when dealing with a significant loss is completely understandable, yet often leads to more problems. Choosing to sell your house and move to another town for example, may be the last thing you need to do while in the throes of emotional upheaval. In some cases, it may be another way to run away from your pain. Instead, work your way through the healing process first and then, if you still feel a major change would be a good idea, you can proceed with more clarity and confidence that you’re not running away from your feelings.
When you’re in the depths of the grieving process, you don’t necessarily realize the reasons for the decisions you’re making. While you may believe you’re thinking clearly, the pain of your loss will very likely be coloring your decision-making process. Therefore, it’s recommended to hold off, if possible, on making any major, life-changing or financial decisions when coping with a significant loss.
If you are tempted to reach for alcohol or drugs to cope with a loss, it’s useful to speak with your Physician who can recommend or prescribe safer alternatives.
If you live in the Littleton area, and are finding it difficult to cope with the pain of your grief and loss, contact us today for a consultation at our convenient therapy clinic.