www.DistillingGrief.com Pinned Blog Post
“Grief is the final responsibility for having loved someone.”
This statement is an underlying theme of my writings and discussions on grief, clearly stating that how we grieve is a responsibility and should respect and reflect how and who we have loved and lost. Grieving responsibly implies that we will love ourselves and those around us who share this loss, consciously minimizing the collateral and ongoing damage to ourselves and to those around us. We do this to best preserve the memories of the love that we have built and shared in life.
Begin with honesty. You did not come here for sport or entertainment. You came here because you feel pain you might not understand, you feel changed in ways you might not want to have changed, you feel different and somehow unsettled. You came here because you have lost a loved one, because you will lose a loved one, or because someone you know is struggling with the grief of losing a loved one. Whatever brought you here is serious business, and potentially hazardous to your physical and mental health as well as your lifestyle. This is challenging territory, and you need to recognize if and when you need more help than you can find here or on other sites or books.
It is important that you quickly and honestly recognize any leanings towards self harm and if such feelings surface you immediately seek professional help. The same advice applies if your grief become intractable and you feel stuck or overwhelmed or depressed for a period of time that makes you uncomfortable or unable to manage your responsibilities of daily life in a responsible fashion.
Grief Health Basics
Grief is emotional, stressful and physically exhausting, so before we get into it, a few basic physical and mental health suggestions and ground rules are important.
Do you have any pre-existing conditions or illnesses, physical or mental? Even if you feel that you are in good health, a visit to your primary care physician soon after loss would always be a wise choice. Tell them about your loss, and how loss is impacting your daily life. Establishing baselines of blood pressure and other factors that might be of concern will ease your mind and help you to remain healthy and manage risks as you grieve. A heart attack or stroke would complicate your grief and negatively impact the lives of many around you, so we want to responsibly avoid or manage health risks as best we can.
Sleep is essential, so if you are unable to sleep well enough, your doctor can explore solutions that are non-addictive.
Your diet may suffer. It’s common to forget to eat, to eat poorly, to lose interest in basic nutrition, or even to over eat. If you are alone, feeding yourself well can be challenging, so some focus on regular healthy meals is important to maintain and fuel the energy required to grieve.
Care for yourself first, while keeping an eye on those around you who are grieving the same or similar loss. People around you may lean on you, but that leaning may be too much for you to handle while you yourself are grieving. Be honest and open, choose kindness when offering that kindness doesn’t harm you or drag you backwards. Grief never tries to drown one person, guide others but do not attempt to carry them to shore, lest you both drown in grief.
You may be irrational at times, perhaps more prone to bad judgement than usual. These events can trigger events that are more destructive to your life than grief normally might be. A moratorium on major decisions in life is important, so establish a timeline and monitor your own competence to make major decisions.
You might be more prone to substance abuse, and the legal and physical ramifications might last a lifetime and cause more grief to you and to others around you.
Please be responsible and aware of negative changes that might creep into your life. Some people will use grief as a crutch or an excuse, and those behaviours can become lifelong habits that make grief harder and less effective as they may drive people close to you away.
Grief will be a stress test for you and those around you, both emotionally and physically. It is a marathon, not a sprint to a finish. You will lose some friends and gain some more important friends in grief. There will be inevitable social changes that must be incorporated into our lives.
Grief is a teacher not a torturer
We politely avoid talking about grief, yet it is universal to human life. We have a negative connotation of grief. We see it as an affliction, as something we would avoid at all costs, an excruciatingly painful inconvenience.
Grief arrives like a terrorist, throws a wet blanket over us, it takes us hostage, dragging us away from our normal mostly happy life and surrounds us with powerful emotions that are not welcome. The first and most flammable of these emotions is anger, often followed by sadness and perhaps some hopelessness, then the next ten minutes arrive and we feel trapped, and want out. Our instinct is to run away from grief.
Most of us have little understanding of grief, very little experience with it, and we recoil and feel oppressed by the ramifications and inconveniences of the loss that has occurred. Classic models, which I choose to not to be the center of grief, say that grief has a beginning, some number of stages, and a conclusion. This treats grief like a common cold or ear infection, something to be healed.
I have come to see grief as a highly evolved extension of the uniquely human emotion of love. Grief has purpose, it is a teacher of all things surrounding love. It is a call to action, an opportunity for growth, and yes. it hurts and is challenging. Grief the teacher won’t kill you or destroy your life, it is meant to become a valuable part of your journey.
This blog will highlight my journeys and how I have come to understand and explain love and grief in logical and purposeful ways that encourage us to grow around and incorporate the loss of loved ones into a broader and deeper love of life. I want you to look your grief in the eye, to learn from what you feel, and to concentrate and care for the love that you have shared with others.
Grieving responsibly will shorten the painful times, distilling, enriching and expanding the lessons offered by having loved those that you have lost, and allow you to see purpose in the evolved emotional process that we humans call grief.