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The beginning of one thing often means the end of another, and the grief that comes with it is just as important to honor.
When you don’t deal with grief head-on, it can come out sideways — leading to mental and physical health issues. Grief can (and will) come up at many different times during the process of aging, like:
There are so many facets to grief that deserve discussion, but we are going to talk about the benefits of grief and how it can be a good thing. Not possible? It’s true. For those of us who have experienced the emotional wallops of grief and come out the other side, the upside to being down is real.
We have all become so familiarized to the 5 Stages of Grief that perhaps we expect the stages to be experienced in sequential order, lasting a set amount of time, and ending when acceptance has finally been reached. But, really, grief comes in so many different waves, shapes, reasons, triggers, and time frames.
Grief can come from the death of a loved one or pet, divorce, loss of independence, physical disability, mental disability, isolation, transportation changes, family structure changes, etc. You name it, grief can come with it. And grief can come with happy things, too… loss and grief are interchangeable.
When your child gets married, there can be so much excitement, but the loss of them being “yours alone” comes with it. A sadness may accompany your feelings of joy and happiness, which can feel strange.
Or, moving. If you decide that assisted living/independent living is the best way to embrace aging, it will still mean selling your home of 30 years… and that can trigger all sorts of grief.
When it gets complicated, it can spiral into many different health problems including mental and physical health concerns, like depression and/or anxiety. Isolation can accompany this and it can be exacerbated by a decreased or increased appetite, forgetfulness or negligence in taking medication, increased or decreased sleeping, increased agitation, and irritability, and it can even lead to thoughts of taking your life.
Maybe you’re surprised to hear there are many benefits to grieving. Even though grief is hard, some good things that come out of grief may include:
When you’re grieving, it’s vital to take care of yourself. The stress of a major loss can quickly drain your energy and emotional well-being. Looking after your physical and emotional needs will help you get through this difficult time.
In order to heal, you have to acknowledge the pain. You might try to push your sadness away, thinking there is a better time for it. The problem is our body is smart, and it knows we need to feel the pain. If you don’t feel it in your emotions, grief will show up somewhere else. Unresolved grief can also lead to complications such as depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and health problems.
The mind and body are connected. When you feel healthy physically, you’ll be better able to cope emotionally. Even seemingly small transitions in life come with grief. Loss of the way things were can drain your energy and leave you without an appetite. Eat small meals, rest, get exercise and treat your body with extra TLC!
Write about your loss in a journal. If you’ve lost a loved one, write a letter saying the things you never got to say; make a scrapbook or photo album celebrating the person’s life, or get involved in a cause or organization that was important to your loved one. Your creative resources can take your pain and turn it into something beautiful. Maybe it can be a path forward for the next one who experiences a similar loss.
Anniversaries, holidays, and milestones can reawaken memories and feelings. Feel free to say no to plans that can trigger you in unhelpful ways. Be careful not to isolate yourself. Instead, let your inner-circle help you come up with strategies to survive the grief slaps.
Contact a grief counselor or professional therapist if you:
Grief isn’t something that can be dealt with and dispatched in an organized way. It is an unruly beast that will follow beside you for a long time and nip at your heels when least expected. But, when respected and looked after properly, grief is the most important part of healing. And that is beautiful.
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