Three Ways To Cope When Grief Crashes In

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Grief is a storm. An unwelcome pressure system that pummels and floods. Pain, loss, heartbreak—they can seem overwhelming.

In the last 3 months, I have become well acquainted with the storm. The summer brought a divorce I never wanted, the death of my beautiful mother and, because misfortune likes to throw combination blows, this weekend a hurricane chased my family from their homes and flooded our childhood memories.

An unforeseen betrayal, a lost battle and an act of God. I’ve been thoroughly hazed and accepted into the grief fraternity. Alpha Sigma Cry.

Victimization is not an attractive trait, so I’m working to sail through the waves of grief rather than sink under their tempestuous bluster. Here are three things I’m discovering that may help you when the swells of sadness rise . . .

Dive Into The Pain

As a child playing in the seaside surf, I learned I couldn’t wish waves away. No matter how inconvenient, they just kept coming. The best solution to an oncoming wave was to dive through it. Accept the wave was approaching, face it head on and dive under.

I think the same is true of sorrow. No matter how hard we try, we can’t wish waves of grief away. Anytime we suffer a loss, we’ll have days when sadness creates choppy waters. So, what do we do on those days when remembrances and triggers and heartache agitate the preferred calm waters of life?

Dive in. It’s just going to be a rough day, and you can’t ignore the fact that you’re hurting. A wave can only topple you if you don’t see it coming. Face today’s sorrow, dive into it headfirst and trust you’ll come through on the other side.

Stay Close To People

I almost drowned once in the waters off Pensacola Beach. I was a grown man, the weather was perfect and the sea was calm. My mistake was that I swam out a little too far, and my flaw was weak legs that seized with cramps.

My saving grace was a friend who saw me struggling and brought an inflatable pool raft for me to cling to. It turned out the water was only a foot above my head, and I’m pretty sure the pool raft belonged to his daughter because it was pink. Not my proudest moment.

The humiliating nature of my story doesn’t change the fact that if I had been alone, I would have drowned. Without a friend nearby, I would just be another beach fatality, albeit one with a particularly embarrassing obituary.

The most dangerous side effect of grief is isolation.

Heartache sends you out into the deep waters all alone. When disaster strikes, we wade out further than we normally would, and we do so without the company of friends or family. But this is a mistake. Depression thrives in the pools of solitude. If you’re hurting, reject the temptation to go through it alone.

Find a person, a group, a counselor who will be there to listen and bring help when you need it.

Take Things 12 Hours At A Time

We’re familiar with the expression “One day at a time,” but I’ve found that, like high tide, grief can rise twice a day. This is why I don’t try to take things one day at a time—I take things half a day at a time.

On mornings when I’m particularly low, I tell myself, Just get through to lunch. Once I get to lunch, I’m halfway through the day, and I start preparing for the next half.  

You can have a good morning and a bad afternoon, or you can have a bad morning and a good afternoon, but neither of those means grief won the day. If you’ll face your pain in half-day segments, you get a chance to reset and restart when you need to.

If you’re hurting, if you feel adrift, don’t give up. The next 12 hours will be better.

 

*These steps are temporary ways to cope. If your sadness causes depression or suicidal thoughts, seek help from a professional. Don’t wait. Don’t try to go through it alone. (Suicide Prevention Hotline; 1-800-273-8255)

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