TW: death, grief
In the 11th grade I lost my grandma to cancer. This was easily the most difficult year of my entire life. My grandma had lived with me for my entire life and had always been my shoulder to cry on when things got difficult. Following her passing I found myself in a state of sadness that I didn’t think I would ever be able to emerge from. I felt like my world had been ripped in half and I didn’t know how I could possibly move forward without her in my life. But I got through it and you will too. I eventually came to realize that she will always be with me in the memories she gave me, the lessons she taught me, and I’m so thankful for that. So, I want to share with you today five of my best tips for dealing with grief. If you yourself are going through a difficult time or know someone who is, I hope that my advice will be helpful.
1. Acknowledge that the journey to feeling ‘normal’ again after losing someone you love isn’t linear.
There is no one ‘secret remedy’ that will make you feel okay. You won’t go straight from being in pain to feeling fine. There will be setbacks. Some days you will feel great, others you will feel so f****** frustrated that that person isn’t around anymore, and some days you might just feel nothing at all. All of that is normal and OKAY. Everyone has their own journey and their own way of dealing with grief. Some people have a short journey and others take a bit of time. That being said, you might still find yourself five years in the future on a really rough day sitting on your bedroom floor eating Ben and Jerry’s ice cream and crying about how you miss [insert name here]. But guess what? That happens and that’s okay. You’re human. Cut yourself some slack.
2. Don’t be afraid to cry it out.
There is nothing worse than holding in how you’re feeling. Trust me, I’ve been there. Sometimes you’ll have a day where you need to take a few minutes and just be upset. Letting it out and acknowledging how you’re feeling can sometimes be all you need to get back on track with whatever task you have at hand. Trying to bury your feelings down will only hinder your focus and can sometimes lead to random outbursts of anger/sadness/etc. And if some other unsuspecting human finds themselves at the brunt of that outburst, that’s not good for anyone involved! (Side tip: If you feel up to it, try writing the one you lost a letter… or many letters. Tell them about your day. Tell them how much you miss them. Tell them how much they meant to you. This can be super helpful for letting out emotions, and giving yourself the opportunity to have that communication you desire)
3. Let your friends and family IN
I know that people often say when they are going through something rough that they don’t want to bring it up so as not to burden the people around them who might be going through their own issues. First of all, if that’s the case and you think the person you want to chat with might be dealing with problems of their own, saying something like ‘Hey, I’m having a tough day today. If it’s not too much for you today, it would be nice to talk.’ This gives them the option to bow out if they don’t feel like they can be the best listener that day. But, most of the time, your friends and family can and want to help you out. Put yourself in their shoes, if your friend was going through a rough time, you’d want them to feel comfortable coming to you with that issue. Sometimes chatting with someone for a little while is all you need to get back on your feet (and if it’s someone who is also dealing with that same loss, sometimes bonding through shared feelings and memories can really help you feel a sense of comfort when you might be feeling otherwise isolated).
4. Do something to commemorate their life.
Maybe that means planting a tree in their memory or donating to a charity in their name. It could mean spending a day out with your family and going to their favorite places (My mom and I plan a day each year where we go to this bookstore in St.Catherines that my Grandma loved, followed by lunch at her favorite restaurant and then a trip to the wool shop). You might feel a bit silly, but the experience is likely to have you reminiscing about old memories and laughing out loud about ‘that one time!’ I found that doing stuff like this really helped me to gain some perspective and bring myself down a path of remembering the good times as opposed to feeling sad about the loss.
5. Grief counselling can be a life saver.
Sometimes you can’t handle everything yourself. Sometimes even having friends and family around isn’t enough, and that’s okay. There’s a reason why grief counselling was created in the first place. This stuff is hard to get through! Don’t be afraid to ask for some help, even if you just want someone to check in with from time to time. There are also lots of videos on YouTube and books you can get from your local library that can provide further tips and advice. Everyone deals with grief at some point in one form or another. Don’t feel like you need to go through it alone.