This seems to be The Summer of Loss—I’ve had to say goodbye to a beloved dog and two friends who were far too young to die, and I know so many people who are mourning the loss of a job or relationship or health or a loved one that I’ve almost lost track.
I most often write about job-loss, but there are so many different types of loss that vie for our attention. And while all these losses hit us differently, grief is grief, and you are absolutely allowed to be scared and sad and angry and whatever else you are feeling. Here are some tips for coping with loss.
Step away from shame. Grief isn’t a comparison, so you shouldn’t feel like your sadness is unworthy or meaningless when someone else’s seems bigger. It’s fine and healthy and normal to grieve anything that feels like a loss to you. Your emotions are yours and you are allowed to have them, as fully as you need to.
Understand that there is no timeline for the process, and there is no set order of the emotions you will feel. People talk about the steps of grief as though we go through them in a linear way, and in a predictable pattern, but that’s not true. You may have moments of great joy, followed by moments of intense anger, for instance. Don’t expect to “get back to normal” within a certain time frame. It will take as long as it takes.
Feel your feelings. Ignoring them won’t make them go away, and it won’t make your process shorter. You will have unexpected emotions, possibly at unexpected times. Step away as you need to.
Moving on isn’t forgetting. You may have periods of normalcy, which also shouldn’t make you feel guilty. All our experiences impact how we move through the world, hopefully for the better.
Take care of your physical self. Our minds and our bodies are more connected than we often think, so practicing good self-care will help you cope with your emotions in a healthier way.
Seek support. Talk to people who care about you. Seek a mental health professional if you need. If you are in crises, text HOME to 741741 or call 988.
Know the difference between sadness and depression. Feeling sad is normal and healthy. If you are sad, you will usually find some relief from crying, venting, or talking out frustrations. Usually, sadness has links to a specific trigger, like seeing a picture of a loved one. Depression, on the other hand, is a pervasive and persistent sense of sorrow, doubt, lack of interest, and lack of motivation. If you feel this way for more than two weeks, or if you have serious thoughts of suicide or harm to others, seek the help of a professional.
When you come out of the darkness of your grief, you may very well find that you have new insights. It was a loss that inspired me to leave my previous job and start my own business. Embrace these new understandings, but also don’t judge yourself if you don’t have any. Sometimes a loss is just a loss.
And be aware that the state of the world contributes to your overall sense of well-being. Things are hard now, with wars raging and inflation surging and rights being stripped with what seems alarming frequency. And let’s not forget that we’re still in the grips of a global pandemic. If things feel especially difficult now, it’s not your imagination.
But I’m nothing if not an optimist, and I firmly believe that we will get through all of this by lifting each other up. Let your loved ones know what you need, and be aware of what they need, as well. Be kind to the people you meet. Stop and pat the friendly neighborhood cat. It takes time, but things get better. As Joe Biden, something of an expert on grief and loss, says, “The time will come when [this] memory will bring a smile to your lips before it brings a tear to your eyes.”