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Healing and coping with the loss of a loved one

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Note to the readers: The following article talks about steps for grief management during the pandemic. It is not a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach but there are some clinically verified steps that aid in the healing process.  

The pandemic has taken away many close to us; family we grew around, friends we looked out for and strangers we passed every day. There is a pain we feel for these losses in our lives. Today more than ever, we have access to resources that help us through these troubling times, letting us know that we are not alone and though the pain of losing a loved one is immense and isolating, the process of grieving mustn’t be.

Our attachments to each other and things in the world is what makes us feel emotions, due to the pandemic these attachments have turned fragile. This stands true for ‘meeting your friends for a cup of tea at the end of work’ to the ‘bus you took every day to get home’. The pandemic has had a strong psychological impact, this not only includes the feeling of anxiety, stress and discomfort but also the feeling of grief. The shared sense of loss we feel.

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Losing a loved one: The grieving process

Grief is the pain you feel when someone you love is taken away. Often, the pain of loss is overwhelming. Though this may feel like a constant state of sadness, it is more than that, it is also anger, guilt, shame and regret. The pain of grief can also disrupt your physical health, making it difficult to sleep, eat, or even think at times.

Grief is a normal and healthy response to the loss of a loved one. You may have heard of the Kübler-Ross model of grief- there are five stages one can go through when grieving: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. It is not important to go through all five stages, as grieving is not a linear process, everyone grieves differently.

Ways to cope with the loss of a loved one-

1.Let yourself grieve: Acknowledging that everything you are feeling is valid and that this state isn’t permanent is the start to a healthy coping process. Grief in itself is how our mind and body responds to the loss of a loved one, it’s a natural expression. Allowing yourself to grieve will help you understand your emotions better.

2.Focus on the Present: While grieving it is natural to go and revisit the past and the happy memories you had with the person you lost, it is also important to recognise when to stay in the present. Making an active effort to take ‘one day at a time’ will allow you to feel more deeply and yet look forward to the future.

3.Letters to loved ones: The pandemic took away the chance to say goodbye for many, this caused a vacuum where there was guilt of unresolved emotions. Writing and addressing letters to the loved one you lost, is a healthy medium to pour your heart out and name your loss and say what you never got a chance to say out loud.

4.Social support: Creating a social group online can help share a collective sense of grief with people who have also lost a loved one. This will not only serve as a reminder that you are not alone, but will also encourage you to address your loss and share the emotions with others.

5.Follow your faith: If you follow a faith, praying can be comforting. Embracing rituals and spirituality can help calm your mind and help you get back into the routine of following them daily.

6.Laughing and crying: Most of the time grieving makes us stay in a grey area where we try to understand how we feel, in this laughter helps us step out of the pain for a brief moment. A good laugh and a good cry at times help regulate the mood while grieving.

7.Self-care: Grief manifests itself as stress, subtle physical changes become a habit; clenched muscles and stiffness in shoulders are signs of physical distress the grief is causing you. Relaxation exercises help put the body to rest so that the stress doesn’t inhibit you from going about your day and maintains your emotional and mental hygiene.

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Take the first step

Grief is an overwhelming emotion which may seem drowning at times, in those moments where you feel unsupported and alone, seek help from a grief counsellor and they will help you heal through this process. Though this time is hard and unsettling, you do not have to go through it alone.

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