The legacy of grief: Coping with loss

The legacy of grief: Coping with loss

The legacy of grief: Coping with loss

By Maria Cohut

Source: Medical News Today

There are very few things as certain in life as the experience of loss. We have all had, or will have, to say goodbye to someone who we cherish deeply — be it a partner, family member, friend, or mentor. The gap left by their absence is unfillable, so how do we cope?

From my own experience, grief is not something you overcome; it is something you manage. “Her absence is like the sky, spread over everything,” wrote author C. S. Lewis about the death of his wife.

The void that sets in when someone you love dies seems to swallow everything, including the very self.

For me, it was a little like being thrown into the ocean without the appropriate equipment. First, there was the shock of impact with a cold, all-swallowing mass. Then, the awareness that I was quickly running out of air, and finally, the struggle to resurface for just one breath before being knocked back down by the next wave.

Grief is different for everyone, but it is a common experience across ages, countries, and cultures. There is no recipe for coping with grief, and no “quick fix” for the emptiness that accompanies it. Hundreds of people — from poets to psychologists and many others in-between — have been trying to explain and contain this deeply human experience for years.

Though we grieve, we live. So what should we know about grief, and what can we do about it to live as best we can in light of loss?

Acknowledge and accept your feelings

When someone you love has died, you will likely experience a plethora of very different and often contrasting emotions. These may come one by one — although there is no “normal” order — or strike us all at once, in a cacophony of emotional noise.

In The Grief Survival Guide, life coach and neurolinguistic progamming practitioner Jeff Brazier points to a range of emotions that we may feel while grieving, including anger, disbelief, guilt, loneliness, resentment, yearning, and blame.

These are all natural reactions in the face of loss, and they are part of our coping mechanism as we try to really make sense of death, and how it is affecting our life.

Another emotional reaction that Brazier lists is numbness. “Our body goes into a state of threat, […] and our feelings then seem hard to access simply because our body is protecting us from the trauma we face,” he writes.

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