Everyone grieves differently. Our relationships with our families are complex and unique, and a unique lifetime of experiences means that we all cope differently. But that doesn’t mean that just because your grief is unique that you’re all alone. The grieving process is highly personal, but there are some steps you can take to guide yourself through it and find a sense of closure that’s unique to you.
Acknowledge Your Pain as Normal
Our popular culture has created a shorthand understanding of what the grieving process is supposed to look like, and it’s mostly dominated by histrionic breakdowns. That can sometimes make people feel like they’re ashamed or broken simply because they don’t express their own grief in that way. In other instances, people will block out the pain – either for the sake of pushing through the aftermath of a loss or because of complex relationships with the lost loved one.
The first step is recognizing your pain, even if you aren’t expressing it in a way that may be seen as conventionally “normal”. The second step is to recognize that your own path through grief and towards a sense of closure is valid and that you’re allowed to follow whatever direction your emotions lead you on. It might express itself as a sudden and unstoppable wellspring of emotion or a critical and logical analysis of the situation. But in either situation, your feelings – and your method of expressing them – is as valid as any other.
Lean Into Your Support Structure
If you’re dealing with the loss of a loved one, you aren’t alone. Chances are that your family members are going through the same process as you even if they express it differently, and you can find solace in your shared grief. That doesn’t mean having to accept toxicity in your life. If your relationship with family members is so tense that it gets in the way of your healing process, you aren’t required to put yourself through that pain. But even if there’s no one with shared grief for your lost loved one, the friends in your life can be there to support you through the process.
You don’t have to force a support structure in place that’s not there, and you don’t have to sacrifice your existing values for the sake of helping other family members with their grief. Instead, lean on the people in your life who you already know are there to provide you love and support. And be sure to remember that you’re not the only one with complex feelings about the loss. Be compassionate, and recognize that confusion, anger, and panic are common responses to grief, and your family members may reflect differently from others.
Celebrate Your Rituals
While grief may seem like a new thing to you, your whole life has been spent developing the emotional intelligence necessary to deal with circumstances like the loss of a loved one. The small and large rituals in your daily life can help anchor yourself and contextualize the role your loved one played in these rituals. According to Lantern, grief can feel especially heavy during the holidays. And while that can put a damper on your celebrations, those very celebrations can serve as a rock to cling to during your grief.
Maintaining the habits you cling to can provide you with the emotional support you need, but you can also start incorporating new rituals into your life – potentially rituals that can be used to explicitly honor the legacy of your loved one. That way your memory of them will carry on in a meaningful way. Just keep in mind that you don’t need to force yourself to do anything. It’s okay to want to be alone sometimes, although you should make the effort to engage when you feel ready for it.
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