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Processing Grief

By Jenn Rockefeller

Loss of any kind is a part of this world. It’s something we, unfortunately, have to learn to cope with. How we process this loss is also a part of this world. What are the ways we can process grief in a healthy way? What can we do to cope with loss in our lives? What if you lost someone dear to you because of domestic violence? How do you process that loss?

Those are questions that Kirsten Belaire, Director of Behavioral Health at Mt. Carmel Veterans Service Center in Colorado Springs, will be discussing in her virtual workshop on July 15. The workshop will be live at 1 p.m. MST via the Break The Silence Against Domestic Violence Facebook page.

“Everyone is unique and so is their grief,” she stated, adding that the workshop will review natural responses to trauma, grief, and loss, the recovery process, and functions of the brain.

There are so many different types of loss – from losing a loved one to an illness to mourning the loss of a relationship, and even to a sudden loss of a loved one (including a domestic violence situation). This is not to say that any one loss is more significant than another. It also doesn’t make it easier. We all deal with loss differently and we will each process the grief differently.

That is what is so great about this virtual workshop that Belaire is leading. Her goal is leading workshop attendees to an understanding that processing grief in a healthy way is to allow “the process, not dampening or shutting off the process (like coping with substances or ignoring feelings), and sharing your story/process.”

I lost one of my best friends suddenly in April 2020. It was such a shock to the system that it literally brought me to my knees. How do you process such a sudden loss? I couldn’t make sense of it. I felt lost.

According to Merriam-Webster, grief is defined as “deep and poignant distress caused by or as if by bereavement.” Often, those in bereavement find great difficulty in processing such an extreme and intense emotion.

In her book, On Death and Dying, Elizabeth Kubler Ross outlined the five stages of grief:

  • Denial
  • Anger
  • Bargaining
  • Depression
  • Acceptance

There is no right way to grieve, and the stages don’t “go in order” either. These stages are not linear – you will bounce between stages and maybe back to a stage you were in already. Since my friend’s death in April 2020, I have been bouncing between the anger, depression, and acceptance stages. I find myself wanting to be angry at how and why she died. Then depression sets in that my friend of 19 years is gone. Acceptance finds its way into my heart. But again, so does anger.

What does grieving look like? Well, it varies from person to person. What works for one, may not work for another. It typically manifests itself physically, emotionally, and psychologically, according to Mental Health America. “For instance, crying is a physical expression, while depression is a psychological expression,” stated the site.

Processing grief in a healthy way 

NPR lists several fantastic ways to process grief in a healthy way. My two favorites are “be with your grief” and “grief needs expression.” Being with your grief does not mean to let it consume and overwhelm you. It simply means to acknowledge it and allowing the messiness in. Denying it doesn’t help either. Often, people will push the grief away and keep busy with work, school, or other things. That does us no good and in the end, those emotions can come back tenfold. Sit with your grief and recognize the messy emotions that come with it.

The other thing NPR lists that I have used to help me process and cope in a healthy way is expressing my grief. We are expressive creatures and in that, we need to find ways to express all of our emotions, including grief. If you are an artsy person, maybe you typically turn to painting, drawing, or sculpting. You may also find that keeping a journal will help you release your grief. Sometimes, shared grief can be a big help too. Perhaps find another trusted friend or support group that you can lean on. Those who know what you are going through can be an incredibly positive experience and help bring you peace.

If you are struggling to process the grief you are experiencing, Belaire’s advice is simple but important. “Don’t feel you have to do it alone. Talk with someone who is familiar with grief (like a counselor, group member, or peer). In other words, someone who will not shut you down or make you feel like you’re failing. Remember, the grief process/healing is often painful and not always the ‘prettiest.’ It’s okay to be messy in moderation. If life becomes unmanageable, or your/others safety is at risk, seek help.”

For more information on Mt. Carmel Veterans Service Center, please visit their website.

If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, there is help. You can visit the Break the Silence Against Domestic Violence website at www.breakthesilencedv.org or chat with one of our helpline advocates at 855-287-1777.

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Photo Credit: whoislimo, via Unsplash

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Share Your Story

Sharing our stories can be incredibly empowering while also helping others connect with survivors who have similar experiences.