Grieving in a Healthy Way
The year of 2020 has brought a host of losses to everyone worldwide in a variety of ways. One loss that many have experienced is the death of someone they love to COVID-19, but there have been countless losses in other ways, too. Regardless of what type of loss you face, grieving is an important step in recovering. No one teaches us how to grieve, and it feels very messy. Today’s blog offers tips on how parents can counsel their teens to grieve in a healthy way.
When we experience a death – whether it’s a family member, friend, or a four-legged companion – it is natural to feel a wide range of emotions from sadness to anger to guilt. All of these feelings are normal. Everyone expresses their grief in different ways (crying, numbness, apathy, staying busy, anger, etc.) and there is no “right” or “wrong” way to grieve. Some people take longer than others to heal from a loss – everyone’s timing is different. In addition, although there has been a lot of talk about the five stages of grief – denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance – research shows that very few people pass through these stages the way it’s been suggested. Some people skip some of the stages completely. Some people go back and forth between 2 or 3 stages for awhile. Some only feel sadness before they achieve acceptance. Each individual is unique.
Although we all experience grief in different ways, there are methods to get through our grief in a healthy way. Here are some tips to give your teen for finding ways to cope through their loss:
Accept your feelings. Do not judge yourself for how you feel. Since a wide range of emotions is normal, simply accept your feelings and allow yourself time to heal.
Talk about your loved one. Research shows that avoidance or withdrawal only prolongs the grief and leads to isolation. Finding support improves a person’s well-being. One of the most effective ways to cope with grief is through talking about the loss with friends and family members.
Focus on celebrating your loved one. Some people focus on what they have lost when someone they love dies. They are stuck in the fact that they no longer can enjoy their company. Or they feel guilty if they are not actively feeling sad about their passing. Research shows that we heal faster from loss when we focus on the positive things the relationship brought us. When you are grieving, recall the happy memories you have. Express gratitude for what the relationship taught you in your life. Feel the joy of how much better your life was because you had your loved one in your life. In this way, you are honoring your loved one.
Create a physical remembrance. Many people find it comforting to create something in honor of their loved one, such as, making a scrapbook, creating a memory box, planting a tree, recording their memories in a journal, making a memorial stone, or donating to a charity in the loved one’s honor. All of these ideas can help you hold on to the good and happy memories.
Schedule mourning. When we lose someone, our minds must process the loss. Our emotions must be released. If we try to bottle up our emotions, they tend to come out at awkward times. For example, if you experience the loss of a parent, but then you need to return to school after a week or so, you can find yourself bursting into tears at the most inconvenient moments. To reduce these inopportune outbursts, psychologists suggest that you schedule a time every day to mourn your loved one. You might establish 30 minutes during a private time of your day to allow yourself the opportunity to cry in pain or scream in anger. If you let all of your emotions out during this time, your feelings are less likely to spill over throughout your day, and you are more likely to speed the healing process.
It’s important to let your teen know that healing from a loss doesn’t mean forgetting about a loved one who has died. Healthy grief is about finding ways to remember and honor loved ones and adjust to life without them in the present.