HOW TO IDENTIFY GRIEF AND START PLAYING AN ACTIVE ROLE IN YOUR HEALING PROCESS

Updated: Sep 20, 2019

They say time heals all wounds...but I think that is a lie. Time does not heal grief.

This past year I have not felt like myself. I kept waiting for things to get better, for me to start to feel happier...time passes and I still feel sad. There are so many amazing things in my life that I am grateful for: my kids are amazing, my job is going well, health wise I am stronger than ever, and I have been sharing my passion for fitness and helping others learn how to do the same, which I love! Yet, despite all this, I still felt sad. I knew this was not right....I thought I must be depressed...


Feeling sad? Not sure how to deal with your loss?

Differentiating grief from depression

Grief is a natural response to loss. It is the emotional suffering and pain that you feel when someone or something you love is taken away. The intensity and duration of grief vary greatly depending on how significant you feel the loss was. Grief has physical symptoms as well as mental and emotional. The sadness you feel can be intense and consuming. However, if you still have the ability to feel happiness, even in small spurts, you are probably not depressed....you are probably just grieving.


Why I was feeling sad

This year my greatest loss was the end of a relationship. I left someone that I believed to be my soulmate, the person I thought I would be spending the rest of my life with. I was placed in a position where I had to end the relationship, but I was not ready at all! I was put between a rock and a hard place, neither position I wanted to be in. Saying I was heartbroken doesn't even scratch the surface of how I felt. I was devastated. He was my best friend, and my partner. I felt immediate, profound loss. He was there one day and literally gone the next. My body and heart felt as though he had died. I went through all the same emotions as if he had.


A few months after my breakup I lost 4 people that I knew in the matter of a few weeks. I lost my funny smart uncle, my sweet helpful neighbour, my daughter's old classmate (who's mother used to babysit my kids), and a long time neighbour from the street I grew up on. All these losses felt so close to home, and the sadness just grew. 9 months had passed and I still felt sad every day.


This was the point I realized I needed help!

I knew that time alone was not enough for me to move past the loss I was feeling. I reached out to a therapist, and I am so glad I did. She assured me that these feelings are normal, has helped me understand the process of grieving better, and has given me tips and strategies to actively work on my healing process.


Reasons why I was having issues dealing with my grief

I learned that I was not transitioning through grief normally. I was experiencing "complicated grief" where I was sort of stuck or unable to move onto the acceptance stage. This is more likely to happen if:


  1. The loss happens unexpectedly (when my relationship ended it was literally a decision I made on the spot with ZERO notice....I was in no way ready for it)

  2. There is a lack of social support for the bereaved (I have been through a lot in my life, and I have a reputation for being very "strong" which unfortunately translates into people assuming I will be ok no matter what life throws at me, therefore I do not have a very active support system)


To learn more about the stages of grief, I found this guide very helpful:

https://www.therapistaid.com/therapy-guide/grief-psychoeducation-guide


In conclusion: We often need help!

I realized I was stuck. I wanted desperately to feel real happiness again, to be back to my "normal" self. But, I knew I needed help to do this.

It is essential to reach out!

Maybe it is to a friend, an elder, a mentor, or a professional therapist. That is the first step.


Then, you can identify the biggest obstacles that are preventing you from healing properly.

For me it was the following:


  1. Fear of being alone: the loss of my relationship had me convinced that I would never find someone again, and live the rest of my life alone. But, I know this is not true. I have to work hard on believing that there is someone out there for who I will feel the same level of connection with, but who will also treat me with the respect I deserve.

  2. Identifying triggers of sadness: I had to figure out the times that I missed him the most, because those were the times I spiraled into deeper sadness. Once I knew these, I had to try to replace those activities or triggers with other people. For example: if I missed him the most when I was watching TV at night, I would try to watch TV with my kids instead. If I missed going to the gym with him, then I would try inviting a friend instead, etc.

  3. My lack of a social life: he was my best friend and my social world. So building back my relationships with friends was key. Setting more friend's dates. Build up my face to face support system. Also, going places and doing things that I normally wouldn't do, so that I actually have the opportunity to meet new people.

  4. Being stuck in a negative mindset: this is probably the thing I still struggle with the most! Trying to switch your mindset from loneliness and helplessness to gratitude and excitement for the future. Looking back at the relationship and being grateful for the important lessons I have learned, instead of only feeling sad for the things I no longer have. Realizing what is truly important in a partner, and not settling for any less. And having faith that there are better things coming for me in the future.


I hope this helps if you are struggling too! And if you are on the other side of the healing process please feel free to share what you found the most helpful!


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