While grief might manifest differently for everyone, the pain that comes with losing a loved one can feel overwhelming. Accepting that somebody has gone can feel like an impossible task, and dealing with grief while grappling with the anger and confusion about why this has happened can be painful and isolating.
Everyone’s journey with grief is unique, but these are some tips that have helped me cope with loss that I have used to help others.
It is okay to be in the ‘grey bubble’ – just don’t stay there
When dealing with grief and processing the loss of someone close to us, often we revert into what I call the ‘grey bubble’. This is where we make ourselves small, isolate ourselves and lean into our pain. For some people this may look like staying in bed all day or not picking up the phone to our friends.
I want to start off by saying that being in the grey bubble is okay. If you need to feel safe, this is normal. But, the longer you stay there, the harder it is to get out. Let yourself feel safe in that bubble for a little while, but make sure you don’t become trapped there long-term.
Adopt an empowerment mindset
Our mindset makes a huge difference to how we react to things, and helps us when we feel like things in life are out of our control. Choosing to believe that life is happening for us, not to us, is key when dealing with grief or with any of life’s curveballs.
This can be used irrespective of what curveball is thrown at you. Taking charge and taking responsibility for how we will respond allows us to gain back control. Leave the blame mindset behind. Asking ‘why is this happening to me?’ or thinking that the universe is out to get you will not serve anyone.
As hard as it may seem, we have a choice in how to respond to things, and this can be really empowering when we feel out of control to prevent us from feeling stuck. This doesn’t mean that a day will go by where you don’t miss the person you have lost, think about them and celebrate them, but it can help you feel more in control of your emotions.
Protect yourself from unhelpful influences
When people are trying to help us through grief, often without meaning to, they can say things which are hurtful and make us feel worse. People often try to share similar stories that may not make you feel better, or tell you negative stories about people they know who have been through something similar.
When struggling to navigate our own journey with grief, we don’t always want to hear about a friend of a friend’s tragic loss, or someone’s similar experience with losing someone to the same illness, for example.
First it is important to ask yourself, are the people around me radiators or drains? Are they filling my life with vibrance and joy, or are they sucking some of the positivity out of it? Surrounding yourself with negative people will really impact your own thoughts and beliefs, and so it is important to assess this.
Delete the thoughts that do not serve us
It can be challenging to tell someone that their comments are upsetting us or making things worse, and sometimes the conflict this might bring isn’t worth our energy.
When people tell us things, our brain instantly creates a neurological pathway which sets this up as our own thought, and we start to believe it. When we accept it, it becomes a truth, even if it does not serve us.
Rather than try to explain to somebody that you don’t want to hear what they are saying, when they say something helpful or hurtful, we can delete it so that it doesn’t remain as a truth in our brains.
Imagine a big red delete button inside your head. When someone says something that will not serve you, hit that delete button and consciously delete the thoughts and beliefs before they set up a network inside your brain. Change the subject to something else to distract them and move away from the toxic conversation. This will help leave the negative thought behind and stop it becoming a truth.
Focus on what you want for the future
Humans have around 64,800 thoughts a day and it is estimated that on average 80% of those are negative. This means that most of the time we are focusing our energy on worrying about what we don’t want, and this has a huge impact on the reality that shows up in our life. When we are struggling with grief it can be easy to worry what other bad things might happen next.
Instead of worrying about this, try to focus on using this same strategy of imagined scenarios to create confidence in yourself. Instead of worrying about the potential negative outcomes each day could bring, think about the outcomes you want to achieve to start to take small steps forward.
Everyone’s journey with grief is different, but focusing on your mindset, those who you surround yourself with and how they impact you is crucial for navigating your journey with loss. Be kind to yourself as you navigate this journey.
Dr Amanda Foo-Ryland
Dr Amanda Foo-Ryland is a TedX international keynote speaker, coach and best-selling author of Knowing You. She is a neural coding expert, and the founder of Your Life Live it, and together with her team she works with thousands of clients around the globe to help them achieve lasting personal change.