Five Steps To Grief Recovery: Because Grief Is Painful, We Sometimes Have A Tendency To Ignore Or Deny It

By Tracy Renee Lee

August 12, 2021

Survivors may choose to employ professional or certified counseling, participate in group support, rely upon clergy, family or friends or, go it alone

Although it may not seem like it, overcoming grief is possible. Sometimes, you may feel as though overcoming your grief, is a betrayal to your loved ones. Let me assure you, that this is not true. You may worry that recovery, indicates that you have stopped loving your loved ones and this, is also untrue. Prolonged and extended grief suffering, is unhealthy and dangerous. It can lead to physical and psychological illnesses.

What Are The Physical Symptoms Of Grief?
Survivors suffer extreme fatigue, nausea, headaches, food aversions, sleep deprivation, dizziness, sun sensitivity, loss of motivation, pain and extreme illness, directly related to grief. Grief will increase inflammation. Inflammation exacerbates existing health problems and opens the door, for new ones to creep in. Grief also batters the immune system, causing vitality depletion and vulnerabilities to infection. It also raises blood pressure and the risk of blood clots. If unchecked, it can usher in strokes. Intense grief, can even alter the heart muscle.

Grief recovery is healthy and if you are honest with yourself, you know, that your loved one would not want this debilitating pain to continue, indefinitely. So, if you are ready to begin your journey toward recovery, to start feeling better, physically, psychologically, to regain your happiness and your sanity. Here are five steps to help you.

Step One
ACCEPTANCE

We all grieve uniquely. That is to say, that our experiences in grief, are based on our past losses, our crisis coping skills, our preparation for loss and our levels of attachment to our decedent. Grief ushers in a myriad of emotions. Our recovery, will be directly correlated with our emotional stability and strength. One might also be faced with severe or unexpected, financial responsibilities. All of these issues are thrust upon us, at a time, when we are at our weakest moments, in life. For this reason, it is advised, that one enlists, the assistance of a trusted advisor for matters of finances and estates, a trusted and valued friend to assist with home management, a caring and perhaps experienced survivor, for emotional support. If at any time, you feel overwhelmed, it is advised, that you immediately call 911 and ask for professional and skilled help.

Because grief is painful, we sometimes have a tendency to ignore or deny it. Neither of these actions are healthy for the survivor. Suppressing these feelings, does not indicate recovery and will lead to future physical and psychological illness. Denial can undermine your happiness, health, future relationships, work performance and many other areas, of life. Accepting your feelings now and dealing with them, will allow you to move forward, on your road to recovery.

Step Two
PRACTICE SELF-CARE

Due to the stress that grief inflicts upon you, survivors may not feel like taking care of themselves. This is the wrong time, to give in, to such feelings. Neglecting yourself at this point, can lead to the degradation of your health, even to death. No matter how you feel, this is the time to prioritize yourself. Make special efforts to keep yourself well hydrated, sustain a healthy diet, exercise daily, maintain proper hygiene and grooming practices.

Step Three
ESTABLISH A SUPPORT SYSTEM

Support can come from many directions. Survivors may choose to employ professional or certified counseling, participate in group support, rely upon clergy, family or friends, or go it alone. Whatever your choice, going it alone, is not usually recommended. Humans are social beings and as such, social support, generally provides, the most efficacious outcome. Family and friends provide familiar support and personalized distraction from pain. Even our furry friends can assist with grief recovery. They are nonjudgmental and available at the drop, of a hat. If you are enlisting, the assistance of a family pet, please, be mindful of their needs, as well.

Step Four
DO NOT BECOME OBSESSED

When a significant loved one dies, survivors experience a preoccupation of thoughts. These thoughts are intrusive and block, your peace of mind. If we are unmindful, of what is happening and if we are not proactive, this intrusive preoccupation, may indeed, become an obsession. It is at this point, that one has developed complications with their grief recovery and will need the assistance, of professionally trained grief counselors.

Before you allow preoccupation to become an obsession, you might choose to employ thought-stopping techniques for distraction. If you find, that your mind is continually clouded with negative impulses or distressing scenarios, seek out grief counseling and begin adopting new practices, to move towards, regaining, your control.

One such technique, is to wear a rubber band around your wrist. When you feel yourself getting lost in your thoughts and emotions, immediately snap the rubber band. The slight sting and sound of the snap, work as a reminder to redirect and control your thoughts. A variation of this technique is to simply snap your fingers. For those who only want an auditory reminder, rather than an auditory, coupled with a physical reminder, this technique, works well. Simply decide to employ the technique, after you have recognized the engagement, of obsessive thoughts.

Another technique that I find helps survivors, is to begin a grief journal or a worry box. Both of these techniques, allow the survivor to write down their worries and put them away. Writing down your worries, allows you to hand them over to your thought-stopping technique. During the process, you are at liberty to begin formulating a plan and plot out your recovery action plan. This is an excellent technique that moves survivors toward recovery, through self-help.

Step Five
EMBRACE HAPPINESS

After losing a significant loved one, you may find that you experience guilt, upon feeling happiness. Joy and happiness, are key to overcoming grief. One must allow these feelings to override sadness, if one is, to ever recover. Allow yourself to experience the pleasure of taking a walk in the park, watching your favorite TV show, listening to upbeat music or doing a fun activity with a friend. Eventually, you will start experiencing joy and happiness, which, will result in you being comfortable, by seeking them out, again.

BONUS ROUND
PRAYER AND SERVICE

In my practice, as a funeral professional and certified grief counselor, I have found, that the number one recovery aid for loss, is prayer. My clients unanimously report, that prayer is their most effective tool, because, it allows them time for reflection, communion with a higher power, solace and it is very closely followed, by service to others.

Service to others, allows survivors to transfer their focus onto someone other than themselves and onto something other, than their own woes. It allows them to develop new skills or share existing talents. It helps to build new relationships and to strengthen existing ones. Forcing ones self, out of the house, makes survivors feel needed, wanted, loved and appreciated. Feeling needed and putting others' needs before your own, gives value to yourself and it builds confidence, by re-establishing outward focus.

My name is Tracy Renee Lee. I am a Certified Grief Counselor (GC-C), Funeral Director (FDIC), published author, syndicated columnist, Podcaster and founder of the “Mikey Joe Children’s Memorial” and Heaven Sent, Corp. I write books, weekly bereavement articles, Podcasts and Grief BRIEFs, related to understanding and coping with grief. I am the American Funeral Director of the Year Runner-Up and recipient of the BBB’s Integrity Award.

It is my life's work, to comfort the bereaved and help them live on.

For additional encouragement, please visit my podcast “Deadline” at: https://open.spotify.com/show/7MHPy4ctu9OLvdp2JzQsAA or at: https://anchor.fm/tracy874 and follow me on Instagram at: "Deadline_TracyLee".