Monday, December 29, 2014

How to deal with Grief during the holidays.

Grief, in short, is the process of how we deal with loss. Loss of a person when they die, loss of a job when we get fired, loss of our self esteem when we are dumped by a romantic partner, even loss of our faith when tragedy happens and we can't make heads or tails of why it had to happen.  I've learned a lot about this process in my 4o years, and in my experiences working in the Emergency Room.  Here's a list of how to get through it during the holidays (or any day of the year).  These are just a few of my opinions - feel free to give other suggestions that have worked for you!

  • Find Fred Flintstone: That's right.  Eat your vitamins.  Your body's response to extreme stress can be at best just getting by to a full on depression, infection, rejection state of being.  As cortisol levels rise, you may gain or lose weight, and you are much more susceptible to real illness or all over body pain.  Each day you might feel like you got hit by a different Mack truck than the day before.  Same pain, different day.  Combat this by eating healthfully, limiting sugar, getting enough sleep, and drinking enough water.  
  • Where's Waldo?  Feel like you're searching for something, only you really don't know what that something is?  Answers to life's big questions? Where is God? Why did this have to happen?  Will the mean person who did the mean thing get punished, ever?  When you cannot find yourself, you definitely can't figure out those higher order questions.  So get away, preferably by yourself so you have ample time to think and reflect, cry and throw things, or indulge in a tiny bit of retail therapy.  Meditate, go for long walks, find a cabin in the woods, or let the highway be your guide and your favorite music be your companion.  Don't try to figure everything out all at once, but trust that you will figure it out in it's own time.  
  • Get your face licked:  Yup.  Go where you can find some furry friends.  A petting zoo? Your grandmother's cat? The pet store? Let them crawl all over you.  Watch their tails wag.  Contemplate what they are thinking! Let them lick your face and know you won't die from it!  There's something incredibly healing in developing a relationship with an animal companion.  While you're at it, give yourself a point for every time you notice a baby's laugh.  When you get five points, go get an ice cream! This is to remind you that LIFE goes FORWARD.  You have to hop back in and jump some more rope!
  •  Give a gift.  To someone else.  Not that there isn't value in treating yourself with something special when you are being hit by a proverbial asteroid! But giving to others leaves a longer lasting feel good type of high, and it reminds you that you still have something to give, even if you aren't in the same role, relationship, or job that you used to be.  Bake the mailman some cookies, go volunteer at a local hospital, or make something for a friend that you know she'll love.  Do that thing you've always wanted to do for so-in-so!  You will feel better at the end of the day.  Trust me, you will. 
  • Refocus your Life Lens: This is the one, huge, overarching lesson from my years working with aggrieved, homeless, and hurting people in the emergency room.  Although this may sound harsh at first, consider it.  Your life can always be worse.  Read that again.  Your-life-can-always-be-worse.  And believe me, it can.  Your entire house could have just burned down with all your pets and family inside.  Your company could have handed you a pink slip, and you totaled your new car.  Your child could have just been diagnosed with a fatal disease.  You might have just caught your partner cheating with your best friend.  Your best friend might have just died leaving her three kids to you.  All sorts of horribleness can happen out there.  Try to be thankful for the things that didn't happen, the people you have left, for the one person you can trust night and day, 24/7, or for the disease you don't have.  Someone else always has it worse.  Or equally as bad in a different way that you wouldn't want even more than you don't want what's happening to you now.  Widen your lens.  See all the horrible that could have happened so you can appreciate what you still have going.  

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