When one thinks of coping skills, positive activities to raise one’s mood are the thought of first. Walks, reading, baths, coloring – all of these things make you feel better.
However, sometimes a coping skill seems less happy. When you are experiencing difficulties, putting on a happy face and trying a feel-good activity might not help. Instead you may need to identify how you are feeling and allow yourself to sit with that emotion in a safe way.
Thus, I am going to discuss the coping skill of allowing grief. This might sound crazy. After all, our culture tells us to not be sad. If you are depressed, something is wrong with you. Take a pill, force a smile on your face, and stop moping around! By mourning, you are wasting time and energy that could be better spent doing something useful.
This philosophy has many flaws. Yes, one can grieve excessively to the point where they refuse to move on with their life. If that is the case, they probably experienced something horrific or devastating and need help to recover. For many people, however, grieving is a foreign concept. We do not allow ourselves to do so out of past punishments, belief that it is a sign of weakness, or the pressure to be happy. Instead we stuff our emotions down and pretend everything is perfect.
The enormous amount of pressure is unneeded and often hurts us greatly. Instead, we can allow grief to be a coping skill. Just allow yourself to cry. This does not need to be in public. Find a safe corner to mourn in for as long as you need. If you are at work or some other place where you need to be present, take short breaks to cry or write down your sorrows. These escapes can be only a few minutes in random places such as a closet, the bathroom, in an unused room, etc. All that is needed is a safe place and a few minutes of solitude.
If you wish to include someone else, that can also be helpful. Reach out to family, co-workers, or friends. You might be surprised how readily someone will let you cry on their shoulder. However, if you feel better alone, do not force yourself to let someone else in at this time. Listen to yourself and how you need to grieve. Everyone mourns differently, so try to refrain from judging your way of coping or trying to mimic something that feels too uncomfortable.
Recently, I experienced a great loss. My dietitian of several years is leaving the clinic that I attend. As I went through classes on Wednesday, tears slid down my cheeks as I ducked my head from classmates. Many times I wondered if I could get through the day. Everything seemed pointless and black. Instead of pasting a smile on my face every minute, I sobbed between each class. Also, I emailed and called my mother several times. By the end of the day, my sorrow remained but at least I had begun to address it.
Grieving is not a pleasant coping skill. However, it is an important one to learn if you want to recover from pain and disappointment. Remember that you can grieve for huge heartaches like the death of a loved one or something that seems small like an unkind comment. Just because it appears trivial to others does not mean that it did not hurt you deeply. Next time you find yourself fighting sorrow, I encourage you to let yourself feel the emotion in a safe but honest way. Perhaps you will find that it helps you in the long run.
Grieving with Hope on Umbilical
How to Deal with Heartbreak, Part 1 on Kali Whipple
Blessed are They That Mourn (Matthew 5:4) on Drafsco
Blogging Exercises: Blogging Loss and Grief on Lorelle on WordPress