Working Through Grief (Literally)

No lies — my family has been dealing with some tough cards these days. My sister passed away from cancer a few years ago and now my parents are both very ill. This is far from how I envisioned life in my 30s.

I have been encouraged many times to bottle up any of these emotions publicly for the sake of my career. While I won’t get into gruesome details of some of my less than stellar interactions with people, I would like to share some of my hard learned lessons. Hopefully someone reads this and gains some sort of strength, or at least a sense that they can relate. Grief is hard but inevitably you still have to pay bills and interact with the outside world.

  1. ) You will have bad days. It does not matter how old you are. I have met 70 year old men who were almost non-functional when their mothers passed away. Sometimes the smartest move is to let yourself operate at less than 100%. Grab a piece of chocolate. Take an extra long shower. Zone out during a workout, or with a movie. It’s ok.
  2. ) Get help from the right people. Guess what? Your friends probably love you. They likely have no idea what it’s like to go through what you are dealing with, and you shouldn’t expect them to. You will get hordes of painfully bad advice from very well intending people. Consider a grief group, where you can be as angry or sad as you want, and no one will judge you because they are in the same position. It is ok.
  3. ) Resist the urge to overshare. Why? Because you will piss off your family members or friends who would prefer to keep that private. It is also a heavy burden on people you don’t know very well, and they may not know how to cope with it. This can be hard if you are in a transient place, but always remember there are resources out there to help you. You are never alone.
  4. ) Always remember to recharge. Anticipatory grief and survivor’s guilt hurt, even physically. Consider meditation, massage, or acupuncture. Go for a swim or a hike. People can be exhausting, but it’s not their fault. A little R&R can do a lot of good. If you are strapped for cash, consider a Shambala Center for meditation or a community acupuncture clinic.
  5. ) Avoid toxic people. Some people will give you a hard time no matter what you are going through. They are likely not malicious, but might not see how their own baggage affects the equation. Not only can they hurt you, but you will likely hurt them back. This is not a positive loop and it’s important to be able to cut some people loose. Toxic people will drain your energy if you aren’t careful.
  6. ) Forget the comparisons. Comparing your life to others’ will eat you alive. You are going through a very hard but ultimately inevitable part of life that every human being will experience. So today is your turn to endure heartache, but tomorrow you will comfort someone in need. People will remember your small acts of kindness during your moment of duress as a very special thing. Do not rob yourself of the pleasure of giving to others. It will raise your spirits more than you realize.

Above all, be kind to yourself. You would not be so hard to someone else who is grieving, would you?

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