I am an orphan and have lost two grandparents so I can appreciate how gut-wrenching it is to lose a loved one. Grief is something that looks very different for each person and is something that never fully goes away. Losing my mother at 24 was the hardest loss I have experienced. It was sudden and unexpected. There were times where I felt like I forgot how to breathe the pain was so suffocating. Losing her was traumatizing and each day after the day she was gone felt so much harder because it was a day longer we didn’t have her anymore. The first year of first Mother’s Day, Birthday, Christmas, et cetera without her was really hard.  It is also really hard when initially everyone is really supportive of your loss and then they move on with their lives because the loss wasn’t the same to them or that they show their grief in a different manner. At times it can feel like “getting over” your grief is being disrespectful to the person you lost as if it doesn’t matter anymore which really couldn’t be farther from the truth. It is really important to find ways to help yourself heal or manage your grief if it feels so big that you can’t function within it. Life is short and the person you lost wouldn’t want you to make the most of your life even if it is a life without them.

If you are lucky enough to have a strong support system, you might find that you get a lot of gifts or attention after a loved one has passed away. While it is so important to be appreciative of this love and attention, it is really important to not get addicted to this or feel entitled to it especially because it is generally short lived. I knew a woman who frequently visited a spa and was a long time client who was friendly with the owners. She was given free services and discounts after losing a loved one for a significant time frame afterwards. They felt guilted when asking for full payment at times because the woman was visibly upset with no signs of improvement even years after the loss. This was a locally owned small business. They had to cancel a service for her last minute due to her clinician getting unexpectedly sick. While disappointing and frustrating she expected them to have someone else available which was just not possible. Due to their previous friendly relationship they offered to provide her the solution to do her own treatment which is something that they wouldn’t have done with others, especially due to the proprietary information included in the instructions. The location where the woman lives has several other spa locations that potentially could have accommodated a last minute appointment if she didn’t choose to do the treatment herself. When she arrived to pick up the solution, she threw a fit over having to pay and yelled inappropriately at a staff member who was more of a messenger then a decision maker. She publicly bashed the business by leaving negative reviews and didn’t understand that her behavior towards the staff member was inappropriate. After years of discounts and freebees she took her business elsewhere.

If you are a parent or caregiver who is suffering it is important to accept help that is being offered. At times it can feel as if you are failing when you are not able to balance it all while dealing with grief but that is not the case. It is important to be honest with yourself and others about how much you are capable of handling. If you are caring for others but mentally are not in a place to do so safely it is important to step away or seek alternatives prior to putting them in a precarious situation. If you are courageous enough to ask for help or release that person from your care it is important that you also don’t overstep boundaries with the new caregiver or responsible people and actually allow them to move on from the situation to prioritize the vulnerable person or youth that they are caring for. It is important that you do not try to center yourself or prevent them from moving on from the situation or having new experiences without you.

When people invite you out and you feel like you haven’t left your house in awhile, it can be important to force yourself to get out there. When we stay in bed or stay inside our home it can help us stay stuck in our grief. We are surrounded by the smells and things that remind of the loved one that is now gone. It is easier to stay surrounded by the familiar instead of trying to have new experiences without them. This can also lead to increased isolation and depression. When visiting the cemetery daily becomes your only outing it is important to consider reaching out to friends or family to go for coffee or a movie. Your departed loved one is not going to want you miserable without them. You do need to surround yourself with your friends and family to appreciate the time that you have with them too. Every conversation cannot be about yourself and your loss, it is important to be able to listen to what is going on with them too. If you find that you are trauma dumping on your friends and family to the point that they stop reaching out or inviting you to things please remember that there are many different options for counseling.

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It is so important to know that seeking professional help isn’t shameful and doesn’t mean that there is something wrong with you. Losing a loved one can be harder than we have the skills to deal with. It is important to reach out to whatever services free or paid that are available to you especially when you find that loved ones are worried about you and actively encouraging you to seek help. Therapy doesn’t have to look like one particular service. It is important to prioritize your own wellbeing whether that is eating regularly, moving your body, and sleeping regularly. When suffering from a big loss, a routine can be very important to helping you have stability and a sense of purpose throughout your day. Adopting a mindful practice can also be really helpful so whether that is EFT Tapping or mediation that helps keep you in the present moment and be beneficial for balancing big emotions.

When trying to determine what your new normal will be it is important to try new hobbies to redirect your focus and open yourself up to new experiences. Whether that is eating at a restaurant that you wouldn’t have gone to because your loved one wouldn’t have liked it, booking a girls trip to a new destination, or buying new furniture for your home so that it doesn’t feel like a shrine to the live you lived with the person. It is important to set goals for yourself to help motivate you to move forward. Try volunteering with an organization that you feel would bring you a new purpose.

Grief is really a reminder of how much we loved someone and can be a beautiful thing no matter how much it sucks that they are gone. We just can’t stay so stuck in the suffering of the loss that we can’t see anything past it and puts the now on pause. You do not want to rob yourself of the future you have with yourself, family and friends by alienating yourself from them or changing your whole personality into someone that people don’t recognize in a negative way.