Erica Leniczek on how to deal with grief
“It doesn’t matter what you do, eventually you lose everyone in your life or they lose you.”
The reality of that quote is that it’s true. Either everyone loses us or we lose everyone. We are set up with neurological processes to handle loss and grief because everyone, every animal, experiences it. Grief is simply the emotional response to loss; grief is a process.
Grief isn’t only associated with losing another human for us. People grieve the loss of possibility, the loss of relationships, and a loss of sense of self, but they typically don’t associate that with the same kind of feeling. I’ve seen farmers grieve cattle and horses; I’ve seen athletes grieve the loss of their careers; I’ve seen abuse and trauma survivors grieve who they thought they were and what they thought life was before their trauma.
In saying that, it doesn’t necessarily make the pain go away. It doesn’t make us understand why bad things happen to good people, what we did wrong, or if life will ever be the same.
So how do we deal with grief and loss in a healthy manner? What can we do to cope?
Well first, I say feel your feelings. Your body is telling you that something happened and is saying you are in pain because you care about the person or thing you are grieving.
Understand that loss can lead to changes. Sometimes, things will become different, shockingly different. Remember to be kind to yourself and give yourself some grace. It can take the human brain a long time to adapt to change because it’s trying to create new neural pathways and figure out how to deal with the changes anatomically. Ultimately, it’s probably trying to help you.
Communicate and connect. Chances are, you aren’t the only one or the first person struggling with a loss. To the extent that my farmer says to me “you can’t have livestock if you don’t have dead-stock sometimes, dear.” It is important to find someone to connect with. Connection provides us with security, support and a sense of normalcy after loss; it helps us with confidence; it helps us with decreasing symptoms of anxiety and depression. Simply put, we need connection as humans.
People simply cannot understand what you are going through if you don’t communicate with them. They can’t help you, they may not even know, so communication is integral in life because it takes away the guesswork, blame and ambiguity of ignorance.
Understand that grief comes in waves and has no rules. Have you ever been doing dishes and started to break down? I have. And I wonder why! Grief sneaks into the small moments, the mundane tasks, and the times when you wouldn’t expect it to. It can be ugly, angry and unwelcomed, but it comes. My therapist once told me when experiencing grief, to try to schedule it. You might be thinking, umm… what? And that’s valid. But hear me out. This isn’t for the infant stages of grief. This tool isn’t for right after something happened. This tool is for when you’re doing dishes, trying to be productive, and ultimately those moments when you have to start to move forward in life. So schedule your grief. If you have been noticing that you feel grief at certain times, events, or doing specific activities – acknowledge that and take the time to feel your feelings in your time. What I mean by that is when YOU decide you want to feel them. My favourite places are my car or the shower. After losses, I’ll put on sad songs and allow myself to have a good cry, yell, or do whatever I need to do to move that emotional energy on my time.
Grief is going to come in waves. You are going to miss that person or thing. It WILL hit you, but learning to say to your body “thank you for the information, but not right now” and then actually come back to it and feel it is a life-changing skill that has tremendously helped me.
Finally, grieving takes time and patience. Your grief will be similar, but different than others’ grief; you may grieve some things differently than others. Remember to be kind to yourself and others, and learn patience and grace.
And if all else fails, remember: you have survived 100% of your hardest days, you can survive this one too.
Erica Leniczek, B.Sc., B.Ed., MACP Student.
Host: The Rural Mindset Podcast (available on most major streaming platforms)
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Photos: Caitlyn Mary Photography