Grief can be thought of as a reaction to loss. Most often we think of grief as occurring following the loss of a beloved person, but other losses can cause grief as well, such as death of a beloved pet, a best friend who moves away, declining health as result of a serious illness, a financial crisis, or loss of a home.
Grief can cause many emotions such as anger, disbelief, fear, guilt, and profound sadness. Every person works through grief at their own pace. Often, emotions stemming from grief begin to abate only to recur, sometimes “out of the blue”. The grief process can last weeks, months, or even years.
Like all other major stressors, grief can also cause physical symptoms including insomnia, weight loss, weight gain, fatigue, nausea, or physical pain.
To work through grief, it is essential to acknowledge it, as ignoring it does not help move forward with its processing.
Self-care and Self-acceptance
It is important to take care of yourself during the grieving process to remain as physically and mentally healthy as possible during a very stressful time. Be patient and non-judgmental with yourself as you work through your grief or help someone else through their grief.
Tips for self-care include:
- Engage in a life-affirming activity such as a walk-in nature, pursuing your hobbies, playing with your pet, or telling family stories orally or in writing.
- Be kind to yourself by taking a long bath, snuggling with a warm blanket, listening to calming music or a relaxation tape, or indulging in favorite foods.
- Use deep slow breathing as a way of calming yourself.
- Use meditation or hypnosis (link) as a way of self-soothing. These techniques can also help you fall asleep and get sufficient sleep.
- Find a partner who can encourage your self-care and, if possible, surround yourself with loved ones.
Putting Things into Perspective
Keeping our life events in perspective can help through the grief process. This can be done through one’s faith but can also be accomplished through strengthening our spiritual beliefs. Becoming aware of the power of the subconscious mind through hypnosis also can lead to enhanced spiritual understanding. Spirituality can be strengthened through life experiences such as becoming more aware of the grandeur of nature, and over time learning how to deal with the inevitable losses that are part of life.
For example, based on my work over three decades as a pediatric pulmonologist, I have had the opportunity to work with and support many patients through their end-of-life process. From this work, I gained new perspectives that helped me better support my patients and deal more calmly with the loss of my own family members.
I remember a girl with cystic fibrosis who was extremely ill and terribly frightened of her imminent prospect of dying. On the day before her death, she experienced a vision and reported that she had visited heaven and saw all of her previously deceased relatives waiting for her. Thereafter, she told us rather impatiently, “Why am I still here? I’m ready to go to the next world.” She no longer was afraid.
When asked, most of my patients’ subconscious (link) have endorsed the idea that they existed in a previous life, and virtually all of them stated that they will exist following my patients’ physical death. A skeptic may wonder if this belief represents wishful thinking or an inability of the mind to process the idea that after a certain time it will no longer exist. Evidence supportive of an existence beyond this life, based on my personal experience, includes some of my patients who report knowledge and experiences that I do not believe they have been exposed to in this life. For example, one 14-year-old American patient reported seeing Hebrew in his imagination, which he did not understand, because he had never studied this language. By pointing to a chart of Hebrew letters he was able to convey to me what he was seeing in his imagination. I immediately understood what he reported seeing, as I am a native Hebrew speaker. This patient believed his knowledge of Hebrew came from a previous life.
Because continued existence after death has been my patients’ usual expectation, I developed a perspective that when dreadful things occur in life they are not as tragic as they may appear, since such occurrences may comprise only a small fraction of a very long (or perhaps even limitless) existence. I have used the example of a 3-year-old who breaks his leg and thinks the world is over. However, from the perspective of an adult, we realize that the leg will heal and thus not a reason to lose faith in life.
As described in my book, Changing Children’s Lives with Hypnosis: A Journey to the Center, through my work I have discovered that hypnosis can be used as a platform to help deal better with the sense of loss that arises as a result of grief:
- Children learn how to enter a state of relaxation in hypnosis by imagining what they might perceive with each of their senses in a comfortable, safe place.
- Once they are fully immersed in the hypnotic state, I suggest that the children might invite whomever they lost to visit with them in their imaginary safe place. I suggest that they can imagine spending time with that individual, hold a conversation, or even touch or hug each other.
Most children who choose to use hypnosis in this fashion report that they feel the experience was real, and that they no longer feel as much loss regarding the individual who visited with them. I have observed many children whose grief appears to have improved immediately after using hypnosis to process their loss.
Another way to process loss is to make a memory box in which people can place mementos of their loved one. These can include photographs, videos, audiotapes, favorite books, poems or artwork, items of clothing, jewelry, and even perfume or cologne.
There are many positive steps that can be undertaken to help yourself move forward through the grieving process. Be patient and accepting of yourself, and remember that the way you work through grief is unique and right for you.
Portions of this blog were first published in Psychology Today Online.