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Grief is tough but not impossible: Ideas for getting through

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Being human is tough, even on a good day, and can seem impossible when you’re coping with the death of someone dear to you. National Grief Awareness Day, August 30, exists because of one woman’s struggle through grief—and her dedication to helping others find their way.

When you’re grieving, the pain can feel impossible. Reach out—to loved ones and professionals—whenever it becomes overwhelming. Or even when it feels manageable; friends and therapy are great well-being boosters and should be used in abundance. Here are a few more ideas for addressing your grief. 

Be ready to be all over the map.

Grieving isn’t a linear process. If you’re expecting to move swiftly from denial to anger, etcetera, this news might not be heartening, but it’ll help keep you from feeling like you’re doing it wrong at a time when you do not need to add to your emotional load. Grief happens however it wants, really, which might mean you think you have it under control one day and can’t drag yourself out of bed the next. 

Our very first word of advice is “go easy on yourself.” Your grief isn’t right or wrong or off schedule. It just is. Maybe (almost certainly) you’d prefer not to experience it, but here you are. You can get through this. At least there’s that. 

Expect grief to creep in everywhere. 

The effect of loss is extensive. It can cause physical symptoms like stomach pain, headaches, exhaustion, or even muscle aches. Your sleep may suffer and your immune system struggle, leaving you more vulnerable to illness. Meanwhile, your grief may show up emotionally and psychologically, leaving you crying and depressed, struggling with anxiety attacks, or so drained you can barely get out of bed. 

These symptoms are painful. As unpleasant as your situation feels, addressing grief is the most productive way through. Keeping your pain to yourself lets it fester. It’s just not true that time heals all wounds. Working through them is a pretty sure bet, though. 

Look ahead a little—just a teeny bit

Even in especially challenging times, distraction works, and so does structure. Many grieving people find that keeping a daily schedule helps them move forward, especially if that schedule includes time for exercise, meditation, or other feel-good activities. Giving yourself manageable goals and a purpose, even if that purpose is simply brushing your teeth and making the bed, helps build confidence that you’ll be okay. 

And there’s a tried and true, well-studied, incredibly effective activity that can serve as goal, distraction, and structure: volunteering. You deserve to put yourself first right now, and a fantastically productive way to get the emotional boost you need is, ironically, by doing things for others. Start small, with an hour or two of good deeds or organized volunteer work. Chances are good you’ll feel uplifted afterward.  

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