How to deal with loss and grief

Posted on June 2, 2020
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Dr. Friedemann discusses how to manage grief and loss

The world is in tears. While we are still amid the COVID-pandemic that brought so much loss and suffering, the death of George Floyd has brought the pain and anger of African Americans and other disenfranchised minorities to a boiling point. Racism and prejudice are essential topics, which concern all of us, and we can’t afford to ignore any longer. To continue the conversation about it, I wrote about the toxic temptation of prejudice in a previous blog article.

This week’s topic is about grief and loss, which has been particularly prevalent during the pandemic. Whether it is a loved one dying, a relationship ending, getting laid off, or having to shut down a business, loss has many different faces. And even if nobody you care about died, and you still have a job, you may mourn the freedom and the normalcy of life. Loss is usually followed by grief, which can generally go through the stages of denial, anger, sadness, and final acceptance. Knowing how to cope with loss is essential to make sure you are not getting stuck in any of the stages of grief.

Here are three general steps that can help you when you are grieving loss:

  • Honor all your emotions: Since loss is often associated with powerlessness and a lack of control and sadness is perceived as a sign of vulnerability and weakness, anger often appears as the most empowering option. Yet, without moving through disbelief, confusion, sorrow and grief, there is no final resolution. So rather than holding onto anger, which can eventually shift into blame or bitterness, allow yourself to mourn. After all, it takes more courage to let ourselves feel our heartaches than to close our hearts and not to have to feel at all.  Reach out to friends, a counselor, or a support group to get the help you need to face and resolve all the emotions that are coming up.
  • Find the gifts in what you lost: I asked a client the other day, who was grieving the passing of his father, what he appreciated the most about him. “He was such a deeply caring man. I loved that he rooted for the underdog, that he always had a few dollars and a kind word for the homeless; that he continued to check on his kids and never asked for anything from us. His heart was full of love and compassion.” When I asked him, whether he could imagine keeping his dad’s legacy alive by sharing more of his heart and caring nature with the world, my client lit up. “I have never thought about this. But by honoring who he was and becoming a little bit more like him, he will always be with me.” It is the nature of life that we can’t hold on to anything forever. But no matter how often we have to let go, we can always be grateful for the experiences and memories that we can keep forever in our hearts.  
  • Find the gift in the loss: Every loss offers the opportunity to grow from it. Maybe you realize that you could be more kind and compassionate with yourself, or that you could learn to be more accepting or resilient. Perhaps loss teaches you to surrender to what you can not change and to find the motivation and courage to take steps to change what you can. Personally, the loss of my parents taught me about the impermanence of life and how important it is to value and embrace time as our most valuable currency. Most of my clients who have been seeking my support to help them through the grieving process have not only found acceptance with their loss but also some aspects of learning and growth.

Join me this Thursday, June 4th at 9AM PT / Noon ET on Empowerment Radio and learn more steps on how to move through loss and grief without losing yourself. You may also join on Facebook Live.