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Thinking Out Loud: Facing grief head on in 2021

John T. Catrett III
Contributing writer
John T. Catrett III

In one way or another, everyone is bound to face grief. Anyone can lose someone near and dear  — like a relative, a close friend or a pet — because death is a part of life. To better understand grief, one must look at it as a multi-faceted response. It affects the emotions and all other areas as well. Psychologically grief can bring about social, philosophical and physical reactions.

Just say that someone in the family accidentally died. The lamenting family may show signs of strong emotions like anger and sadness. Physically, they may become overwhelmed or speechless. Inability to sleep and nausea can also be apparent. Socially, the bereaved can withdraw themselves from the crowd. Philosophical reactions, on the other hand, have something to do with the individual's belief system. It can be a religious conviction and can lead to a stronger and renewed faith.

Grieving can happen to a friend, a big-time celebrity, to your neighbor and to you. Surely, all people go through serious and significant loss. Three recommended tips to help survive grief and move on with life are as follows:

Understand the Normal Process of Grief. Kubler-Ross named the five stages of grief as follows: First stage, denial and isolation; second stage, anger; third stage, bargaining; fourth stage, depression; and fifth stage, acceptance. There are times when it's easy to get stuck in one of the first four stages or even repeat stages. Everyone reacts differently. Of course, life is painful after a loss. But after the last stage, which is acceptance, one can truly move on. It is essential for us to understand that loss and death will affect people differently. Though it is hard, it is important to move on and to accept that death is a fact of life. To accept loss, and release the pain is what we are trying to achieve. If there's anything that you should keep, keep the good and precious memories.

Find Support Groups and Friends Who Can Help You. True friends will stick with you through thick and thin. Rely on these friends. Find comfort and solace in their time, kind words and deeds. Some will try to uplift your spirit by sending you consoling words and quotes that can inspire you and help pull you through. However, be careful to keep away from people who disguise themselves as friends. They are the ones who will entice you to try drugs and alcohol. These people are a bad influence. You should not run to them for comfort. Instead, these are the people you should stay away from. Keep in mind that drugs and alcohol are not the solution to what is happening to you. They can only provide temporary relief, create more problems, and delay your grieving; you don’t want that.

Engage in Healthy Activities. They say that the devil's playground is found in the idler's mind. Do not just bum around the house, doing nothing. Yes, for the first few days, even months, it is understandable to withdraw from people. However, it's vital to understand this is not the end of the world. We must all eventually move forward. Find and engage in healthy activities like gardening at home, volunteering and going to church. These activities can also help you realize that life is a gift and that everything happens for a reason. Try to find new meaning and purpose in your life.

Grieving is difficult, but we do survive. If you are experiencing grief at the moment and you wish to get back to life, you can. Be positive and stay strong. Hold on to your faith and consider the tips above. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Remember that life is too short to be miserable! Your decision today can change what has happened to you and what will happen to you in your future. You have the power to make a difficult situation into something beautiful and positive. Maybe life has dealt you a heartache, but you do have the power to turn heart-rending tragedy into something positive in your life. You make the call! Go for it! Your loved ones would want this for you! 

John T. Catrett III is ONHL hospice chaplain and writes a regular column about loss of loved ones and how to cope with grief.