Have you been feeling extra irritable? Are you forgetting to eat, or eating when you are not hungry? Have you been feeling numb or not interested in anything? You may be experiencing grief.
HopeNet Program Director, Jo Lynn Bright, is helping her clients understand that while maybe they have not lost a person close to them, any loss or combination of several losses, can lead to significant grief. Not seeing people you love, experiencing changes in your job or the way you do your job, or having to cancel a dream vacation are all small griefs that can add up.
Whether we think they are small or not, “small” losses can add up for all of us, and the compounding of such losses can become overwhelming. Director Bright shares that many people might not realize what they are experiencing is grief, and try to deny it. That is okay for a while, but you can’t stay there forever.
HopeNet therapist, Jayme Dorr, helps her clients start to move out of denial by helping them take steps to adapt to change. Dorr indicates that staying in denial for too long and avoiding dealing with grief will not help, but rather will start to come out in inappropriate ways, such as explosive anger at loved ones, increased fears, or even addictive behaviors.*
Part of adapting to change is admitting your feelings and “owning” them. The next step involves finding a “new normal” and creating new routines. Therapist Frances Waldren encourages her clients to create a new routine and that usually starts with their sleep schedule. If you are not sleeping well, it will make everything else harder. If you are struggling with change, whether wanted or unwanted, start by evaluating your sleep and finding a routine that works for you.
Waldren also encourages everyone to get outside in the sun, even for just a little while. Going for a short walk can help you process some of your feelings and improve your mood. Don’t “bite off more than you chew,” though! You don’t need to try and run a marathon! Start small and slowly add more if you want to.
Katherine Lewis shares that she helps clients by encouraging them to reframe their negative beliefs, such as “helplessness.” When you feel helpless, reframe that feeling and tell yourself, “I can be in control of what I can control.” When you feel overwhelmed, tell yourself, “I can get through this.” Lewis asks clients to “make sure they think through their thoughts and don’t let their thoughts rule them.” An adage in therapy is don’t believe everything you think! Many of our thoughts need to be challenged as to whether they are true or not. A mental health therapist can help you do this if you are struggling.
Grief will come and go. When working with clients, Waldren encourages them to visualize their feelings as waves. They might wash over you, but they won’t flood you. The water only rises for a short time and then falls again.
It is okay to grieve “what used to be.” But as we start to move forward, we can take tangible actions to improve our mental health.