Grief and Gratitude – Managing the Stress from Loss

Grief and Gratitude – Managing the Stress from Loss

Grief doesn’t come only from death or the dying process. If you’ve ever experienced any profound loss – of a job, home, business or business partner, fur-baby, or any other relationship, or if you’ve lived through trauma—then you’re no stranger to grief. If you’ve ever bottled up your pain because you didn’t think others would acknowledge it or tolerate it, consider now as a good time as any to find the courage to take your grief fully out of the closet, to honor and openly learn to understand it. If and when you do, you’ll reduce your stress and start to be able to address any number of health conditions that it may have caused or exacerbated. These might include IBS, ulcerative colitis, anxiety, depression, cardiovascular issues, immune challenges, or back and joint pain.

After losing my husband at age 39, and both of my parents, my business, and my dog in the past five years, I’ve learned how to cope progressively better with loss and grief. I suppose I’ve become what one friend lovingly called me: a Master Mourner. I now have many tools to move less scathed through the darkness that grief and loss invariably create. I hope the steps outlined here will enable you to begin healing and move forward, one step at a time.

Step One: Acknowledge That You’re Grieving
Unfortunately, like midlife, menopause, and other facts of life, nobody wants to talk about loss and grief, including physicians and medical schools. The problem with the lockdown on discussions of these uncomfortable topics is that it makes people sick. Unexpressed grief and pain create stress, which creates inward-turned energy that can generate a wide range of health conditions and increase the risk for cancer, cardiac disease, substance abuse, and suicide.

Grief is a process, not a state of being, and it’s unique for each person. One hospice organization in Maryland defines the “grief cycle” as these seven stages. However, they don’t necessarily happen one at a time or in the order listed, and they can be repeated:

  • Shock/disbelief/denial
  • Anger
  • Depression
  • Searching/pining
  • Panic
  • Guilt
  • Acceptance

Healing can begin once you emerge from denial and begin facing the impact your loss has had on you and your life.

Step Two: Claim Your Right to Heal by Grieving
The healthiest, most important thing you can do is give yourself permission to grieve in some way, your way. As someone who has experienced loss, you have the right to:

  1. Experience your unique grief as long as you need (and leave it behind once you’re ready to move forward in spite of it).
  2. Talk about your loss and grief.
  3. Allow yourself to feel a variety of emotions (more on this below).
  4. Respect your physical and emotional limits (use “No” as a complete sentence).
  5. Use any healing rituals that feel right.
  6. Embrace your spirituality to allow it to guide you down any workable healing path.
  7. Ascribe any meaning to your loss that makes sense to you.
  8. Treasure every memory that gives you comfort.

Step Three: Take Measures to Heal Gradually
Healing from any type of loss has no schedule or time limit. You may think you’ve recovered, and then, out of the blue, you may break down when something triggers a memory or brings out unexpected emotions. This doesn’t mean you’re crazy. On the contrary, such reactions are common and expected.

Feel It to Heal It
According to Robert Frost, the best way out is always through. As for surviving a significant loss, one might say one must feel it to heal it. Denial and stuffing feelings can’t make the event un-happen. As I’ve experienced, fully facing your feelings of loss permits them to process and move on and out of your body. (I had PTSD for fourteen years after my husband died before I was able to feel and release my feelings.) You might have one complete breakthrough session, or it may take intermittent awakenings—unexpected, irrepressible surges of sadness and pain. In every instance, above all, honor your heart.

“It is better to light one small candle of gratitude than to curse the darkness.”
— Confucius

Find Acceptance
Acceptance is a shift in perspective, not submission to a degrading situation. Accepting your loss means you’ve decided to acknowledge that you couldn’t control its occurrence and to stop resisting it. Accepting what you can’t change empowers you to move forward and do what you can about your loss. Accepting loss grants tremendous freedom from the pain caused by your desire to focus on what you don’t want rather than on what you prefer.

Focus on Gratitude
The glimpse of light that starts with acceptance can expand without limit through gratitude. Journaling your gratitude throughout your day will enable you to feel it more fully. Your gratefulness will feel more real and will increase in its healing power as you repeatedly acknowledge it. If you ever feel stuck and don’t know what to feel thankful for, consider these blessings: running water, electric power, a roof over your head, being able to buy food and clothing easily, the awareness that you’re moving toward a better future, recognition that things could be much worse, and the love of your friends and family.

Ease Your Suffering with Natural Therapies
Sometimes, no matter how much we want to change our viewpoint, we need help. The proper doses of natural remedies can relieve moderate depression and anxiety:

  1. Flower essences, such as Bach Rescue Remedy and FES Grief Relief
  2. SAMe, for depression
  3. L-tryptophan/5-HTP, boosts serotonin
  4. Fish oil, for depression
  5. Co-enzyme B-complex, for stress
  6. Vitamin D3, for depression
  7. Anxiocalm, an echinacea strain
  8. Ashwagandha, for stress

You might also benefit from energy-healing therapies.

Be sure to seek professional support and even appropriate prescription medications if the stress from your loss is more than you can handle naturally.

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity.”
— Melodie Beattie

Submitted by Erika Dworkin, BCHN (Board Certified in Holistic Nutrition®), Wellness Guide and former owner of the Manchester Parkade Health Shoppe in Manchester, CT, which operated for 65 years. To read more about this topic, contact Erika in November to get a copy of her chapter in the 25 practitioners’ collaborative book, The Energy Medicine Solution: Mind Blowing Results to Live Your Extraordinary Life.

All statements in this article are practice- or scientific evidence-based, and references are available upon request. The statements in this article have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration, are for educational purposes only, and are not intended to take the place of a physician’s advice.

Erika is available for nutrition consultations and to speak to groups, in person or on Zoom. She can be contacted by phone at 860.646.8178 or by email at: edworkin@vitathena.com. Ask about her office hours by appointment, FREE 20-Minute Wellness Assessments, and FREE Wellness Chats!