First and foremost there is no right or wrong way to experience grief. Try to avoid using words that describe it in judgmental words.
A quick example of judgmental statements versus objective statements: “This cup is a pretty color.” vs “This cup is green, and that’s my favorite color.”
Some things just ARE and we don’t need to know if they’re any sort of good or bad or right or wrong. In the instance of grief, it is a very unpleasant experience but it is important to allow yourself to feel these emotions. Studies have shown that avoiding an emotion can prolong it and lead to various disorders.
You’re lost, you’re confused, you’re in pain. These may be extremely unpleasant, but its completely okay and natural to feel them. Give yourself permission to grieve, because you lost something very precious, and its very natural and okay to feel these things. Depending on you and your body and mind it could last a week to years, you may never feel fully whole again but no one expects you to.
Its okay to feel “bad”, and take some time out of the day to allow yourself to feel that grief. If it helps, you can set a particular time; say at 5 pm every day I’m going to grieve. This is because grief can interfere with your daily needs, and this measure offers some realm of control. In these times accept it, embrace it, cry about it, scream about it, whatever you want to do for an hour or whatever time you set. Its also important not to restrict yourself.
If you feel particularly upset in a location where there are restrictions on your grief remove yourself and go somewhere private(I suggest a bathroom) to experience your grief. Hopefully you’re somewhere where you’re able to depend on a support network and you can take some time off of work, but reasonably speaking this isn’t always the case.
Simply put; find ways and times you’d like to grieve and allow yourself that space. Do what makes you comfortable, anything that makes you feel even slightly better is probably a miracle at this point. The only thing I ask is you avoiding risk or target behaviors during this time. They may feel better in the moment but they will prolong the process.
If you want to read a little more about the expectations, truths, and myths about grief I suggest this article. This website is a very good resource for many problems.
Some things that do -help- you deal with grief are always recommended. These are general themes because they vary from person to person.
First is a social network. Again, meet your needs; my social network is different from my friends. Some people may need a very wide social network, others may just want one person to confide in. Its important you find something that works for you, not necessarily what works for everyone else. Do keep in mind the potential strain on various interpersonal relationships. Due to the nature of loss I imagine there are many people in your life who are experiencing their own grief. Try to utlize several routes of support. Even if you need only one person at a time try to get multiple singles. What I mean by this is (in the case of singular) have one family member, have one friend, have one therapist, have one religious figure etc etc. You mentioned a support group; I encourage you to continue with it. Again what you’re feeling is natural, and a support group there are others who have and maybe are experiencing the same amount of pain. In my own struggles with depression and suicidal idealization I found the most comfort from others who understood on a personal level. There is a sort of indescribable level of emotion in certain situations, something you can only understand if you have experienced it personally. Support groups are the best place to find people who understand you on a deeper level.
Secondly take care of yourself (if you check out the article you’ll see I’m kind of basing it to jog my memory.) As I mentioned before there are daily tasks. Eating, sleeping, basic functions that become difficult when put into a crisis. Do yourself a favor and make a schedule. “I eat at 6pm, I brush my teeth at 8:45 I go to bed at 9” — Include the basics and simply try to do as many as you can. Eating and sleeping are among the most important.
The article also mentions something I wasn’t quite considering:
Plan ahead for grief “triggers.” Anniversaries, holidays, and milestones can reawaken memories and feelings. Be prepared for an emotional wallop, and know that it’s completely normal. If you’re sharing a holiday or lifecycle event with other relatives, talk to them ahead of time about their expectations and agree on strategies to honor the person you loved.
This seems like a very important precaution. I don’t think I can say more than they did on it, but I do know anniversaries of my lesser losses and typically mild grief can be a trigger. Furthermore outside events that might trigger a memory… be aware of them, and be prepared for them to trigger. Its important not to expect yourself to be fine with these things. For instance even seeing a parent and child interaction will be excruciating. Its not because you’re jealous, or are wrong to feel that way. These things are completely natural and to be expected. Humans are not built to be okay with these things. Our bodies are wired to feel intense emotion when provoked and the best way to reduce these emotions is to merely experience them without judgement. In fact, these emotions are healthy— we experience an emotion and then as it passes we’ve either handled the problem, or allowed the chemicals to filter through our system and the process will be complete. Your brain is wired to experience a stimuli, produce chemicals, and promote an action or if no action can be taken, to shut down the idea of action. Either way that feeling of resolution is your brain completing the response to the stimuli and creating sort of a “stop” signal. If you stop the process it creates a sort of loop in your mind, re-releasing these chemicals over and over because its still responding to the original stimuli, since no “stop” message was ever sent it will continue to respond. This is also ineffective because the more you work out a neuron the more space it will create. In extreme cases it will start to connect to other parts of the brain, creating the same reaction to other stimuli. Ones that may not even be related. For example prolonged anxiety disorders will start from say fear of dogs to fear of animals then to fear of everything; known as generalized anxiety disorder where you have an emotional response to literally nothing in paticular.
Finally while it is important to experience this grief if you start to find it so overwhelming that you’re feeling suicidal it may be time to take a few steps away from it. You want to experience grief in healthy doses, and thoughts of suicide are a clear indication to me that these emotions are far too intense, and that you feel trapped in them. I suggest utilizing some skills from DBT’s crisis management. If you find yourself so trapped in grief try to do something to distract yourself. Eat something and pay attention to the texture smell taste sound— immerse yourself in your environment. On that note its also okay to not feel grief. You can feel good about living and enjoy things, you do not have to feel guilt over this. You will have periods where you are okay with the loss and periods where you are not; neither are right nor wrong, they just are. You have every right and all of the permission to feel whatever you are feeling. You do not have to make yourself suffer and you do not have to push yourself to move past it. You are at whatever stage you are.
Finally grief and depression are kind of hand in hand, as the emotions experienced during “depression” are naturally occurring emotions. It becomes depression when the body does not know how to stop feeling that way. In this case its natural to feel very similarly to a depressed individual. However suicidal thoughts are another story. In extreme cases one may experience “complicated grief" (symptomology is in the article) OR, even worse, depression and grief simultaneously if you have had a history of depression.
With suicide in the mix I do recommend seeking hospitalization. This will remove daily-necessities and allow a safe environment where you have a 24/7 support network. For many people it is an absolute necessity, and if you’re suicidal then I would caution it may be something you need, even if you don’t want it.
Like most ailments that need hospitalization it will only get worse and more complicated to treat if you don’tseek proper medical attention. For suicidal intent (if you are suicidal and have a plan of how you’re going to commit this act) I would say its like being bitten by a rattlesnake and sitting around at home going “maybe it will go away” — it won’t, it will get worse, and eventually it will lead to death. And there is no gray area there, don’t let anyone tell you its not as serious as it is.
If you’re not at the planning stage and you really don’t want to go, that isn’t as severe and you can make an appointment with a psychologist. This is like having a broken arm and going to your MD instead of the hospital. It still needs to be treated, but its up to you where and how you want it to be treated.