by Emma Clark, guest blogger
Grieving is not only synonymous with death, but with loss generally. My understandings of, and experience with, grief stems from the loss of my father. But also, the experiences, dependency, and love that I felt I had lost in the process of my dad’s illness and passing. The following shouldn’t be taken as an exemplary way to deal with feelings of loss and sadness, but things that can help your process of grieving.
1: Acknowledge that things will not change overnight
Grieving is a process that involves not only dealing with the loss of someone but accepting that loss in the first place. The easiest thing to do is deny how you feel, skirt over it, or pretend it didn’t happen in the first place. Though this can be easier in the short-term, it works against you in the long run, for you are only delaying the inevitable.
It’s easy to react with anger or bitterness.
Grief as anger often manifests itself in how you deal with other people who may have experienced the same loss as you. My father’s passing came as a complete shock to me which manifested itself in ways I still regret to this day. I was completely at the mercy of my anger and it became my new-normal for years. Though he was the one no longer physically here, I felt like I had lost myself also. I longed to be in his company and that would never happen again. Even writing that now, more than ten years on, hurts more than it should.
It’s so easy to feel angry and bitter if people around you have not experienced a similar loss. It feels hard to express your feelings to others who do not know how you feel, though they can try their best. This can make you deal with your emotions that works against your best interests. You can become isolated, self-loathing, and a shadow of your former self.
Though loss is hard, it does get easier. There comes a point at which things do click into place. The life you experienced before your loss, and the life you experience afterwards, become one and the same. Your loss is not forgotten, but it becomes accepted. And that inevitably takes time. Remember to take time to and for yourself.
2: Allow yourself to feel sad but know when to stop
A comment people often make is that the person you’re grieving wouldn’t want you to be sad. This is well-intentioned but it doesn’t matter what that person would want for you; they are not here. Grief cannot be glossed over, ignored, or simply bypassed by thinking about what life should be. I find that being sad and angry is honestly part of life. You’ll always find yourself in situations that frustrate or upset you, whether that’s in relationships, friendships, at work, and so on. The problem is when you allow such feelings to take over and dominate. This is a work in progress for me. I still get wound up over the silliest of things, then find myself getting annoyed because I got angry over something so stupid. Learning to deal with our emotions is one of life’s greatest mysteries.
I’ve found, it helps me to write down anything notable that I remember about a day, both good and bad, and how I responded to it. This is only a recent development but I’ve noticed patterns in how I respond to situations when I’m sad, which gives me something to work with and improve. Allowing yourself to be sad and being patient with yourself are some of the greatest tips I could give to anyone.
Get into the habit of talking to people. It does not have to be a qualified professional – it could just be friends and family. Learn to talk about how you feel. This can be complicated by numerous different worries you may have: ‘What if people will get bored of me ‘moaning’?’ ‘What if I don’t want to talk about it?’. Delaying talking about your feelings is prolonging your sadness, so don’t do it. It’s easy to convince yourself that talking about it will only remind you of what happened and make you sad. It’s quite a hurdle to get over.
But, it isn’t embarrassing to ask for help. It’s courageous to recognise a problem and want to deal with it in a healthy way. There are so many resources I could recommend. A counsellor works for some people as they can help you get to the bottom of your sadness and help you overcome it in a healthy way. Kidney Cancer Scotland and Kidney Cancer UK have a dedicated counselling service that is available to anyone affected by kidney cancer, completely free of charge. Never feel ashamed or embarrassed to ask for help. You do not have to cope alone.
3: Develop healthy habits
Grieving occupies such a large part of both your mental and physical energy, so it is worth developing habits that make it easier to have time for yourself and refocus your mental state. I have found meditation to be a useful means of relaxing and really engaging with yourself. I’ve found that whenever I meditate, I’m really in touch with myself and allowing myself to recuperate. You can think about your day, or you don’t have to even think at all. You can just be calm and breathing.
I’ve learned to look after myself by eating healthily and drinking lots of water. This sounds a bit ridiculous, but it is so easy to fall out of love with life when grieving. You can become so disconnected from it and life should be joyous; something to celebrate! We’re all alive and we should make the most of it.
Any form of exercise really works a treat. This is something I struggle to integrate, mostly because I am lazy and watching TV is honestly more appealing to me in the short-term. But after the gym, I feel so much more energised. I feel proud of myself for going to a class or pushing myself on the step machine or bikes. It gives you something to concentrate on for an hour. I cannot tell you how healthy it is to incorporate such habits into your routine, though I am in no way making out that I am perfect at it.
4: Life will not be the same again, but this is not a bad thing
Just because life will not be the same again, doesn’t mean it’ll be bad; just different. You can’t focus on what your loss has produced for the rest of your life. You can’t live on behalf of someone else or do things you think they would want you to do. Life becomes even more precious when you have experienced grief. The meaning of life is restored, because you start to think less frivolously about what you need to have a good life. Life opens doors to a whole new world of experiences when you have lost someone. Time is cherished that bit more because you know that life is short and never guaranteed.
My advice is to accept the hand life has dealt you, and just live your life. It’s easy to allow sadness and anger to develop and become far greater problems. I have wallowed and heaped on the woe-is-me attitude. I have thought about what I was missing, not what I had. Grieving can allow you to view life through rose-tinted glasses to the point you are so focused on what you no longer have, that you forget what is right in front of you. Yes, you have lost someone important to you, but you should never forget what you have.
The views in this article are shared from a personal experience and do not necessarily reflect those of the charity. We would always recommend talking to your medical support team or seek professional support if you are affected by the topics within this article. Kidney Cancer Scotland offers free professional telephone counselling support on 0300 102 0101.