Miranda Ellis is a certified life coach whose daughter would have turned 15 this month. Here, she reflects on the powerful emotions experienced when a loved one dies – and offers her five best tips on how to work through grief
As the world mourns the sad passing of Queen Elizabeth, I’d like to take a moment to think about the nature of grief. Whatever your personal feelings about the Queen, we all experience grief at some point in life. From recent conversations, I’ve noticed, even people who don’t have any strong feelings about the Queen’s passing have found the news touched a nerve, triggering memories of their own losses. This is an entirely normal reaction.
Nothing can really prepare you for the powerful emotions experienced when a loved one dies. We are not taught how to deal with it. When my daughter died, some people actually crossed the road to avoid me because they felt uncomfortable. Others spouted well-meaning, empty words and homilies that made them feel better, but didn’t help me: ‘These things happen for a reason’; ‘It’s better this way.’
However, there were a few people who understood. They sat with me, just listening, allowing me to express my feelings, which were perfectly valid. They were comfortable to sit with me in silence when that’s what I needed.
Grief is a powerful and entirely natural emotion. It’s what we experience when our love for a person has nowhere to go. Grief can bring intense sadness, anger, rage, denial, disbelief, longing, depression, or even feeling totally numb.
The stages of grief might be familiar, but the part that’s less well understood is that these stages do not necessarily progress in any particular order. It’s quite normal to move repeatedly through the stages many times before finally arriving at acceptance. Even then, it’s still possible for grief to resurface and to revisit the stages again and again.
Grief can feel like you’re going mad. You’re not. It’s entirely normal. Horrible, but normal. There is no way around it and there is no time limit on grief.
My daughter would have been 15 years old this month. As her birthday approaches, I am already aware of my grief, lurking at the periphery of my consciousness. It is no longer raw and painful, but it is a part of me that will always be there.
So, my 5 best tips for working through grief are these:
* Take one day at a time. If necessary, take one hour or one minute at a time.
* Sleep. Try relaxation techniques, meditation, aromatherapy, a warm bath before bed, and stick to your bedtime routine as much as possible.
* Avoid alcohol. It can make you feel worse.
* Gentle exercise. Go for a walk in nature.
* Talk. Find friends who will really listen, or call a helpline, like the Samaritans. They are trained to listen with compassion and anyone can call; you don’t have to feel suicidal.
Whatever emotions you may be experiencing, above all, be kind to yourself. If you need someone to listen, my door is always open. You can call the Samaritans free, 24/7 on 116 123.
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Featured image of Miranda Ellis, by Taryn Everdeen