Managing Grief

Angel of Grief

Grief is the deep pain associated with the loss of something or someone important. We all know who the “someones” are in our lives. But the somethings — well, those can include youth, marriage, material possessions, future dreams. All of which can make grief an extremely personal and lonely process. 

Understanding how to manage grief is especially critical for those who are “going it alone” during retirement.  

Symptoms of grief are both emotional and physical. The emotional side usually involves a complex composite of sadness, anxiety, anger, and social withdrawal. Physical symptoms may include memory loss, suppressed immunity (you find yourself catching colds and getting sick more often), and cardiovascular complications such as raised blood pressure and blood clots. Some people suffer from what medical experts dub “broken-heart syndrome,” a weakening of the heart muscles often brought on by severe stress. 

There is no standard way to grieve even for the same loss at the same time during the same event. Cultural and societal assumptions, as well as the expectations of friends and family members, feed into processes — planning a funeral, filing for divorce, moving from a long-term home — that can become overwhelming.

The good news, according to Georgetown Psychology, is that “grief can be treated.”  

Here are five tips to help manage grief

  1. Find a counselor, life coach, spiritual guide, or support group. Make room for your grieving process. Give it space, time, and respect.
  2. Write about it. Try journaling, in which you write about what’s been lost. Express your feelings, silver linings, and aspirations for life after the loss. Another option is to write a letter to finish the unfinished.
  3. Create a memory book. This can take the form of a scrapbook and can be added to over time.
  4. Embrace rituals. If you practice a certain faith, use already established rites. Otherwise, you can create your own. One means of doing this is to visualize and release the grief. Try burying it, throwing it away, burning it, or letting it fly away in a balloon.
  5. Avoid self-medicating with drugs or alcohol. This won’t help the grieving process and can cause addiction, which will make your situation and both mental and physical conditions worse. 

Remember, you’ll never stop having relationships with those who have passed. It’s a long journey. Give yourself the time and space to complete it.

Throughout this “Going It Alone” section of this blog, we will share learnings from others navigating retirement alone, so that you don’t have to do it all alone.

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