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    Grief Awareness Day: Love and Loss

    August 29, 2023

    All of us have experienced grief in one way or another throughout our lives. As an essential yet difficult part of the human experience, grief encompasses the emotions that arise in response to loss. Sorrow and suffering, although painful, are a natural reaction to loss. Whether grieving the death of a loved one, or grieving a relationship, job loss, or other life event, the process of grief is something that comes in waves and is not linear. Every individual has a unique journey through grief, which often includes stages such as denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

    In the home care space, grief is often inescapable. As a caregiver, you may interact with and come to care for many clients whose time on Earth is coming to an end. As a family member or other loved one of a person receiving home care, you may be preemptively grieving their loss, or the loss of the relationship you were once able to have while the person was healthier. Lastly, if you are someone who is on the receiving end of home care, you may be grieving the loss of your abilities and/or stamina as you enter this new phase of life. 

    National Grief Awareness Day takes place on August 30th each year, with the mission to educate people on grief and create space for coping with feelings of loss. The day also offers resources for those experiencing grief and an opportunity to share stories of grief and let others know they are not alone.

    Here are some helpful tips for those times in life where you and grief come face to face. 

    Processing grief

    The death of a loved one or the loss of any kind can cause a mixture of emotions and often leads to grief. Acknowledging and accepting our feelings of grief is important in order to properly honor the loss that we have experienced and move through the healing process. Some ways to process grief include: 

    • Writing a letter: Writing a letter to someone you have lost can be a great way to express your grief and honor the person who has passed away. You can write about memories, shared stories, and say goodbye.
    • Create a memorial: Creating a memorial for someone who has passed away can help bring comfort and solace in difficult times. Consider creating something meaningful like a photo album, garden, or memorial wall.
    • Reach out: It's important to connect with people who are also grieving during this difficult time. Reach out to family and friends to talk about your feelings and emotions.
    • Visit the gravesite: Visiting the gravesite of someone you have lost can be a very healing experience. Bring flowers, photos, or other items that remind you of them and spend some time reflecting.
    • Help others: Helping others who are going through similar experiences can be very therapeutic. Consider volunteering at a local hospice or donating to an organization that supports those dealing with grief.

    Coping with grief

    The death of a loved one or the loss of any kind can cause a mixture of emotions and often leads to grief. Many people — both who have and haven’t experienced significant losses — don’t have a firm grasp on what grief is and how to cope with it. Spreading awareness about grief in the general public helps to better support those who are grieving and gives those who are not tools for when they encounter grief one day. Acknowledging and accepting our feelings of grief is important in order to properly honor the loss that we have experienced and move through the healing process.

    While working through your grief, it can be helpful to speak with a professional about any impact the loss has had on your mental health. Professional guidance and support can provide clarity on how to effectively cope with difficult emotions during this time. There are also lots of coping resources in New York state, the Cope Foundation has an online portal with resources for all kinds of grief. 

    When you're grieving, it's more important than ever to take care of yourself. The stress of a major loss can quickly deplete your energy and emotional reserves. Looking after your physical and emotional needs will help you get through this difficult time. As everyone grieves differently, here are a few ways to take care of yourself while doing so:

    • Face your feelings: You can try to suppress your grief, but you can't avoid it forever. In order to heal, you have to acknowledge the pain. Trying to avoid feelings of sadness and loss only prolongs the grieving process. Unresolved grief can also lead to complications such as depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and health problems.
    • Express your feelings in a tangible or creative way: Even if you’re not able to talk about your loss with others, it can help to write down your thoughts and feelings in a journal, for example. Or you could release your emotions by making a scrapbook or volunteering for a cause related to your loss.Try to maintain your hobbies and interests. There's comfort in routine and getting back to the activities that bring you joy and connect you closer to others can help you come to terms with your loss and aid the grieving process.
    • Don't let anyone tell you how to feel, and don't tell yourself how to feel either: Your grief is your own, and no one else can tell you when it's time to “move on” or “get over it.” Let yourself feel whatever you feel without embarrassment or judgment. It's okay to be angry, to yell at the heavens, to cry or not to cry. It's also okay to laugh, to find moments of joy, and to let go when you're ready.
    • Look after your physical health: The mind and body are connected. When you feel healthy physically, you'll be better able to cope emotionally. Combat stress and fatigue by getting enough sleep, eating right, and exercising. Don't rely on alcohol or drugs to numb the pain of grief or lift your mood artificially.
    • Plan ahead for grief “triggers:” Anniversaries, holidays, and important milestones can reawaken painful memories and feelings. Be prepared for an emotional wallop, and know that it’s completely normal. You can plan ahead by making sure that you’re not alone, for example, or by marking your loss in a creative way.

    In the end:

    Grief doesn’t always entail the loss of a life. It can occur through life transitions, changes in identity, and both large and small traumas. Regardless, every type of grief is valid. 

    There are numerous ways to cope with loss and grief. You can find support through therapy and support groups. However you choose, be gentle and patient with yourself as you honor grief, and don’t be afraid to ask for help from loved ones. Express yourself through hobbies, art or writing, and come up with ways to process and honor what you’ve lost. 

    By recognizing National Grief Awareness Day, we are able to come together as a society and remember those who have passed away, while also providing comfort and solace for those who are still suffering from the impacts of their losses. Even if you aren't personally grieving, there is still value in recognizing those who are. 

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