Coping with sadness and grief

Pain and sorrow are natural feelings that serve an adaptive purpose. Disappointment helps you change your perspective on life and learn from experiences. These feelings allow you to adapt to changed circumstances, such as after the loss of a job, or a loved one. These feelings deserve your full attention at first. Allow yourself to experience them fully for a while, because there’s no clock, no defined length time on how long you should experience sadness, disappointment, and grief. Healing, adjusting, recovering a zest for life, taking new directions, filling gaps, and exploring the new are processes that start as you experience sadness and grief, and all take time.

There’s not set time as to ‘how long’ is good enough. You only know this.

The issue is that you need to avoid prolonged grieving and watch for any sign that your feelings are persisting past their expiration date. If you find that you become stuck in a downward spiral of paralysis, and you are unable to move forward, then now is the time to distance yourself from sadness and start building resources to grow through life’s challenges. Watch out for signs of becoming depressed, like seeing the world as a hopeless place, isolating yourself, and feeling inadequacy, guilt, shame or low self-worth.

Some resources are demonstrated scientifically to work better than others. Among them:

Gratitude. Counter your sadness and the gloom and doom that accompanies it by listing, every day, three good things that happened today. Keep a journal, or write them on post-it notes, have them readily available.

Get grounded. Some call it living the present, or practicing mindfulness.   Simply take the time to notice what is happening in the here and now. Use your senses,  – vision, hearing, touching, tasting and smelling – to become fully aware of what is going on around you. It is a kind of stop sign, that tells you to stop thinking about the grief and feeling it, if only for a little while.

Get going. There’s a tendency to stop doing the very things that make you happy and it perpetuates the sadness. Write down your moments of fun, and pay attention to activities you used to enjoy. Build them back into your life. Actions and behaviors will impact your feelings positively.

Connect. We’re biologically wired to connect with others. It makes us feel safe, calm, secure, and happy. Grief does the opposite. It disconnects you from others and bring our attention fully to the self. List all the people who are your sources of support. Now reach out to them.

Help others. We’re also wired to give to something larger than ourselves. Grief and sadness collapse awareness and lead to brooding and isolation. Get out of your ego-system and embrace a greater purpose through various contributions of your time such as volunteering.

Value yourself. Take a chance to reflect on your values, strengths and passions, what you do and what defines you. You’ve come so far in life for a reason. Use your strengths to plan how you are going to move on.

Face your sadness. Efforts to numb the pain with alcohol, oversleeping or social media overuse will be temporary. You would be delaying the pain, not erasing it. Escapist behaviors might also have consequences that add to your bag of pains. You only heal by confronting the pain. Allow yourself to cry or grieve in any way that is best for you. Acknowledgement of the pain is the first step toward recovering from it.