“Grief is not a disorder, a disease, or a sign of weakness. It is an emotional, physical, and spiritual necessity, the price you pay for love. The only cure for grief is to grieve.” — Earl Grollman
Whether you see it coming or it takes you by surprise, grief is an emotion that everyone is going to experience at least once during their lifetime. We are all equal in the face of grief, and yet we all approach it differently.
Here are 12 unique things people do that can help them cope with the pain of losing a loved one.
#1. Nobody knows what to do
People have experienced grief since the beginning of time. Yet, when a dear one passes, many families and friends are unsure how to help each other. While it can be tempting to remain silent while a friend grieves, taking a direct approach can be more useful. Not knowing what to say or what to do is normal. However, as everyone walks a different emotional journey, it is important to reach out and ask what they need. Some people appreciate silence, while others need company and support to go through loss.
#2. People need to know what happened to find closure
The first reaction people have upon hearing about the passing of a friend or a relative is to ask what happened. It is in human nature to make sense of an unexpected situation. When a young and apparently healthy individual leaves us, we need to know what caused their early departure. It’s no surprise that police investigators and medical malpractice attorneys are so valuable in such instances. They can help the family come to terms with the passing of a loved one by explaining what happened and providing a path for punishment if necessary. It isn’t so much a need for blaming someone but a desire to comprehend the unfairness of death.
#3. Humor can be part of grief
Humor plays a big role in our life. But a study reported in the American Journal of Hospice and Palliative Care showed that it was also present in times of death. Indeed, 85% of visits contained elements of humor, and in 7 out of 10 cases, it was initiated by the patient. Laughing is a coping mechanism that can alleviate the negative effects of stress. Laughing in the face of death also helps with grieving. Bereavement groups often ask members to share fun experiences and memories of their loved ones. According to a study, those who can smile when remembering a loved one are less likely to experience grief-related depression.
#4. Grief doesn’t need tears
Professional mourners have existed in most cultures around the world. Expressing grief through tears and laments is commonly accepted in Egyptian, Chinese, Mediterranean, and Near Eastern cultures as women’s role. Therefore, professional mourners were popular in these regions, where they were seen showing all signs of sorrow at funerals.
Unfortunately, while the custom has primarily died out, many individuals still expect mourning to be a tearful journey. Not everyone mourns through tears, and it is important to be more tolerant of different grieving behaviors.
#5. Sympathy food does alleviate the pain
Comfort food is an ideal choice to help someone through grief. Slow cooker meals and stews can work wonders even though we don’t understand why. Of course, no meal can erase the pain of loss. However, homecooked food can trigger a happy response inside the brain. So, if you wish to help a friend who is having a hard time with grief, baking your special homemade lasagna dish could help reduce the stress and pain perceived. Psychologists often recommend bringing food in shareable quantities, such as a large saucepan of stew or a family-size mac and cheese dish. Sharing food will encourage them to reach out to friends and relatives.
#6. There is no “normal” order
Every parent assumes they will die before their child, and unfortunately, there is no such thing as a normal order of death. Everybody knows that a variety of factors can affect our health, regardless of age.
While nobody wants to hear that dying young is just as normal as dying old, accepting that life can be unpredictable and random (even in death) can be a source of comfort for some.
#7. You deserve some chocolate
You can’t eat your grief. But you can use mood-boosting food as a reminder to be kind to yourself. Dark chocolate is a notorious mood enhancer that encourages the production of serotonin.
It is essential to establish some basic healthy rules first. A square of dark chocolate will not take the pain away. However, it serves two vital purposes. First of all, the tryptophan in chocolate can help release feel-good hormones. Secondly, it is a selfish sweet treat. Grief is an overwhelming emotion that can leave you empty and literally without a sense of who you are and what you need. Being selfish brings you back to yourself and helps you progress along the journey.
#8. Sing as loud as you can
It doesn’t matter whether your favorite song is Yellow Submarine by the Beatles or Smooth Like Butter from BTS. Music can help reshape the brain and alleviate stress and depression. Of course, music doesn’t cancel the pain of grieving. But the act of singing releases oxytocin, a feel-good chemical that acts as natural pain relief.
Through singing, you can reduce the sensation of stress and depression, making the act of grieving less daunting.
#9. Free hugs for everyone
Physical contact through hugging brings comfort and a sense of togetherness. Many people complain about feeling cold when they are sad or stressed. You are likely to experience a similar sensation through the grief journey.
Physical contact such as hugging is proven to alleviate stress by releasing dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin. The three feel-good hormones fulfill important functions:
- Dopamine is the pleasure hormone, helping to recenter your energy around positive feelings.
- Serotonin is an antidepressant that reduces the sensation of loneliness and anxiety.
- Oxytocin gives a feeling of comfort through stress reduction.
Holding someone’s hands or hugging for only 20 seconds can boost the production of feel-good hormones.
#10. Sport is not a distraction; it’s a meditative mood-boost
Being physically active releases endorphins, a neurotransmitter responsible for mood enhancement and discomfort relief.
You can’t eliminate grief just by joining your local gym. But you can build coping paths for yourself. Sports requires commitment and discipline, which are essential to learning how to live with grief in the long term. Physical activity is a fantastic excuse to force yourself to get out and engage with others. As grief can be isolating, building a fitness routine can help maintain a connection with the world around you.
#11. People are more likely to see the ghost of a loved one shortly after their passing
Do ghosts exist? Everybody has a different opinion. However, thinking you have seen the ghost of your loved one can happen whether you believe in ghosts or not. Indeed, the phenomenon is often linked to moving through the stages of grief and finding happiness in new things. It is a trick your mind plays on yourself as a way of giving you the blessing of your loved one.
#12. Writing the things you couldn’t say
If you regret not opening up to someone, psychologists advise writing a letter to your loved one. Putting your thoughts in words and expressing them can help alleviate your regrets.
Grief is a slap in the face that can burn for several years. But, as we explore different coping mechanisms, we learn to cope and build a new path without a loved one. From lasagna to singing aloud, there is more than one way of finding your way back to life.