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Mental HealthRecoverySelf-Care

What is Grief and What Do We Do About It?

By August 9, 2012No Comments

What is grief? Is it death? Is it abandonment? Is it the fading of Summer? Thinking of it in this broad way makes me realize it can be anything that makes us feel the pull of grief and loss: that deep sadness which tends to anchor us to darkness.

Over the years, I have become more in touch with how much grief effects behavior. Grief might really be the underlying riptide we try to manage with drugs and alcohol. It might be the very thing that drives a mental illness into overdrive: our anxiety, depression, impulse control disorders, et al. At the same time, grief doesn’t need to be managed; It needs to be faced, held, and allowed to breathe, despite our natural inclination to attempt to suffocate it.

Grief, in its very nature, can be defeating, but I don’t believe this has to be the case. Recovery and treatment provides us with an opportunity to nurture the emotional safety we need to process and heal from our grief. We begin to build a wider net of loving, compassionate support through the recovery process. We begin to gain confidence in ourselves, becoming better able to lean into our pain instead of persistently recoiling from it. When I was newly sober, and significantly down on myself, I was instructed to write post-its with accolades on them and stick them in common places: bathroom, kitchen, bedside table, car, you name it.  It was one of those simple things that actually made me feel better, despite how silly I thought it was. Now, 19 years later, I found myself doing writing myself notes again. And you know what? It still works. It reminds me that I am enough, I am awesome, I am loved.

If you needed to hear something encouraging, what would it be? Grab a pad of post-its and start writing! Feeling down on yourself? Lift yourself up with words of gratitude and write that accolade or affirmation you need. Make sure you stick it somewhere you visit regularly. The bathroom mirror is always a good one. It’s a step in the direction of loving yourself and practicing self-care, both of which are integral to walking through the grief process.

As someone recently said to me, “We so often recognize all the weeds around us, but we forget there are flowers to look at too.” You are a flower, rising above those weeds!

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