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9 Things I've Learned About Grief

You don't expect to lose someone unexpectedly. If that dreadful, unexpected day should rear it's chaotic head, here are 9 things I've learned from my experience with loss and grief.

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1. Grieve.

Shock, sadness, guilt, and regret. The unthinkable happens and you're right, it's not fair. You may be asking yourself how you are going to survive this. It's OK to be angry or overwhelmingly sad. It's OK to feel numb or lost. It doesn't make sense and it's not fair.

2. Try to Be Patient.

No one knows what to do. There are no right answers because everything is so wrong. Unfortunately the world isn't going to stop revolving, as much as you want it to. People will be insensitive or overly insensitive. Everyone wants to help but doesn't know how. Try to be patient.

3. Write.

You may feel like you're lost in a thick fog. Write down the memories that are freshest. Write directly to your loved one who has passed. Write down your feelings. Take all the rules away and put pen to paper.

4. Shatter and Crumble.

You don't have to be brave for anyone. There's no running from loss. You will crumble and you will shatter. Talk about you loved ones, remember them, and share memories. When you're ready, find a professional to talk with or a support group. If you can't talk about them, write to them. Don't conceal. Don't bottle it up. Cry on the subway, in traffic, or at the supermarket. People may stare but grief isn't something that can be controlled. Don't apologize and don't you dare feel embarrassed.

5. Don't Eat the Food.

You may find your fridge and freezer bursting with food. Eat normally. Stress eater or lack of appetite, stick to a routine. Have a friend or family member start a fund people can contribute to for a meal plan from Blue Apron or Plated in lieu of making comfort food. Going to the grocery store or finding the motivation to make a meal may feel impossible. Meal plans help.

6. Don't Hide.

Anxious about having to tell colleagues or acquaintances? Stressing about running into someone in the supermarket who may not be aware of your loss? If you want to share, share. But you don't have to. It's OK to answer, "How's your family" with "Fine." It's OK to turn around and walk the other way after acknowledging an acquaintance. Give yourself time to make sense of what's happened to you. Don't hide to avoid talking about your loss.

7. Forgive.

No one knows what to do. Everyone wants to make everything better. People are going to say insensitive and outrageous things to you. Grin and bear it. They don't realize, and hopefully don't intend to hurt your feelings. They don't get it. You can't expect them to get it. Let people try to be there for you. Everyone deals with death and grieves differently. Try to be kind and forgiving to yourself and the people around you.

8. The Answers May Have to Come to You.

Closure. One of the hardest parts about loss and grief is the lack of closure. Sudden or anticipated, it doesn't matter. Try to listen for signs and answers. You may find them in books, songs, movies, or nature. Perspective and gratitude will come one day. One day you will be able to be grateful that you had them for as long as you did.

9. Survive.

Breathe. When everything starts slipping out from under you, focus on your breath. You will find some way to put one foot in front of the other. Lean on people. There is no timeline for grief. Grief doesn't take a year or a decade, it lasts a lifetime. You're never going to "get over it." It doesn't get better, it just changes with you. Whatever you do, don't stop living your life. Being aware of your own mortality can be paralyzing but you owe it to yourself and your loved ones, both here physically and who have passed, to survive. It just takes time.

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