The Roller Coaster Effect
It has been said over and over again…grief feels like an emotional roller coaster. How true. One day you feel up and the next day your feel down. Know this…you are not the only person on the roller coaster. Many describe these feelings. Most want the roller coaster to come to a screeching halt so they can just get off. But, it is on this sometimes scary, sometimes exhilarating ride that we will truly experience the process of grief. You will feel a multitude of emotions on this ride. For a while you will probably feel shocked. Life will seem unreal. You may even continue to refer to your loved one as if they were still living. Some days may bring feelings that you have fallen into a big, black hole and you cannot find your way out. To say that all of these feelings are normal would perhaps trivialize your grief process. But, we do want you to know that feelings like these are common when you are grieving for a loved one who has died.
Here are just a few tips that may help during this time.
- Don’t be too hard on yourself. Grief is not a timed event where the fastest person wins. Allow yourself to take whatever time is needed to cope with and respond to your feelings of grief.
- Don’t isolate yourself. Being alone sometimes can give time for tears and reflections, but being alone constantly can make the process longer and much more difficult.
- Keep the lines of communication open with other family members and friends.
- Take care of yourself physically. Be sure you are eating healthy, balanced meals. Exercise at least three to five times per week. Be sure to go to your physician for a yearly physical.
- Believe that your life will get better and that you can be happy again. The roller coaster will go up and down for a while, but eventually it will level off, pull back in the station, and you will get off the ride. That does not necessarily mean smooth sailing, but it does mean emotional healing and recovery.
“Grief is like an ocean; it comes on waves ebbing and flowing. Sometimes the water is calm, and sometimes it is overwhelming. All we can do is learn to swim.” —Vicki Harrison
Steps for Dealing with Greif
Developed at St. Petersburg Junior College, Pinellas County, Florida
- Recognize the loss. For a while you are numb. It has happened—try not to avoid it.
- Give yourself time to heal. The greater the loss, the more time it will take.
- Healing has progressions and regressions. Healing and growth is not a smooth upward progression, but full of ups and downs — dramatic leaps and depressing backslides.
- Take good care of you. Get plenty of rest. Stick to a schedule. Plan your days. Activity will give you a sense of order.
- Seek comfort. Accept support from others. It’s human and courageous.
- Do your mourning now. Allow yourself to be with your pain — it will pass sooner. Postponed grief can return later to haunt you. Grief feelings will be expressed one way or another.
- Be gentle with yourself. You have suffered a disabling emotional wound, treat yourself with care.
- It’s OK to feel depressed. Crying is cleansing — a wonderful release. Be with these feelings for a while.
- It’s OK to feel anger. Everyone acts angry at the loss of love. Channel it wisely — it will go away as you heal. Hit a pillow, kick a ball, yell and scream when you are alone. Run, play hard games, hit a punching bag or play the piano.
- Keep a journal. Putting your thoughts and feelings on paper is a good way to get them out. You can also look back and see how far you have come.
- You will grow. As you work through your sadness, you will learn that you can survive. The pain eventually lessens and healing occurs. You may begin to understand that change and separation are a natural part of living You are a better person for having loved.
- Alone does not mean lonely. Solitude can be creative, restful and even fun. You can learn to enjoy it.
“In this sad world of ours sorrow comes to all and it often comes with bitter agony. Perfect relief is not possible except with time. You cannot now believe that you will ever feel better. But this is not true. You are sure to be happy again. Knowing this, truly believing it will make you less miserable now. I have had enough experience to make this statement.” — Abraham Lincoln