Many of us do not know how to grieve in a healthy way and this can be due to a number of reasons. Oftentimes people are uncomfortable talking about death or loss or unpleasant feelings in general. Being able to grieve in a healthy and productive way takes time, patience and support. It can be difficult to grieve if there are conflicting emotions such as sadness, anger, or relief. It might be helpful to realize that there are certain behaviors that can make the grieving process more difficult.
During the grieving process one of the most dangerous things you can do is isolate yourself. Your best thinking may not be present during this time and so it is really easy to get caught up in your own thoughts and spiral downwards. Engaging in unhealthy or unhelpful thought patterns or behaviors are much more likely if you’re alone and bouncing your ideas off of yourself.
Following a large loss or transition, it can be tempting to quit some of our responsibilities (e.g. jobs, volunteer opportunities, clubs). It may feel like there is too much on your plate and the only way to give yourself a break is to quit. Listen to your instinct to give yourself a break but slow down in considering whether you want to quit. Take some PTO or time off, ask for a hiatus in your responsibilities for a couple weeks or a month in order to give yourself some time to breathe. Schedule a time to revisit this decision after a period of time so that you can prevent some of the impulsiveness of the choice.
Pick fights/end relationships
It can be hard enough to manage our own thoughts and responsibilities, let alone another person! You may find yourself picking more fights, pushing people away and wanting to end relationships or setting up scenarios that others want to end the relationship as well. Sometimes losses and transitions can be helpful in that the cause us to wake up and reevaluate our life choices. It could be a time to reconsider whether the relationship is health or the person’s reaction and support (or lack of support) could be showing you that it is time to move on. However, as previously mentioned, you may not be engaging in your best thinking at this time and you may be pushing away one of your strongest supporters. Try not to make this decision alone or on a whim.
Any sort of vice that may have been a part of your life may become more appealing during this time whether it is alcohol, drugs, sex, shopping, gambling, overeating, etc. The temptation is that this vice will fill the void of the loss. The danger is that it can create a whole new set of problems by compromising your safety, causing potential financial risks, and possibly more lost relationships. It is particularly dangerous to engage in impulsive behaviors while grieving since we are not able to have the insight to tell us that we have gone too far.
Give yourself the opportunity to feel whatever it is that you are feeling and trust that you do not have to act on your emotions. Grieving can be hard but if it is done well it can yield some positive results. Seek help or support if you find yourself engaging in any of the self-destructive behaviors listed above as they are sure to compound the issue.