12 Healthy Ways to Cope With Trauma and Grief
People grieve for many reasons: sometimes over a loved ones death, sometimes over a lost relationship, sometimes when they are diagnosed with a deadly disease, and more. The pain is heart-wrenching. It can stop you in your tracks and make it difficult to continue on in life.
You can't rush grief. Although it is soul-crushing, you have to feel all of it to get past it. It's a roller coaster of emotions. Sometimes you feel angry, sad, even accepting, then you go back to being sad again. It's not a roller coaster any of us want to be on. A part of you will always carry the trauma of it with you, but there are ways that can help you cope and learn to live with your loss.
These are not quick fixes — grief is a process. But these things will help you heal and help you get by.
1. Seek the Company of Other People
Don't try to handle this alone. This is the time to see who are your true friends and loved ones and who are not. Grab onto anyone who is willing to be there for you, open up to them, or just seek out their company, even if you don't want to talk about your pain. People can also be good for distractions. You need to surround yourself with others, so you can feel stronger and know that you aren't doing this alone.
2. Let Yourself Cry
Don't hold back the tears, don't try to suck in your feelings, and be strong. The sooner you embrace them, the sooner you can get past them. If you hold them in, they'll just get worse and fester until they explode.
So let yourself cry and don't be ashamed of it. Most of your crying will take place in private, but if you cry in front of a couple of other people, who cares? Be nice to yourself, what you are feeling is perfectly natural.
3. Hit a Pillow
It's normal to feel rage when you experience loss or trauma, but sometimes it's hard to know how to channel that rage. You're tempted to lash out at the people around you, but lashing out doesn't fix things, it just causes more hurt. Holding it in doesn't fix things either, it just makes you angrier and more bitter.
So grab some pillows, sit on your bed, and punch them as hard as you can, over and over again until you feel tired from it. It will allow you to get those emotions out, to let the full weight of them hit you, without hurting yourself or other people.
4. Scream at the Top of Your Lungs
Sometimes something feels so horrific, so horrifying, so devastating that all you want to do is scream and scream and scream at the top of your lungs to express your pain.
You don't want your neighbors or other people calling the cops, you just want to release your emotions, so there are two ways you can do this without bothering other people.
One is to think of an extremely secluded place you can drive to, somewhere like the woods in the middle of nowhere. Drive there, park, walk a little ways, and then let yourself scream into nothingness and cry as much as you want to.
Another, if you have no secluded place or are too emotional to drive, is you can use your pillows. Put them on your bed, bury yourself face down in the pillow, cover your mouth as much as you can, and just scream. The pillow will muffle the noise almost completely so you can really let loose and be as loud as you want to.
Screaming allows you to release a lot of pent up emotions: rage, sorrow, and even fear. It can be extremely cathartic.
5. Do Something Nice for Yourself
Show yourself that you are valuable by indulging yourself in some way (or in many ways.) It doesn't have to be big things, it can be simple things, like allowing yourself to have a cupcake on your diet.
You are important and you've gone through something terrible. You deserve a break as you try to learn how to cope, so go easy on yourself and treat yourself. You need nice things to help you deal with your suffering.
6. Go Out and Do Something Normal
When grief or trauma happens, it can feel like the entire world has stopped. It's like you're stuck in place, trapped and miserable, while everyone else continues living without you, not realizing what a miserable time it truly is or how destroyed you are. It can be hard to get out of bed, you might feel depressed. Sometimes forcing yourself to do something normal-like eat breakfast, see a friend, take the dog for a walk, go to the grocery store-can relieve some of your suffering by reminding yourself that life goes on and giving you something to do to distract yourself.
It doesn't mean that you are over your pain. You're going to carry your loss or trauma with you forever, probably, but it gives you a bit of hope that you can function despite that pain and that things can get better.
7. Take Care of Yourself and Your Surroundings
It can be very tempting when you're depressed to let yourself and your personal hygiene go. You don't have the energy to take care of much. Sometimes you feel too weak to even brush your teeth. You might not want to eat or get dressed or take showers.
But the more you take care of yourself by eating right and staying hygienic, the stronger and better able you will feel to face the day. It helps put your mind in the right mindset because you've put your body together first. It helps you feel like you have the ability to tackle the challenges that await you.
This is also why it can be a good idea when you are grieving to clean up the messes in your house. It's hard to have the energy and it's understandable if you can't, but sometimes cleaning can be therapeutic. The movements themselves can be relaxing (because of their rhythmic patterns) and give you goals. Seeing a clean house will encourage you to want to work through the pain and mess that exists inside of you.
Sometimes helping yourself on the outside helps you on the inside, too.
If you've suffered loss or trauma, you're likely depressed. Even though your mood might fluctuate (anger, sadness, denial, etc),, underlying it all, you probably feel depressed. It may be hard not to oversleep, hard to get out of bed, hard to even exist, but exercising can help, especially if you go outside and get some sun along with it.
Something about getting your blood pumping releases endorphins in your body, which help you cope and feel less sad. It also gives you something to do physically while you process your emotions logically. It gives you an activity to participate in with an easy goal and destination that you can achieve even when you are depressed.
9. Give to or Help Someone Else
It sounds like a bad idea, how can you help other people when you can't even help yourself in your pain? But helping others helps us feel connected, it helps us feel useful and strong, it gives us a purpose when we otherwise might feel that things have no purpose.
You need to take care of yourself, first and foremost, of course, but sometimes helping another person, even just a little bit, like giving a homeless person a couple of dollars, can lighten the load in your own heart and show you that you can be kind, good, and worthwhile, even in your pain.
10. Cuddle With an Animal
Do you have a pet? They feel your pain, too. They likely have already noticed it and are suffering along with you.
If you have a pet, one of the best things you can do is cuddle with them. Holding them will soothe both of your anxieties. It will show you that you have something loyal and good on your side, something that wants to help take care of you and make you feel love.
They won't judge you if you cry, they'll just want to help you cope.
11. Go to Therapy or a Therapy Group
Therapists and therapy groups can be in person or online. They might be a forum or someone you video chat with or a group of people you meet at a local coffee shop.
Just look online, in your area, google what you are going through or join a site like meetup.com and search for other people going through the same thing. Or you can start your own group in your area for people to find and so you can form bonds.
It's important to find people who can relate to what you are going through, so that you don't feel all alone. It's important because although friends and family might support you, they also might not fully get you and what you are experiencing. Finding other people who are going through the same thing at the same time will give you an instant camaraderie because you don't have to explain anything you are going through. They already get it.
It allows you to let your guard down and just be yourself around a group of people who aren't going to judge you and your actions when you are feeling grief. It can be tiring to fake a smile all the time, but with these people, you don't have to.
12. Give Yourself Something to Look Forward to
Make plans for the future. Make them something nice, like getting your hair done or seeing someone you care about.
When you are grieving, the past will seem preferable to you. You lost something and miss it dearly and would do anything to go back there and get it again. It will seem like there is nothing good for you in your future.
So make something good. Make plans to do something that you've always wanted to do or always enjoyed. Show yourself that there still can be good things in the future, even though you so desperately miss the past.
You might always look backward, always miss what you have lost, but it will allow you to look forward as well.
BONUS TIP: Read a Self-Help Book or Article Online
I made this a "bonus" tip because if you're reading this article then you are likely doing one or both of these things already. You are the type of person who is strong and likes to take the initiative and deals with their problems directly.
Self-Help Books and Articles online can really put things into perspective and give you some great advice you might not have ever thought of, but remember to take them all with a grain of salt. You are your own person, only you will ever be able to understand yourself and your needs. Take what you can that is helpful from articles and books, but only apply that which is useful.
Not everything will work. Not everything is right for you and that's okay. I won't be offended if you don't agree with or do the things I listed in the article and anyone who would be offended by that is not someone you should listen to.
I wish you the best of luck in your pain and if you'd like to share any of your thoughts, experiences, or what you happen to be going through, feel free to do so in the comments below.