People wonder how to cope with grief, especially with the recent events that have been happening in the country. It wrecked most of the Filipino people, especially most of us who were awakened and strived to fight for everyone in the country. Everyone feels like holding onto the last thread of hope they have for the progression and development of the country. Grief doesn’t only mean sadness or pain due to a broken relationship or friendship. But, it also means sadness and pain from events that you truly stood up for and that may have ended differently than you were hoping for.
Defining and understanding grief
According to Psychology Today, grief is defined as the acute pain that accompanies loss. Grief not only reflects the love that we feel for a certain person, group, or even society but it includes everyone in it. It could be experienced after a loss of a loved one, complex feelings of guilt and confusion, and even extreme sadness after a painful break-up.
There are different experiences that may describe the feeling of grief. Some feel it through numbness and confusion on how to react or process certain things. Consequently, those who experience this find it hard to cope with grief. Some turn to retail therapy, drinking with friends, or even eating their comfort food for days. Processing through grief may last for days, weeks, or even months. Some even cope with grief for at least a year. I feel that’s okay because people have different timelines also. No need to pressure yourself to feel better in an instant.
Most of the time, we grow with our grief over time. We don’t forget it but we learn to navigate with it as time passes by.
How do I cope with grief?
This next part gets a bit personal and also insightful for you. Here, I will share the top three ways that helped me cope with grief during the past one and a half years. Honestly, I don’t know where to start but I felt that this blog post came on the timeline, especially with the other people who experience grief because of what’s been happening in the Philippines.
Grief with the election results
In a nutshell, many of my fellow Filipinos felt heartbroken. The election results caused different levels of anxiety for most of us. Honestly, some still don’t get and understand that it’s no longer fighting for a certain candidate. But it’s about fighting for each and every one of us including the future generation. Some focus on the short-term rather than the long-term effects when they discuss or talk about elections. This is why it’s really hard to be a Filipino these days.
When you share facts and call out on those who believe and share fake news, they’d lambast you with different things. They may attack you personally which is totally out of context because you’re just stating the facts and have concrete and solid evidence or research to prove your point. However, people nowadays tend to choose to be blinded by all the glitter. The fake news and forget to do critical thinking or even dishonor the sacrifice of our ancestors.
Hence, the grief that we all feel.
While we continue to fight fake news, troll farms exist to prevent the spread of facts. These troll farms flock all over social media platforms and spread malicious information without any basis at all. Some of these trolls completed their degrees and studied in prestigious schools which quite disappoint many. Others even work as teachers by profession. But seem to forget the atrocities during the 1972 Martial Law and forget that we fought so hard to earn and enjoy the democracy that we now have. So, what happens next?
Let me share with you the different ways I do to cope with grief.
1. Read books and take down notes
For me, one of the best ways to cope with grief, I read different books on my Kindle. It helps me see another world. I learn from the authors themselves from their experience and hope to apply it to my life moving forward.
Through the months of navigating with grief, I read books that focused on poetry, self-help books, novels, and even short stories. These books keep me sane despite the noise and conundrum happening around me. Despite these atrocities, I continue to strive to move forward toward healing.
With my digital journal, I created a notebook dedicated to my book notes. There I scribble down the lessons or insightful thoughts that I feel resonate with me. Whenever I feel down or stuck, I go back to that notebook and read all the things I wrote down and reminisce about the book itself. Slowly, I regain my confidence within and conquer the harsh realities of the world once more.
Some of the books that I recommend:
- Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones
- The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck
- Everything is F*cked
- Get Your Shit Together
- Keep Going: 10 Ways to Stay Creative in Good Times and Bad
- The Art of Simple Living: 100 Daily Practices from a Japanese Zen Monk for a Lifetime of Calm and Joy
These books helped me in so many ways. It helped me change the perspective I have about grief. I now see grief as something that continuously stays in your life and grows with you. It may never totally disappear but the thing is, you grow with it. You learn to navigate through it. When you remember your grief, it opens your eyes to the hurdles you went through and how strong you have become.
2. Watch and listen to true crime podcasts or videos
Amidst all the kinds of content that one can consume on a daily basis, I chose true crime podcasts and videos as something that could cheer me up. Believe me when I say I tried rewatching all my comfort series but right now, my mind feels quite intrigued with the true crime cases around the globe. I followed Grazy TV, Lagim: A True Crime Filipino Podcast, and Asia in the Shadows as my top true crime podcasts.
Other Filipino true crime podcasts that I follow:
If you ask me, I forgot how I got into true crime. But I think, it started when I began watching American crime series such as NCIS, Bones, and even Lucifer. Then, when I came across the Korean series called Mouse, that catapulted my interest in psych-thrillers and true crime a bit higher.
Okay, so I know you’ll ask how does this help me cope with grief?
Here’s the fun part!
These kinds of content help me think about the mysteries and use my mind to practice critical thinking. It makes me wonder more how other people could commit such crimes and even succumb to other elements which led to their demise. It’s sad when the victims involve younger people such as teens or children. However, there are other cases that serve as eye-openers, especially to those who undermine mental health care.
Anyway, I find this true crime content to be something that calms me down. Weird, right?
Nevertheless, this helps me think that other people continue to suffer from the justice system. Some do not find the justice they deserve because of a broken justice system ruled by incompetent people. While others strive to fight for the justice they deserve. It makes me think, that in an ideal world, there’d be no crimes or flaws in the system. All would get the benefits they deserve for working so hard and reap the harvest of the taxes they pay. But, I know there’s no such thing. With the recent election, I realized that people would choose those more popular ones rather than the ones that truly served the people. They’d rather go for someone who enables fake news than those who serve with all the proof and receipts. Don’t we all wonder why?
Lastly, one of the best things that I do to cope with grief is to sleep. Sometimes, when our emotions are so intense, we find it hard to sleep because we feel stressed about the things that happened recently. Insomnia lurks around and sometimes we count sheep in order to feel sleepy.
For someone like me who struggles with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and Persistent depressive disorder, sleep escapes me from time to time. Hence, my doctor prescribed me meds such as Duloxetine and Quetiapine to help me manage my illness. Moving forward, when I grieve, I tend to lose sleep. I feel scared of sleeping because I know when I wake up there’s a void in me. A void that feels quite the challenge to get used to. When I get up, I feel empty and I struggle to do the things that I need to do. Then, I end up worrying about it and losing sleep because of the worry.
Grief and sleep possess a bidirectional relationship. According to a study, 91% of individuals with complicated grief report sleeping problems. 46% say they find it hard to sleep a few days a week because of their grief. Some of those who experience grief wake up in the middle of the night and find it hard to fall back to sleep. This amplifies the grieving process.
Now, a friend of mine who’s working in the medical field mentioned improving my sleep hygiene. It helped me quite a lot. I’ll share some of the tips on how to improve your sleep hygiene.
5 tips to improve your sleep hygiene
- Create a consistent sleep schedule
- Turn off all of your electronic devices before you go to sleep and place them far from you as possible
- Watch out for your caffeine intake
- Create a suitable sleeping environment for you (If you like sleeping in the dark, make sure to turn off all the lights so you’d fall asleep easier)
- Try meditating and journaling before you go to bed
Cope with grief – the bottom line
Certain reminders of your loved one, such as a visit to the loved one’s cemetery, the person’s death anniversary, holidays, birthdays, or new events you know he or she would have appreciated, may be unavoidable. Even memorial services for others might bring up memories of your own loss.
One way of turning this into a strength or something to be cherished may be to invest in granite grave markers, or if that’s out of your budget, plan a get-together or a visit with friends or loved ones when you’re likely to feel lonely or be reminded of your loved one’s passing.
Reminders can also be associated with sights, sounds, or odors — and they might be unexpected. When you drive by your partner’s favorite restaurant or hear your child’s favorite music, you may be overcome with emotion and this is completely okay to feel.
Instead of focusing on the loss, consider the positive aspects of your connection with your loved one and the time you spent together. Write a letter or a message to a loved one about some of your favorite memories. You are free to add to this at any time. Grief has no time limit, and anniversary emotions can leave you reeling. Even yet, the depth of sadness tends to fade over time.
Consult a grief counselor or other mental health specialist if your grief worsens rather than improves over time or if it interferes with your capacity to function in everyday life. Unresolved or complex grieving can result in sadness, other mental health issues, and physiological diseases. However, with expert assistance, you may regain control and direction in your life — and return to the road of recovery.
From my experience, there are no shortcuts to overcoming or growing with grief. The earlier you face it, the better because no one will ever do it for you. It also helps if you decipher which stage of grief you are in right now. But do remember that you don’t need to go through every stage in order to heal. Some experience every stage while others heal without going through all of the stages.
They were never meant to help tuck messy emotions into neat packages. They are responses to loss that many people have, but there is not a typical response to loss, as there is no typical loss. Our grieving is as individual as our livesElisabeth Kübler-Ross