Here are the best ways to healthily make your way through grief.
Thoughts have power. When Dr. Seuss reminisced on “all the thinks you can think,” he never seemed to mention the thoughts that can break your heart, cripple your spirit and devastate your plans. The thing is, when you’re grieving, your thoughts can be your worst enemy – or your greatest strength. And when you’re grieving or under stress, controlling your thoughts might feel like a completely overwhelming task.
Unfortunately, many people suffering from a loss choose instead to avoid thinking entirely. Rather than facing a new reality with honesty, they evade the thoughts that hurt. The thing is, death (and other losses) is a natural part of life. When you avoid thinking about it, you don’t gain power ― and you certainly don’t heal.
How to think
After a loss, your mind is like a toddler – you can’t just let it roam unattended. Your thoughts create your feelings – not the other way around. You already know that positive thinking is powerful in any situation. In my book “What I Wish I’d Known: Finding Your Way Through the Tunnel of Grief” I share an important caveat; positive thinking is different than “positive-only thinking,” where you avoid negativity (and essentially, reality). It’s important to remember your loved one as he or she was – both the positive and the negative. Here are a few things to remember when you think of your loss:
Don’t block memories. These memories might include painful ones, like how he or she suffered from a long-term illness, or the death itself. All lives deserve to be recognized for what they really were.
Recognize STUG. Sudden temporary upsurges of grief are normal, and they can happen years after the trauma occurred. This is because outside triggers can cause grief to resurface or intensify. This is normal, so don’t beat yourself up about it.
Identify your triggers. Certain situations, people, places or even items might be triggers for STUG. When you experience an external trigger, recognize it and write it down. Remember these triggers for what they are and you’ll be better prepared to manage them.
Don’t punish yourself. Triggers will happen, and more than likely, you’ll react to them. Allow it to happen. Feel it. Then let it go.
Let the negative thoughts come. They’ll come anyway, so let yourself feel the negativity. Then play what I call the “yes, but” game, where you find a positive aspect in the thought.
Embrace positive self-talk. When you’re stuck in fear, you are fixated on negative self-talk. Your conversations likely include a lot of “I can’t…” “I shouldn’t…” and “I won’t….” Positive self-talk, on the other hand, includes “It would be good to…” “I’m thankful for...” and “It’s okay to…”
Use thought anchors. Just as actual anchors keep boats from drifting into open waters, thought anchors keep your thoughts from “wandering” into unproductive territories. I start each day with a mantra of thought anchors, repeating them before I leave the house (and sometimes throughout the day). In my book, I list the thought anchors that have helped me the most. I’ve included a few here:
With the days get shorter and schedules getting fuller, August isn’t just about mourning the end of another summer; it’s also the time to prep for a new school year. For some teens, another year of homeroom and homework can feel intimidating. Add in academic stress, athletic competition, social pressures and teenage insecurity and it can be completely overwhelming.
For teens who suffer from anxiety, depression or other mental disorders, the “back-to-school” period can be especially troubling. For many, the fear of the unknown – like a new teacher, new school or new schedule – can cause or exacerbate feelings of anxiety, while those who suffer from depression might feel hopeless about succeeding academically or socially throughout another school year. Plus, teens today have much more to deal with than many parents (and even teachers and counselors) appreciate. From social bullying to gender confusion to drug and alcohol abuse, there’s often more to the upcoming school year than meets the eye.
If you’re a teen – or someone who loves a teen – it’s important to know that you have the power to combat these feelings of anxiety and depression. These simple tactics can help you or someone you love tackle the year ahead.
Like any new activity, a new school year is always easier when you’re prepared for it. Get your class schedule in advance so you know exactly what to expect that first day. Make sure you’re prepped with all the supplies you’ll need. If you’ll be attending a new school, sign up for orientation or take a tour of the facilities in advance of the first week, getting acquainted with where your classrooms, restrooms and locker are located.
Stick to a schedule
For many with depression – teens and adults alike – mornings can be tough. And the idea of getting up early and tackling a new day at school can feel overwhelming. I recently read an Everyday Health article that spoke to the power of a morning routine in combatting depression. Setting a morning schedule that includes basic self-care like exercise or stretching, meditation or reflection, a healthy breakfast and social interaction with family and loved ones, can make a new day (or new school year) seem a bit less intimidating. Of course, the same idea goes for after-school routines, homework regimes and extracurricular schedules. Planning ahead can make each day feel a bit easier to handle.
Talk about it
Change is never easy, and can often be scary. If you have feelings of fear or anxiety about the upcoming school year, it’s important to express them. Speaking with a parent, friend or counselor can be the perfect way to start finding solution or healthy coping mechanisms together. If you’re unsure who to talk to, there are many free resources available for you – many of which I’ve listed at the end of this article.
Do what you love
When you’re a teen, fitting in is important. Whether you’re a bookworm, jock or social butterfly, it’s easy to feel depressed or anxious when you’re trying to be something you’re not. Find activities, clubs or organizations that truly interest you. Chances are, when you do, you’ll find a sense of belonging and comradery that’s completely genuine.
It’s not abnormal for any teen to feel stressed about an upcoming school year. But if your feelings of anxiety or depression are interfering with your ability to eat, sleep or function on a daily basis, it’s time to seek professional help. A parent or counselor can help you find a professional to help you get through the upcoming year. If you need help immediately, you can always contact any of the resources below.
Resources for teens
Teenline (This is a crisis hotline for teens to talk to other teens): 800-TLC-TEEN
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-TALK(8255)
Trevor Lifeline (Crisis line for LGBTQ youth): 866-488-7386
Bullying Hotline: 800-273-8255
National Eating Disorder Association: 800-931-2237
National Alcohol and Drug Abuse Hotline: 877-437-8422
by Kristi Hugstad
Each of us has attached ourselves to something or somebody, and when you lose that special thing or person, you grieve. Always. You can try to run from it all you want, but it will always find you and tackle you when you’re not looking. My blogs, along with my books, will give you the tools to help you learn to live with your new self as you journey through your grief.