There are a lot of mantras we tell ourselves or perhaps hear from others when we go through a loss that causes grief: it’s not a big deal, it can be replaced, I have to grieve alone, just be strong, keep busy, or time will heal this. But those are typically myths, warned Kim Jones.
“Unless you find a way to heal your heart, it doesn’t just go away,” said the grief recovery specialist.
During the Wisconsin Department of Health Services’ Opioid, Stimulants, and Trauma Summit, Jones discussed how grief is the result of any event that causes psychological, physical, emotional, or mental harm — otherwise known as trauma or a loss event. It is something that most Americans say that we should learn to talk about, but the majority also don’t believe they have the skills to do so.
Grief is a normal and natural reaction to loss, Jones assured, and loss can encompass a range of areas. We may think of death first, but losses also occur with events like job changes, health decline, children leaving home, natural disasters, moves, divorce, and more. For farmers, a loss of their business is certainly a form of grief. “Any change is a loss,” Jones continued.
While “100% of us are grievers,” as she described, how we deal with that grief is what allows us or prevents us from moving forward with our lives in a healthy way. An essential ingredient in changing how you feel is choosing your perspective even when you can’t choose what situation you’re facing, Jones shared.
She advised all attendees to take the time to work through whatever grief they have gone through to begin easing the burden of carrying around that pain. In her work, she combines strategies into the acronym SMILE:
- S — find somewhere you can share your story with no judgement. Also consider what you want your story to look like moving forward.
- M — take time for mindfulness. Whether that is journaling, being outside, prayer, deep breathing, or another strategy, Jones said to be compassionate with yourself. It takes 90 seconds for an emotion to work through your bloodstream, so let that emotion be calming.
- I — ignite and immerse yourself in your strengths and interests.
- L — let go of loss and grief. Think about a time in your life when what was a negative experience led to something positive?
- E — embrace your life and who you are. Identify what you are grateful for.
It is not an easy or straightforward journey through any kind of loss, but we have all likely gone through something that caused grief. Supporting others who are grieving and being willing to improve our own situation can help each of us avoid being weighed down permanently.