In my grief therapy practice over the years, I have heard these same statements and similar versions over and over again. They are often spoken in the earlier days and weeks of grief. These are often thoughts that you may not be consciously aware of occurring inside your mind and that these thoughts can be negatively affecting your mood and potential support network. Perhaps some or all these following thoughts resonate with you. If so, below I have offered some alternative statements that you can consider using to reframe the previous unhelpful thoughts. By reframing our thoughts it allows for more possibility and hope for something different to shift us out of stuck and into cultivating movement, resilience and growth.
- Feeling the need to Isolate
- “People just don’t understand what I am going through. I am alone in this.”
- People often isolate themselves at one of the most important times where they need support in order to avoid talking to others about their grief.
- Burdening others
- “I can’t ask others for help; I will just be a burden as they have their own issues to deal with.”
- People often assume that others won’t want to help and can often get trapped in the “others may have it worse than me, so I won’t bother them” mindset.
- Getting back to “normal”
- “I should get back to work, my family and my boss are saying it will be good for me.”
- People can have unrealistic ideas of how they “should” grieve. Is there normal? (This is due to cultural beliefs, social norms, gender bias etc.)
- Time Expectations
- “I should be back on my feet in a few weeks.”
- People often have the expectation that grief has a beginning and an end. Most assume that their grief will subside after a certain amount of time. This is not quite true because grief is fluid. The reactions of grief can be experienced for a lifetime but be less intense and more likely to not be in control as time progresses.
- Ignoring your Body
- “When I stop crying, I know I will be recovered.”
- Not listening to and ignoring our body’s signals can create more challenges for grief down the road. Assuming that grief will heal itself without actively trying to work through the experience can hinder a person in their healing journey.
Try Using These Reframing or Counter Statements to Shift Grief
- Connection vs Isolation
- To counter the feelings of wanting to isolate because you may feel as though no one can share in your grief experience, try shifting this idea to one that cultivates connection.
- “I know people are trying to be helpful, yet they do not understand my experience. Maybe I can share my thoughts and feelings to help them understand.”
- Surrounding yourself with a strong knit community can have a profound impact on your mindset during this challenging time.
- Reaching out vs Burdening others
- To counter the thoughts of not wanting to burden others with your grief, try to re-evaluate your previous assumptions.
- “It is ok to reach out and not get my immediate need met.” I can look forward to their support when they are able.” “I can reach out to another person for now.”
- We can’t read minds or assume that others won’t want to help. Most people want to help but they may not know what we need (eg. practical help, emotional support, physical presence.)
- It is important to be able to communicate what you may need from others and realize that sometimes they may not be able to help in that moment. Try to remember that they will be available to help you another time in one of the mindful ways that you’ve expressed to them.
- New Normal vs Get back to Normal
- To counter the thought of what you think you should be doing during this time, you may need to realize that the life you lived before the loss of your loved one is different now.
- Recognize there is no proper way to go back to the way things were before this experience and that is okay.
- “It is okay that I am not ready to go back to work right away. “It is okay if I do not want to participate in old traditions I once shared with my deceased loved one right away.”
- Realizing that you have the power to curate a “new” normal in your own way and on your own time can give you back some control you may feel as though you have lost during these challenging times.
- You Can’t Rush Grief vs Time Expectations
- To counter the thoughts of assuming your grief will end soon, try reforming those thoughts into ones that inspire feelings of comfort within yourself.
- “I know my grief will be different in a few weeks. I will be able to know what I need at that time.”
- Grief has no concept of time. Grief is intensely present for the first few weeks or months and then offers a bit of a reprieve and presents itself on occasion. Grief never ends, it only subsides as we master the knowledge that we can be resilient and grow with grief instead of avoiding or fighting it.
Nurturing your Body vs Ignoring your Body
- To counter the idea that your grief will heal itself, remember the little mindful acts that can aid you in your grief journey.
- “When I stop crying, I will drink some water, snack on some healthy foods and rest for a while.”
- The most important part of caring for grief is through the care of your body. Water, nutrients, and rest are the best-known support for early days and weeks of grief. These nurturing elements help our body recharge and replenish so that we can have energy to get back into life.
- Giving ourselves permission to care for ourselves allows us to have energy to care for others and spend time remembering our loved ones.
I hope you found this blog useful and helpful. One way to begin to practice reframing thoughts is to become aware of thoughts that you are having. Identify if it is a helpful thought or one that is keeping you stuck. You can do this by starting a thought journal, or saying the thought out loud and saying it in a new or different way, or share your thought with others let them help you brainstorm an alternative or counter statement. With some practice you will begin to master these skills.
Elizabeth (Liz) Hides MSW, RSW, CT, CMMT is owner of Healthy Directions a private practice in Calgary, Alberta that focuses on grief, loss, and life transitions. She is a Registered Social Worker, Certified Thanatologist and Certified Mindfulness and Meditation Teacher. Liz’s expertise is helping Albertan’s navigate traumatic losses such as suicide, homicide, and sudden deaths. She encourages exploration of resilience and personal growth after a loss through a blend of traditional talk therapy and non-traditional methods to ease grief experiences. You can contact Liz through her website – www.healthy-directions.ca