Grief is painful, difficult to navigate, and exhausting. These 3 things make grief even more grueling.
When grief hits you like a ton of bricks, the following weeks and months can feel like you’re in a fog that won’t lift. While others are sharing happy stories about your loved one lost too soon and exchanging laughs, you may find yourself wanting to ball up into the fetal position on the bathroom floor and ugly cry.
Everyone navigates grief differently and unfortunately, even the most well-meaning friends and family members, in an attempt to console us, can actually leave us feeling even more drained and disheveled during the worst season of our lives.
Despite the many books and podcasts available to help you navigate loss, nobody is an expert and everyone’s journey can look different. If you find yourself in the throes of grief, you may feel absolutely exhausted and unable to rest. While you clearly have enough on your plate, there are behaviors you may engage in during this time that can actually exacerbate the exhaustion you’re feeling. Consider these three things that may be eating away at the little bit of energy you have left these days.
3 Energy Zappers That Make Grief More Exhausting
- Academy-Award winning behavior. Many of us in the wake of grief, not knowing how to act or feel, inadvertently go into a sort of autopilot and put on a “show” for others. This is what we call Academy-award winning behavior. You want to go into your room, lock the door, and escape the world, but instead, you’re hosting a party or attending a wedding and showing up for others – everyone but yourself. You’re stifling the painful emotions that are begging you to be felt for the comfort of others who may not know what to do if you burst into tears unexpectedly. We do this because we think we have to, but we don’t. It may feel like a Herculean task with everything you are juggling, but periodically try to check in with yourself and see if the behavior you are engaging in is helpful for you or if you’re doing it to make someone else more comfortable.
- Not taking care of yourself. It is not uncommon for those experiencing loss and grief to have a loss of appetite, disrupted (if any) sleep, and feel like they’d rather chew on shards of glass than exercise. Everyone should be allowed the space to cope in a way that helps them find healing – even if it’s binge-watching reality TV the entire weekend because it’s a welcome escape from reality. But consider that skipping meals, workouts, and disrupted sleep patterns are going to deplete the little bit of energy you have left. If prioritizing your health and wellbeing feels like too much right now, because of course it does – make it a little easier on yourself by opting for a short outdoor walk instead of a Peloton ride or grabbing a salad on the go instead of cooking up an entire meal from scratch.
- Putting your healing on the back burner for the comfort of others. Those feelings you’re experiencing that show up at the most inopportune times – they want to be felt. They need to be felt. Practicing self-awareness and listening to your body is mission-critical to healing from this cataclysmic event you’re going through. When you notice yourself expending a little too much energy to make someone else comfortable about YOUR loss, or pushing your own grief down because you think your emotions may put others on edge, it’s time to reevaluate and pivot to the path of healing that best suits you. Shoving your emotions down deep will only prolong your pain and worse, can cause health issues later.
One of the major problems I see in society when it comes to grief is, more often than not, people are not taught how to process their own emotions or allow someone else to cope with their own pain. There is an unspoken “fake it ‘til you make it” attitude that many in the thick of pain take on that does nobody any favors, most of all themselves.
True healing begins when we face life and our loved ones head on and communicate our needs openly and honestly without fear of upsetting anyone, for the sake of prioritizing our own healing and learning to live with life after loss. And don’t worry – this seldom happens overnight.
Don’t Navigate the Uncharted Waters of Grief By Yourself
If you are actively grieving, consider keeping it real and telling your friends and family you aren’t up for company today, that you aren’t interested in hearing happy stories about your loved one right now, or that you have to cancel plans because you just aren’t up for it today. Give yourself permission to grieve, to put yourself first right now, and recharge your dwindling energy in ways that serve you – not make you even more exhausted.
And if you are comforting a griever, consider their needs and try to pick up on even the unspoken or subtle cues. They are likely in shock and may not know how to communicate their needs. They may not even know what their needs are, but often they are not what society thinks they are or should be. Be okay in uncomfortability. Sit with them in their darkness. Allow the awkward silence. Ask how you can best support them right now without assuming they are navigating the event the same way you would.
Sharon Brubaker is a certified Life Coach and credentialed Grief Specialist who teaches women who are grieving how to process their thoughts and emotions. To learn more about why grieving is so exhausting, join our private Facebook group listen to the full podcast episode here or download my free e-Book, The Griever’s Guide, which equips you with the tools to live life after grief; because no griever should have to navigate a broken heart on their own.