Updated: Jun 29, 2020
Have you ever felt like you're finally getting ahead in life or that things are going your way and then--BOOM!--something happens like you lose your mom to cancer, you go through a heart wrenching breakup or divorce, you lose your primary (or maybe even your only) source of income, or you're forced into lockdown (anyone?)?
This was me coming into 2020. I'd lost my mom in October of 2012 and it took me well over 6 years before I felt truly ready to move forward with my life. Last Christmas (2019) was the first Christmas I felt untinged by even the slightest bit of sadness. I was finally beginning to turn my life around in a big way, to work towards my bigger vision in helping others through grief (so they don't have to suffer as long and as much as I did). This past New Year's Eve, unlike the New Years following my mom's death, I felt so hopeful and excited. 2020 was going to be THE year!
And then...well...you know what happened. Overnight our lives changed. And it's not just us in our hometown or in our state or in our country. It's the entire planet that has been affected by the virus and, worse even, by the mental health hazards that came along with being quarantined for months.
Many of us have lost our income, our stability, our way of life. And also many have lost a loved one. Going through grief is hard enough as it is. Add to it the limitations imposed upon us from Covid and quarantine, the heaviness and horrors around the still blatantly existing racism and the ongoing fight for equality, and the turbulent uncertainty of how life will unfold after all this...and it's bound to leave anyone feeling scared, angry, despondent and even hopeless.
As I found myself at the beginning of this week slipping into a valley of sadness over the state of the world, I realized this, right here, is my jam. This is what I do. This is what my G.R.A.C.E. Method is all about and it's here to fall back on when life gets difficult. So I dove in and it's already working wonders. I'm sharing this here with you to offer you some direction when you're feeling lost and to give you hope too.
The acronym for G.R.A.C.E. translates to Grieve, Release, Allow, Create and Embody. In short, when we're feeling stressed, overwhelmed, sad and heartbroken, we can use this method to help us move through life's biggest challenges with greater ease and grace and even transform our pain into purpose.
(1) Grieve: when we go through a loss of some kind (i.e. loss of a loved one, a pet, a marriage, a relationship, or a job), it's vital that we first acknowledge our grief and what we've lost. We must allow ourselves to feel, process and express the roller coaster of emotions that arise.
(2) Release: once we've acknowledged and accepted our grief, it's time to release it. We don't let go of who or what we've lost; rather we let go of the suffering that comes with grief. It's important to note here that there's no "right" amount of time to grieve--only you can determine when you're ready to move forward, with the knowledge that the longer you stay stuck in grief, the harder it is to get out of it (this also shouldn't mean that you try to rush through it...while there are many tools to help, there are no shortcuts or "magic pills" to heal a broken heart). This can be said about anything difficult and/or uncomfortable in life--the sooner you deal with it, the sooner you can overcome it. Otherwise it just stays there lingering beneath the surface and begins to show up in other areas of your life.
(3) Allow: when we've emptied our cup of the suffering and sadness around our loss, we open up space to allow for new life and love to flow in. We allow ourselves to be joyful and grateful. We allow for new possibilities that we may not have even seen in the thick of our grief. (Ever heard of "grief brain"? It's a real thing.)
(4) Create: there's no doubt that who we are and how we were before loss has changed after loss. This is a wonderful time to explore who you were and, more importantly, who you want to be coming out of this. You get to create beauty and meaning out of loss if you like. (You can also let yourself get jaded and believe that life will never be as good as it was before your loss. It's a choice, one that I made for many years until I was ready to choose to create something meaningful instead).
(5) Embody: this is about embodying the new you, the new life vision you've created for yourself. And this is also about being able to ride any unexpected waves of grief that will most likely still arise without drowning again in the ocean.
Some Tips & Tools To Help You Ride The Waves:
Check in with yourself regularly throughout the day. What's your mind focused on--on all the things going wrong in life or on what's still going right and what you have control of to change? You can set a recurring timer/reminder for yourself to check in. Start by connecting with your breath. Notice your breath. Is it shallow or stuck in the chest? Or is it a deep belly breath? If shallow, deepen your breath. Feel your breath flow through you. Notice how noticing your deepening breath can be calming in itself.
Plan for and practice things that will support you. Grief affects mind, body and spirit. So practice some form of physical exercise (yoga for me is most effective in processing my emotions but any activity that gets your body moving and your blood flowing will help). Practice meditation to ease your mind. Journal about (or voice record) your feelings. Plan these things into your day and follow through. "Self discipline is the definition of self love" (Will Smith).
Limit consumption of the news, media and social media. These things can send us into a downward spiral if we let ourselves get sucked in. Not good when you're already down in the dumps. You know that saying, "We are what we eat"? Better said, we are what we consume. Consuming negativity from the news and media will only add more negativity to your day.
Also cut yourself some slack. Give yourself the occasional "get out of jail free" card on those days where you absolutely need a break from it all. Mental, emotional and physical breaks are necessary for your wellbeing. It's important to bring balance into your life when it already feels so out of balance.
Last but not least, keep in mind that:
So When Life Pulls You Back, Take Aim.
With everything going on, it's hard not to feel like we've been knocked off track. It can feel like the world around us is crumbling apart and even that we, inside, are crumbling apart. But we always have the power of where to take aim from where we are now.
If we get stuck or lost in our grief, we stump our growth. We stop life from flowing in with new opportunities, new possibilities, new love, new adventures. If you're feeling stuck now, it's ok, it's human! I've been there and I get it. My heart is right here with you. Be extra compassionate with yourself during this time. Remember the G.R.A.C.E. Method and use the tools above. You can and will make it through. But you have to choose to do so.
I've heard somewhere and also learned through experience that it's not time that heals all wounds; it's what we do with that time.
If you're going through a loss and feel stuck in your grief or want additional support, I'm here for you. Set up a complimentary Get Unstuck call with me and we can uncover what's holding you back and how you can move forward with faith, love and joy.
With Love and Grace,
"I do not understand the mystery of grace, only that it meets us where we are and does not leave us where it found us." ~ Anne Lamott