While my grief is unique to me, some form of grief is a universal emotion that we will all experience at some point. Grief can be the loss of dreams, goals, time, self-esteem, enthusiasm, relationships and loved ones. While the inevitability of grief is universal, each loss has its own nuances. Losing a partner is different from losing a job, sudden, unexpected loss from a traumatic event will affect us differently than a death that was expected.
Regardless of the experience, making a decision to move on, setting that intention and then taking action can be very powerful in dealing with the trauma. I am not an expert in managing grief, or trauma, I can only speak of my experiences to date with it, so here are a few recommendations that I have tried to embrace, often failing, but still trying:
· I would strongly advise anyone who has suffered any form of grief, or hardship, to get professional help early. Professionals can help give you tools that can guide you along your path.
· Lean on your community and support network. Accept their help and open up to them about you are dealing with. The better you are able to express your struggles, the more this helps them to support you. In my experience, this emotional vulnerability also empowers others to open up to me, which has lead to really deep and profound connections to those closest to me.
· Acknowledge that grief and trauma is a reality in your life. Accepting it and on occasion leaning into is not caving to the emotions. In my experience doing so actually eases that stranglehold it can have over me and allows me to move through it.
· Be gentle on yourself. Know that moving forward from grief and trauma is not a linear process. Some days may feel light, embrace those, other days may be harder, accept those too. Both are part of the grieving process.
· Ease back into activity. Get out with people who are supportive and who know what you are dealing with.
· Do not set any unnecessary timelines or expectations on your return to activity. Rather, focus and celebrate what you are able to do and if some days you are not feeling it, that is okay too. You’ve won just by trying.
· If returning to a place or activity that caused trauma, be very careful and mindful that these places might be triggering. Anticipating that and coming up with a plan on how to deal with it can help alleviate some of the trauma.
· Do not compare yourself to who you were prior to experiencing a traumatic event. Accept that you are forever changed from whatever trauma you have dealt with and many ways, you can be stronger and more experienced for it. This is incredibly hard, but understanding and accepting that life is constantly changing helps with this acceptance.
· One aspect of trauma that I have had to face since returning to mountains sports is catastrophizing situations. Loosely speaking, catastrophizing is when someone assumes that the worst will happen. Often, it involves believing that you’re in a worse situation than you really are or exaggerating the difficulties you face. I have used Cognitive Behavioural Therapy with my therapists to help me overcome situations that might trigger these thoughts. I have also used my mindfulness and meditation practice to help me deal with these destructive thoughts. When my negative self-talk starts to creep in, I take a deep breath and meditate on what might be causing my mind to spiral, this often helps bring me back to the moment and deal with the fear in front of me.
· Have deep gratitude for moments, places and people around you. Practicing gratitude helps ground me in the moment and the experience. It gets me out of my head and allows me to experience moments of joy.
· Remember that it is okay to seek pleasure and awe moments, even when life feels at its darkest. These moments can give life meaning. This can be listening to music, enjoying a great meal, watching the sunset, heading out for a run. Escaping and giving ourself permission to experience pleasure, even for a second, can have profound effects on our overall mental health. Seek out those experiences.
In no way will I pretend to say that my life is what it was prior to the avalanche and I will forever be changed and affected by it. Time does not in fact heal, I am not sure I will ever “recover’, nor do I think I want to, but time does change the relationship to loss, grief and trauma. As with all things, these emotions also change over time. Accepting that reality has been part of my healing. Relying on my community, seeking professional help, and looking after my emotional, spiritual and physical health are what I am using to help me find what my new normal will look like.