Does Keeping Busy Help with Managing Grief?
When a loved one has passed, we are thrust into the grief process whether we like it or not. Even if we aren’t aware of our grief, it’s there. The initial shock of loss can flood the mind with an overwhelming amount of feelings and emotions. It can be difficult to make sense of the current situation now that the loss of a loved one has turned our world upside down. With so many thoughts and feelings bouncing around our minds, it can be challenging to manage simple tasks, such as remembering names, finding our keys, or even brushing our teeth. As grief-related stress climbs, the bereaved often look for ways to distract the mind from the pain of loss.
Does Keeping Busy Help with Grief?
In the immediate aftermath of a loss, there can be a wide range of logistical issues that need to be addressed. Some of the most common include notifying family, friends, and colleagues, arranging a funeral or memorial service, and settling the estate. The adrenaline rush accompanying this whirlwind of activity can remain high during this process. It also distracts from the overwhelming emotions and feelings simmering beneath the surface.
Beneath the broad strokes of managing the final responsibilities of our loved ones’ lives, there are several intricate details to contend with. For instance, if your loved one lived alone, it can take a herculean effort to take care of their house or apartment. The home has to be cleaned; items need to be sorted for dispersal among family members, donated, or sold. Finally, the home may need to be restored for future tenants. Coordinating with other family members brings its own set of stress and responsibilities. If your loved one didn’t leave final instructions for committing their body to its final resting place or create a will, it can be extremely challenging to navigate successfully.
On top of these responsibilities, the bereaved have their normal lives to contend with. Whether it’s work schedules, school schedules, travel, or more, losing a loved one can create a huge impact. During this entire process, there is very little room to acknowledge the emotions and feelings of losing a loved one.
Once the dust settles and all loose ends have been tied up, the adrenaline dump the bereaved experienced in the first month or so begins to wear off as family members, friends, and supporters begin to fade back into their normal lives. At long last, the buried feelings of grief begin to express themselves. It may be surprising to experience grief after a fair amount of time has elapsed since the passing. However, grief has no timetable. The bereaved may realize that the one thing that kept their feelings and emotions at bay was keeping busy, distracting themselves from the pain and suffering associated with grief. To keep their anguish away, the bereaved may continue to immerse themselves in busy work, overloading their schedule to block out any moment of quiet reflection. While this may serve as a temporary band-aid for grief, it doesn’t address their pain properly.
Why Keeping Busy Doesn't Work
Keeping busy during the grief process can be deceiving. It may seem like a good solution since it appears to keep sorrow, pain, and despair away. However, keeping busy simply masks grief, leaving it unresolved. You can’t outrun unresolved grief. Whether it’s several months, years, or even decades, grief needs to be addressed. No amount of busy work will solve the underlying issues caused by grief. The more we mask or suppress our grief, the more we subject ourselves to a continuous cycle of pain and despair. It can cause the bereaved to resort to more and more drastic measures to keep themselves from experiencing feelings and emotions associated with grief. In some cases, people can develop dangerous, addictive habits, which only create bigger problems. For instance, the bereaved may obsessively pursue certain activities or rely on substances, such as alcohol or drugs. When this happens, mental and physical health can deteriorate, relationships can be severely strained or destroyed, and the bereaved can begin to detach from the world at large.
How to Cope Without Keeping Busy
The most important thing you can do when it comes to coping with grief is to acknowledge and honor your thoughts and feelings. Only when we face our grief can we truly heal. It can be difficult to manage grief alone. Reaching out to those you trust, such as family, friends, or even a counselor, is essential. Working through grief can take time, so remember to be easy on yourself. Be sure to incorporate self-care into your process, such as setting time aside for a favorite activity, eating a favorite meal, or exercising. Expressing the feelings and emotions associated with grief allows us to purge our pain and move forward with a healthy, rich, and fulfilling life.
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