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4 steps to dealing with loss, plus why you need to grieve before you can 'move on.'

Ignoring grief tears at the fabric of being human, and disallows one of the most crucial experiences that must occur in the wake of our loss.

4 steps to dealing with loss, plus why you need to grieve before you can 'move on.'

I remember sitting with a friend who had been betrayed by her husband. After repeatedly cheating on her, he had abandoned her, and she felt helpless and alone for a long time.

During our conversation, it became increasingly clear to me that my friend was frustrated.

But she wasn’t frustrated because of what her ex-husband had done. Instead, she was frustrated because she was not fully healed emotionally, but felt that she should be healed by now.


“It was a few years ago," she said. "I feel like I should be over this by now.”

I immediately stopped her. She was still in intense pain, but not because she had grieved this loss for too long. No, she was still in pain because she hadn’t allowed herself to grieve at all.

One of the most damaging narratives we're fed is that grieving should only be done under strict controls.

Funerals are one of the few places we're "allowed" to grieve. Photo via iStock.

We’re sometimes told — either implicitly or explicitly — that it’s not appropriate to make a fuss, that grieving should be done in private, and perhaps, worst of all, that grief has an expiration date.

Society’s message is often incredibly clear: Grief is uncomfortable for others, so stay away and grieve alone. Grieving is a problem, so we’re going to put a gag order on it. If you need to grieve, fine, but it must not interfere with conventional norms.

But I want to set the record straight: This mindset can be incredibly destructive. Ignoring grief tears at the fabric of being human and disallows one of the most crucial experiences that must occur in the wake of our loss.

What so many of us fail to understand is that grief is a perfectly natural response to loss.

Although grief is generally associated with the death of a loved one, it can occur in response to any loss. If you’ve ever had a relationship fall apart, suffered a debilitating injury, faced financial calamity, or even had to deal with the consequences of having to let go of a dream, you’ve experienced grief.

Grief is an expression of the love that’s borne of our pain. Yet because it’s viewed as an unpleasant, irritating aberration, millions of people feel as if they do not have permission to grieve. This narrative plays out all the time, both privately and publicly.

For example, if anyone has ever told you to “move on” from a devastating injury or to “get over” a failed relationship, or they suggested that you should be thankful for the loss of a loved one because it was meant to “teach” you something, you’ve been subjected to this kind of shaming.

But telling grieving people to “get over” or “let go” of their losses can cause them to do the exact opposite of what these words intend. Instead of finding any sense of solace or hope in the most difficult period of their lives, they bury their grief in layer upon layer of shame and fear. The more they try to buck up or pretend as if their pain doesn’t exist, the more they fall into hopelessness and despair.

The reality is there is no one right way to grieve.

Photo via iStock.

Anyone who tells you otherwise simply doesn’t know what they’re talking about. In fact, when you’ve suffered a loss, the single most important thing you can do if you want to find new life amid tragedy is to grieve the way you need to, and grieve fully, in whatever form that takes.

While there is no prescriptive way to grieve, it’s such a taboo topic that most of us don’t even know where to begin. In my experience, it helps to start with the following:

1. Truly acknowledge that you are, in fact, grieving.

This is usually very difficult to come to terms with because allowing yourself to grieve demands that you be vulnerable — not just with others, but with yourself. You must be willing to look yourself in the mirror and resist the temptation to bury the pain that resides within you.

Psychological research has shown that those who repress their grief are more likely to succumb to depression, sleep disorders, and other adverse effects in the aftermath of grief than those who don’t. As scary as it can be to allow yourself to experience grief, the reality is that it can actually prevent complications down the line.

2. Reach out to someone who’s willing to stand with you and listen without judgment.

Photo via iStock.

Most clinicians, including researchers at The Center for Complicated Grief at Columbia University, stress the importance of finding support amid grief. In fact, it’s often cited as the most important step you can take when grief has consumed you.

3. Understand that you, and only you, can truly define what “getting better” might look like.

After all, when you’ve suffered a tremendous loss, you don’t ever really return to “normal.” You can’t get a loved one back or “cure” an incurable illness. The task is not to “heal” as defined by other people, but to build a new life for yourself in light of what you have lost.

4. Don’t hesitate to seek out support from a licensed therapist or in a support group.

Note that I said support, not help. In the early phases of grief, “help” is too often tied to the notion of being “repaired.” You don’t need to be repaired as you learn to grieve. You need to be supported, and that comes when you find a person or community of people who are willing to accept you, just as you are, and bear witness to your pain.

Grief is not a linear process.

Grief is a lonely, aching, complicated journey with many winding roads. Remember that although only you can experience your grief in your own way, you’re not alone in that experience. Right now, at this very moment, millions of other people are grieving tremendous losses alongside you. Recognizing this won’t make everything better, but it can serve as a source of refuge as you navigate your losses.

Some years ago, a close friend of mine committed suicide. As I grieved this terrible loss, I distinctly remember one person telling me to "get over it" just a month after my friend’s death. This left me humiliated and angry. My first inclination was to hide my grief, but it didn’t take me long to realize that I could also choose to ignore this person’s terrible advice. The loss of my friend should never have happened, and I needed to experience my grief on my own.

Your losses should never have happened either.

The fact that you’re faced with tragedy is itself painful enough. How you honor what you have lost is something that you — and only you — can enact.

Courtesy of Verizon
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If someone were to say "video games" to you, what are the first words that come to mind? Whatever words you thought of (fun, exciting, etc.), we're willing to guess "healthy" or "mental health tool" didn't pop into your mind.

And yet… it turns out they are. Especially for Veterans.

How? Well, for one thing, video games — and virtual reality more generally — are also more accessible and less stigmatized to veterans than mental health treatment. In fact, some psychiatrists are using virtual reality systems for this reason to treat PTSD.

Secondly, video games allow people to socialize in new ways with people who share common interests and goals. And for Veterans, many of whom leave the military feeling isolated or lonely after they lose the daily camaraderie of their regiment, that socialization is critical to their mental health. It gives them a virtual group of friends to talk with, connect to, and relate to through shared goals and interests.

In addition, according to a 2018 study, since many video games simulate real-life situations they encountered during their service, it makes socialization easier since they can relate to and find common ground with other gamers while playing.

This can help ease symptoms of depression, anxiety, and even PTSD in Veterans, which affects 20% of the Veterans who have served since 9/11.

Watch here as Verizon dives into the stories of three Veteran gamers to learn how video games helped them build community, deal with trauma and have some fun.

Band of Gamers www.youtube.com

Video games have been especially beneficial to Veterans since the beginning of the pandemic when all of us — Veterans included — have been even more isolated than ever before.

And that's why Verizon launched a challenge last year, which saw $30,000 donated to four military charities.

And this year, they're going even bigger by launching a new World of Warships charity tournament in partnership with Wargaming and Wounded Warrior Project called "Verizon Warrior Series." During the tournament, gamers will be able to interact with the game's iconic ships in new and exciting ways, all while giving back.

Together with these nonprofits, the tournament will welcome teams all across the nation in order to raise money for military charities helping Veterans in need. There will be a $100,000 prize pool donated to these charities, as well as donation drives for injured Veterans at every match during the tournament to raise extra funds.

Verizon is also providing special discounts to Those Who Serve communities, including military and first responders, and they're offering a $75 in-game content military promo for World of Warships.

Tournament finals are scheduled for August 8, so be sure to tune in to the tournament and donate if you can in order to give back to Veterans in need.

Courtesy of Verizon

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