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Black & Burnt Out Presents: Dealing with Grief and Loss on Mother's Day

Today we celebrate mothers and mother figures everywhere, whether you are a Godmother, spiritual mother, bonus mom, adoptive mom, biological mom, or an individual who serves in some type of mothering roles such as a teacher or mentor. The fact is you have raised, influenced, impacted, cared for, loved, nurtured, etc. a child or children somewhere along your journey. Yet, today is not a joyous occasion for many. Today is a holiday that brings about feelings of grief and loss. The many are those whose mother's or mother figures have died, those who for a myriad of reasons do not have a relationship with their mother or a relationship with their adult child(ren), those who want to become mothers but are struggling to get pregnant, or experienced a miscarriage(s), and even those who have had to make the difficult decision to have an abortion or give their child up for adoption. I'm quite sure there are countless others who I have failed to mention in which Mother's day along with other holidays, situations, events, and occasions can be emotionally triggering.

Loss is the fact of no longer having something or having less of it than before. ( Grief is a feeling of great sadness which is the natural response to loss. There is not a right or wrong way to grieve but there are healthy ways to deal with grief and loss. The grieving process is an individual experience that can't be measured by time. Patience, trust, and connection are key here, which is difficult to do even on the best of days. Here are some tips to positively cope with the pain: (

1. Acknowledge your pain. Ignoring it does not make the pain go away faster, instead, it prolongs the healing process. Try jotting down your feelings instead. It's important to face your feelings head-on.

2. Accept that grief can trigger many different and unexpected emotions, such as denial, anger, sadness, shock, disbelief, guilt, fear, and shame. All of these feelings are normal. Crying is a normal response and should not be looked at as being weak. It is important to re-frame that mentality of trying to be strong and instead recognize that being strong means showing your emotions and teaching others how to handle difficult situations in a healthy and healing way.

3. Understand that your grieving process will be unique to you. Let me reiterate that there is not a right or a wrong way to grieve but there are healthy and unhealthy ways to cope. We all handle things differently, it doesn't mean that their pain is not felt as deeply as yours. Some people will cry, others will not. For some, you may notice a change in their behavior such as increased isolation or an increase in risk-taking activities. There is not an exhaustive list that explains what you may or may not go through during your grieving and healing process.

4. Seek support. Your friends and family want to help, but sometimes don't know what to do or say to help you. Additionally, be understanding when someone says or does the wrong thing when trying to comfort you. It can be an uncomfortable or awkward situation for some and sometimes people end up putting their foot in their mouths. Just try and remember that their heart is in the right place. That is why it is so important to communicate with your support system about what you need from them during this time (a hug, listening ear, icecream, etc.) Don't push people away, focus on connection. This may mean joining a support group, connecting with a faith-based community, volunteering at a local organization, or talking to a therapist or grief counselor. This is all part of building a village or support system around you.

5. Support yourself emotionally by taking care of yourself physically. Grief can manifest itself physically through various bodily aches and pains, fatigue, nausea, restlessness, too much or too little sleep, weight loss or gain, etc. Create a self-care plan that may include taking walks, listening to music, healthy eating, using a diffuser, a steamy shower, or a hot bath, whatever nourishes your body and soul.

6. Recognize the difference between grief and depression. At some point in time you should be able to return to a routine. Remember there is no time table with the grieving process and each person's journey is unique to them but gradually the intense feelings we felt at the start of the loss should begin to subside over time. You will still have your mix of good days and bad days and of course things will look and feel differently but you will create a "new normal." Now what happens when you feel stuck in a state of intense mourning and the feelings of emptiness and despair are constant to the point of inability to function at home, school, or work. This may indicate complicated grief or even depression. Some signs of this could be intrusive thoughts or images, feeling that life is empty or meaningless, intense guilt, shame, anger or bitterness, thoughts of suicide, feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness, numbness, or disconnection from others over a while, etc. This is not an exhaustive list and is just some things to be aware of, because if left untreated this can lead to significant emotional damage, life-threatening health problems, and even suicide. Please call the crisis call center at 775-784-8090, suicide help hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or text Hello to 741741 if you or someone you know needs help.

Dealing with grief and loss is difficult. Remember you don't have to be on this journey alone. It's okay to not be okay. If you know someone who is struggling today, please reach out and open the lines of communication. It's not always about having the right words to comfort them but instead being a presence in the darkest of times. If you are struggling today, be kind and loving to yourself, know that you are still healing and that it takes time. "The reality is that you will grieve forever. You will not "get over" the loss of a loved one; you will learn to live with it. You will heal and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered. You will be whole again but you will never be the same. Nor should you be the same nor would you want to." - Elizabeth Kubler Ross

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