Center for Shared Insight, PC

The Rollercoaster of Grief

January 21, 2020
Posted By: Kristen Hick, Psy.D.

Overcoming loss in your life, whether that be the death of a loved one or the end of a significant relationship, is full of ups and downs. The highs and lows of the grieving process can feel like a rollercoaster that you can’t get off. There will be days when you feel positive and optimistic about your healing only to spiral back into sadness and emotional pain within days or hours. These swings in your emotions are in fact, part of the process of grief. 

In this post, we’ll help normalize your experience of grief, provide insights as to why giving yourself time is essential, and help you determine how to avoid your part of the rollercoaster. 

Recognize that this is normal

Sometimes, just recognizing that you are not alone in your grieving process can help you accept the volatility of your emotions. Knowing that an authentic grieving process includes periods of acceptance alongside waves of heartache can help create acceptance about your experience. Along with recognizing that your roller coaster of grief is normal, it’s important to identify the loss. Work to name what you feel you have lost, beyond a certain person. Maybe that’s the loss of comfort, company, feeling “seen,” history, a sense of belonging, or support in your life. Getting clear about what the loss means to you will also help you identify activities you can choose to better cope with that loss. For instance, if you feel that you’ve lost a sense of belonging following a breakup, perhaps joining a community organization would help you regain a sense of connection during this difficult time.

Give yourself time

Time is essential for the process of grief to unfold. There is no rushing the letting go or “getting over” the situation. Sometimes, the loss will be notable always, like in the case of losing a parent or child. If your grief is related to a breakup, accept that you should not be dating anytime soon. Any type of “rebound relationship” just compounds the grieving when the relationship that serves as a distraction comes to an end. While those types of relationships will help you not feel as much pain, they’ll result in double grief eventually, when you are truly forced to work through the pain of both breakups. 

Notice how you feel around holidays or the anniversary of your breakup, loss, or divorce. Prepare to feel deeper grief and sadness during these milestones and give yourself the space to grieve. Consider rituals to honor your loved one during these milestone occasions but resist the urge to fill your time with meaningless actions to numb, stuff, or resist what you are feeling.

Relinquish your part of the roller coaster

Likely, there are practices in your life that help you feel more grounded, centered, and emotionally stable. By choosing these opportunities for self-care, you can avoid contributing to the roller coaster as much as possible. For a breakup, that might include not visiting locations that remind you of your ex, which can send you into an emotional tailspin. For the death of a loved one, that might mean putting off activities like going through their belongings until the initial phases of grief, pain, and sadness have subsided. When you can actively avoid feeding the roller coaster, your healing can feel more predictable and manageable. However, avoiding your part of the roller coaster doesn’t mean stuffing your emotions or trying to numb the pain with unhealthy distractions, including drinking, dating too quickly, or other unhealthy coping mechanisms.

At Center for Shared Insight, we work closely with clients who are grieving a significant loss. Through our discussions in therapy, we can help normalize that loss, the ups and downs that occur during the process of letting go, and identify ways to move forward when the time is right. We help clients understand where they are in the process of grieving and what to expect in the days and weeks to come. It’s with this type of professional support that we see clients fully heal. 

If you are grieving a significant loss in your life, we encourage you to contact us to learn more about how therapy can help slow down the rollercoaster of grief in your own life.

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