10 Ways to Break Out of the Grief Cycle

I shared yesterday about a recent family grief and how hard it can be to set the pain aside and go back to your daily life. In the words of an old Reba McIntyre song, “But oh, that sun is blinding me as it wakes me from the dark, I guess the world didn’t stop for my broken heart.”

And truth be known, I guess I’ve grown enough the last couple years to find that soothing.

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There’s comfort in knowing that God rules and that every human tragedy along the way doesn’t derail His plan. It took me a while to see it, but there’s peace in knowing that the sun will come up tomorrow. I’ve gone from channeling Scarlett O’Hara in the beginning with “I won’t think about that today.” to Scarlett at the end with “Tomorrow is another day.”

It didn’t happen overnight, but there it is.

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Are you feeling sad? A little grieving and growing pains? Bittersweet? Here’s a few little ideas for soothing a troubled or sad spirit…

  • Quiet. Sometimes we just need a few moments alone to curl up on the couch with some coffee and say, “I’m sad” or “I’m tired” or “I’m troubled” and sit quietly, breath deeply, and just be still for a while.
  • Tears. Sometimes you just need to let them out! Sometimes you just have to force yourself to stop and face the pain and allow yourself to be sad before you can move on. I often do this when certain songs come on the radio that make me tear up. I just turn it up and go ahead and let it move my heart. When it’s over, I usually feel a bit better. I’d much rather cry for a few minutes every once in a while, then hold it in for months and finally break down screaming and sobbing until my eyes swell shut. (Ask me how I know…)
  • Music. Speaking of which, monitor what you’re hearing if you’ve been down and out. A sad song here or there is one thing, but good music is a good pick-me-up. I especially love old hymns for this–you just can’t sing verse 5 of Amazing Grace without feeling your heart lift heaven-ward.
  • Watch. Just sit and watch the world. Watch the kids play. Watch the flowers grow. Watch the lambs frisk around…feel free to come by and borrow our porch if you need to! Sometimes we just need to sit and soak in the fact that we are not alone in the world and the world did not end and God’s hand still moves over and all around us.
  • Walk. I think any kind of exercise is good. When you feel like you just can’t take it, take a walk! Sometimes just the act of bursting out of the house feels like such a release when negative emotions are welling up. Walk until you feel calmer, more in control–even if you’re just taking laps up and down your driveway because the baby is sleeping inside.

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  • Read. Scripture, no doubt. But I also recommend missionary stories or pioneer stories. No matter how bad my day seems, at least I don’t have to use an outhouse in the middle of the night in January in North Dakota. A little perspective is always good. History is full of sacrifices for the greater good and perseverance against the odds.
  • Talk. Call a friend–and talk about them! A lot of times I call my sister because I’m feeling down, and just chatting about our kiddos and our dinner plans and our neighbors helps me break out of the sad mood. If you want to talk about your bad day, that’s fine too, but sometimes reaching out is better than looking inside to break the cycle of sadness that can creep up. Besides, she always makes me laugh.
  • Write. I’ve gotten back into journaling with my smashbook, and I write here of course. I think writing is a good outlet. Write a prayer list. Write a thanksgiving list. But again, you can also use writing to reach out, break out…write a letter to a friend (letters are a dying art!), send card to a missionary or church member, write to a soldier.
  • Look. I love looking at pictures. Even when it feels bittersweet, it feels more sweet than bitter. You rarely take pictures of bad times, so nearly every picture will have a good memory attached to it for you to think about. This is one of my favorite 10 minute activities. I just open up iPhoto on our computer and start scrolling through. No matter what pictures they are, they usually make me appreciate my life all over again.

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And lastly…

  • Get Help. Seriously. If you can’t find any little ways to brighten your day…if a friend or loved one expresses concern over your behavior…if you just can’t shake the gloom…go talk to someone. There are tons of options, directions, and simply different personalities out there to offer you some help for your situation.

Believe me, I’ve been there. I’ve been in those days where it takes everything you have just to get out of bed. Where you see everything in gray, there’s no color to the world. Where you’re walking numb, and can’t remember anything from one day to the next–and simply don’t care.

And I’ve been in that place where you go through your day as if everything is fine. Where you put on your makeup, and never cry, and go about your routine, and move on with your life, and even smile and laugh–while inside you’re just screaming, endlessly. There’s a balance between the pain that comes from simply living a frail, finite, human life…and the smothering darkness that can creep in and overwhelm you.

The Lord wants us to live a joyful, victorious life. He wants us to “count it all joy” when we face trials–and He makes no bones about the fact that we will face trials.

Need some help counting your blessings today? Feel like finding anything positive is searching for a needle in a haystack? Email me–I’m a bit allergic to hay, but I’ll wear a long-sleeved shirt and we’ll hunt together!

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