Your gain: We’ll acknowledge the trauma that shock from a loss can leave on our hearts, and talk about ways to cope with it in our grief journey.
If you’ve experienced a loss, you’ve likely experienced some form of shock along the way. Even if you see the death coming, looming over you like the heaviest rain cloud, little can prepare you for when you actually lose a loved one. Or, quite frankly, even a breakup, a job loss, or something else entirely. Because all of these and more deserve to be recognized and can be equally shocking!
But fear not, my friend—there are ways to work through this shock and find some semblance of peace again.
When (and Why) is Shock the Worst?
Truthfully, it can take a long time for shock to wear off. There’s no right or wrong answer here. If your loss happened a little while ago now but you’re still feeling pangs of shock, please understand how normal and absolutely okay this is. Not that you need my permission here, but I’m giving it to you anyway! I want you to know how well accompanied you are in that boat of complete and utter shock, and many grievers feel that shock for years after a loss.
I should mention that, with acute grief especially (the type of grief immediately after a loss), there can be a lot of shock. You likely know this if you’ve been there. Trying to understand what the heck just happened, and coping with our new reality is absolutely overwhelming. This is by far when it feels the most painful and rawest for many grievers.
This is largely because not enough time has passed for us to comprehend what has happened yet. Our brain doesn’t yet understand the trauma it has suffered, and it’s essentially trying to play a game of catch-up.
As we develop new experiences and continue to move through our life, our brain updates its “virtual map”, of sorts, and begins to understand what life looks like without the thing or person we’ve lost. New predictions are made, and moment by moment it begins to understand that our loved one won’t walk through the door at 5:30pm after work, for example.
I want to make this abundantly clear: it’s super important to be really gentle with yourself here. Shock and disbelief can take our breath away, and grief and this sensation of powerlessness often come from our hearts and minds.
To take this a step further, anguish also often accompanies shock. Anguish not only takes away our ability to breathe, feel, and think. It comes from our bones and deep within us. It can cause us to crumple in on ourselves, literally bringing us to our knees and forcing us all the way to the ground.
The human spirit is resilient, and just as we can reclaim our ability to breathe and feel and think, we can rebuild the bones that anguish rips away. But it takes help and time. I wish I could give you some magical elixir to calm you in these moments of anguish and shock, but I’ve found it’s really just one of those things where we have to build up our tolerance.
We have to allow those feelings so as not to become closed off or rigid. Our grief can absolutely do this to us if we allow it. But my challenge to you today is to rise above this.
To do that, we have to know how to bring ourselves back down from the high of anguish and shock, and we ultimately do that through breathwork and bringing our body and mind back to the present moment.
But there’s also a little more to it than that, and certainly a few more coping tools to talk about! So with that, let’s get into some of these to get you started.
Allow Yourself to Heal
First things first, and this one is pretty simple… let yourself feel your feelings. Cry, scream, listen to sad music—whatever you need to do to process your emotions. And don’t feel an ounce of shame about it! Is it painful at times? YES. But guess what? We’ve all been there.
It’s natural to feel a range of emotions after experiencing a shock, including sadness, anger, confusion, and disbelief. Allow yourself to feel these emotions without judgment or self-criticism, or worry about what others will say for even a moment. I can’t stress this enough: don’t try to suppress your feelings or pretend that everything is okay. Acknowledge those emotions and give yourself permission to grieve full-heartedly.
By suppressing those emotions and not giving them anywhere to go, especially over time, we can really damage our psyche and even create physical issues from the stress. Think: TMJ, a tight and achy neck and shoulders, high blood pressure, the list goes on.
Now more than ever, it’s time to focus on yourself. Yes, I know this can sometimes be difficult with the pull of having to take care of a family or children, working, or a plethora of other things. But I challenge you to not make excuses here. Stand up for what you need, because everyone is entitled to some “me” time. Think about it… what would this look like for you?
Is it taking a bath with some Epsom salts? Eating your favorite comfort food? Binge-watching your favorite show for the 18th time? Taking a 20-minute walk to decompress? Treat yourself like the queen (or king) you are! Curl up on the couch and nap, read a book that inspires you—or at least distracts you for a little while. Be cautious with what plans you make and don’t overextend yourself.
With shock, we’re more prone to grief bursts and various triggers (more than usual, at least). Now, this isn’t to say you have to barricade yourself indoors until they go away. In fact, I’m asking you to do the opposite. We need to take baby steps to put ourselves out there again. But it’s all about tapping into our intuition and feeling out what is right for us in that moment. If you’ve never been great with being present, what better time than now to start?! I have an entire blog post on this to help you through it, but the more we get in touch with this piece of ourselves, the more successful we’ll be in taming our shock.
Don’t Skimp on a Healthy Diet
Amidst all of this shock, I know how difficult it can be to even feel like cooking or making the time to prepare the most healthy and nutritious meal in the world. Trust me, I’ve so been there. It was the last thing on my mind. But I can NOT stress enough how critical this is. And remember, a healthy diet doesn’t have to be salad after salad here! There are some painfully easy recipes and dishes out there that are just a Google search away. Or, if there’s a restaurant near you that can do the heavy lifting for you, go for it.
The ask here is to be mindful of your choices. Foods that are heavy and high in salt, fat, and carbohydrates can often make us feel more lethargic, tired, and more inclined to be sedentary. With grief—and I KNOW this can be hard—the goal is to get some movement in. It’s easy to succumb to our bed or couch, but all I’m saying here is balance is key.
A balanced diet, and a balance of relaxation and movement. Pretty soon, your mind will begin to feel this balance, too, which is key to surrendering the shock.
Lastly, make sure you’re drinking enough water! With water, you want to make sure you’re consuming at least half your body weight in ounces each day. Avoid soda and sugary drinks when possible, and really hone in on hydration. This will help your brain function and clarity more than you can imagine.
Create a Routine
I can’t express the importance of a routine enough. This could mean getting up at the same time each morning, going for a walk each day, journaling a little (I love the 5-Minute Journal by Intelligent Change, pictured here), or setting a bedtime for yourself. Perhaps it’s something that brings you joy, like lighting a candle that you love as you work. A morning cup of coffee or tea and being present with it as you hold the warm cup in your hands. Whatever this is for you, tap into this!
Ask yourself right now: do you have a solid routine you can depend on? What would your ideal routine look like? What is something you can add (or remove!) from your current routine to make this more enjoyable for yourself?
Routine is so important because having a sense of structure can help you feel more grounded and in control. In a time that can feel abundantly out of control, it’s a great practice to be present with what is in front of you while also giving you something to look forward to and depend on.
I have an entire blog post on practicing presence and mindfulness (and a free downloadable toolkit for you here, too!), but I’ll quickly share the following thoughts:
Shock requires a lot of presence and patience. When we can take a breath and focus intentionally on what’s in front of us, on what the situation entails, this is truly one of the first steps to comprehending our grief. Whatever our situation and loss may be.
I dig into this a little further in the “Be Patient” section in terms of what we can put into practice to be mindful with our grief and those griefy, “shocky” thoughts.
Focus on Gratitude
Even in the toughest situations, there’s always something positive to focus on. I know, I know. You might not believe this right now or you might be internally telling me to kick rocks with this “be grateful” stuff. If so, you’re entitled! There was a time in my grief where that was the last thing I wanted to hear.
But here’s the thing about life: death is an unavoidable part of it. It’s deeply painful when we witness it, it’s scary to think about our own demise, and it’s not exactly the most fun subject in the world. I hear ya!
It’s all about perspective, though, and we have to remember that. Maybe you’ve learned a valuable lesson. Perhaps you’re getting to know a part of yourself you didn’t know before.
This hopefully goes without saying, but an alarming number of people I’ve come across absolutely do not—or refuse to—reach out for help. I can’t tell you how many resources exist for you, though.
Number one, of course, is your internal support system of friends and family. A best friend, a family member, heck… even your pet. Sure, they might not be able to talk back—and if they’re human, they might not always have the best advice, let’s face it. But even so, even just being able to vent about how shocking your loss is and how it’s affecting you, even if it doesn’t even make sense right now, is such a healthy thing to do. Sometimes all you need is someone to listen and offer a little bit of comfort.
That said, I’ve spoken with so many grievers who have expressed that their friends and family are not as supportive as one would hope. If you’re in this boat, please understand how much love I’m sending you right now and how unfortunate I feel that is. I mean, as if you haven’t been through enough, right?
When Friends and Family Won’t Do
In that case, where else can you go? Well, Losses Become Gains, for one! There’s a whole slew of people on social media (I’m mostly on Facebook and Instagram) that can empathize with at least some of what you’re feeling right now. Despite us all experiencing grief differently and having different relationships with those we’ve lost, shock can be a pretty universal sensation, right? Whether it’s a Facebook group of likeminded people, finding your tribe on some other social platform, attending a grief support group, exploring therapy or counseling, or even taking advantage of the monthly group coaching calls when you enroll in my Grief Becomes Gains Online Course (when you register, you get that perk PLUS my guidance at your disposal, too!). There are so many options out there waiting for you, and many cost little to nothing.
Last but not least, be patient with yourself. I hated people telling me to “just give it time” so I won’t sit here and tell you that today. But I guess I kind of am…
The sad reality is that, especially with shock, it does take time to wear off. It takes a hot minute for our brain to understand what just happened, what this loss means for us, and how to even begin moving forward.
There’s no right or wrong way to do it. For me, I honestly found it useful to talk to myself. Whether that was out loud or in my own head, didn’t matter. Seriously, try it out. State the facts. For example, on the morning that my dad died and I was sitting in their condo, watching the sunrise through the patio doors, some of my thoughts were:
- “Okay, both my mom and dad are gone.” (and then repeated that I don’t know how many times… I still do)
- “I am by myself right now. I no longer have parents.”
- “My main support system is gone. My immediate family is gone.”
- “I can never talk to them again. I can never text them again. I can never hug them again.”
- “I will never hear their voices or laughs again. That guidance and advice I would seek from them is now gone because I can’t go to them for it in person. But is it gone? Or will it just evolve now?”
Challenge Your Grief
See how I changed the vibe a little bit on that last one? That’s what we need to do here. And do it over and over and over again. It’s honestly a very empowering action, to be able to turn our grief on its head like that and “make it squirm”, as I like to say.
By challenging our grief, we’re opening our minds, hearts, and souls up to something bigger than ourselves. We come to know and understand there’s more at stake here and, moreover, there’s more to learn.
But listen, if you’re in any kind of state of shock right now, I know this might not be where you’re at or even have the energy for. That’s A-OK. Just take it one moment at a time. One thought at a time. It won’t all be positive, as you likely know. Part of finding acceptance and releasing this shock is acknowledging the painful reality.
But as painful as this reality can be, with time and that ever-important grief work, it is possible to level out the shock factor. There’s a level of accepting that happens. Notice I didn’t say “we accept what happened”. We may never really accept what happened, right? Don’t force that, because the second we force it is the moment we turn the pressure cooker on “HIGH” to feel the need to live up to societal norms and expectations of others in terms of how long this process takes.
I will leave you with this closing thought: you don’t have to be strong all the time, but you are stronger than you think. Lean into that, tap into that, and I have a sneaking suspicion you’ll surprise yourself.
Explore my Course and Freebies!
I have FOUR free tools you can take advantage of if you’re ready to step up your grief work. I’m so excited to share these with you! My Gratitude in Grief Journal Prompt, From Grief to Grinning Toolkit, A Practice in Presence Toolkit, and Creating a Vibrant Life Toolkit are ready and waiting for you to download. All you have to do is click here or the button below.
Needing some more in-depth grief education, coaching, and coping tools? Look no further—meet the Grief Becomes Gains Online Course! This course is over 20 hours and 10 modules of material that can be done at your pace, on your terms. Come back to it over and over as you need it, because once you own this, you own it for life! You also receive a 100+ page toolkit, a monthly coaching call with fellow grievers and me to connect and talk all things grief, and more.