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I originally started writing this blog post before the election, in response to the killings in Baton Rouge and Minnesota of two black men, and the ambush on the Dallas police department that happened all in one week in July. Those events impacted me greatly and it took me a few weeks to gather my thoughts and have the hindsight I needed in order to write a post about how I get through tragic and sad events. Then the election happened and I, like many people, sunk into a depression I have not known since high school. Finishing a post with my tips for handling something sad became impossible while I was so deep in the throws of it. The voice in this post has changed drastically since I began writing it, but I still feel strongly that I need to share it because even if you aren’t being weighed down by something sad right now, there could come a time in the future when these suggestions could come in handy. And to be honest, writing about my own pain has helped me tremendously.
First, I let the grief that I am feeling consume me. I don’t push it away or try to ignore it. I cry and cry and cry as many times as my soul needs to. I am honest with myself and those around me that I am having a hard time processing the emotions and grief. I don’t hide it. I spent two full days, once the day after the tragedies in July and once the day after the election, in bed allowing myself to feel so sad that I couldn’t do anything else but sleep or cry.
The most important part about this suggestion is knowing when enough is enough. Initially for me it was one day, but for others it could be a couple of days. Since the day after the election, I have had moments where I need to come back to this part of the process, but now I only let it last a few minutes. Once I’ve let myself have that one day (or a few minutes), I force myself to start living again. And make no mistake, “living again” may look the same from the outside but it certainly does not feel the same. I adopt the “fake it till you make it” attitude of living. I push myself through the motions of my day, day after day until more moments of my day resemble my real life than not.
Note: Allowing yourself to be so consumed by grief for so long that it begins to affect your relationships or job is not healthy. If you ever find that you are in a situation when the grief has such a hold on you that you can’t determine when enough is enough, I highly suggest seeing a therapist. Sometimes a tragic event goes so deep into your core that any tips or suggestions I could give you, won’t be enough to pull you out.
Second, I take a hiatus from anything that might reopen the wound and upset me again. For these most recent events that means the news. For a break up that could mean a break from social media. For a death that could mean a break from anything that reminds you of the person who passed. It doesn’t take me long to pinpoint the things in my life, during a sad situation, that would bring back the anger and sadness I have felt. It is better to turn inwards and focus on healing myself, and making myself stronger so that someday things like the news, or a picture of a loved one that has passed won’t send me back to day one of my grief.
Third, I focus on smaller events and moments rather than the big picture. Looking too far into the future can be overwhelming and getting from now to then can seem impossible. Instead, I make a game plan for how to get through the next week, or the next day or even just the next 15 minutes. Focusing on smaller amounts of time help me cope because eventually they add up and before I know it, I will be at that moment in the future that felt impossible to get to at one point.
Fourth, I listen to any kind of music. And I turn it up loud. I let it wash over me and allow me to have some peace from the pain even if it is only for a few minutes.
And fifth, I watch videos, look at pictures of things that make me smile, or do little things that make me happy. Pictures of babies, videos of animals, enjoying a delicious cup of coffee in my favorite corner of the couch, watching a kids movie while eating my favorite ice cream, pictures of sunsets or places I want to travel to are all little moments of happiness that I cherish when I am sad. I make sure to be present in those moments and to savor how happy they make me. I use them to remind myself that the world is still full of love, beauty and happiness no matter how dreary it may seem now.
I’ll admit, though, that sometimes getting to the point where I can even think about listening to music or doing something I enjoy takes a while. Sometimes I just have to focus on the first three things until the dark cloud parts enough that I can appreciate the power of music or a picture of a baby smiling.
Most days these last few weeks I have had to run through all five of these things daily. It can be exhausting but I will keep moving forward. I will focus my sadness and anger on things that will help others continue to move forward as well. I will call local representatives and senators to remind them that millions of people, including myself, chose acceptance, equality, and most of all love on November 8. We won’t accept an America that is anything less. I will volunteer with immigration services. I will donate to women’s rights foundations. And I will continue to live in the place in my heart that knows that one day I will wake up and the dark cloud of grief will be gone, my smile will be genuine all day, the future won’t look dull, love and progress really will be the winner and life will be life once again.