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9 Simple Ways To Cope With Grief

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9 Simple Ways To Cope With Grief

A 9/11 First Responder Still Relies On These On A Daily Basis
Lillie  Leonardi
Lillie Leonardi More by this author
Sep 06, 2016 at 09:15 AM

Grief is defined as the normal process of reacting to a loss. The loss may be physical (such as a death), social (such as divorce), or occupational (such as a job).  

Emotional reactions of grief can include; anger, anxiety, despair, guilt, and sadness, as well as, a multitude of physical symptoms.  This definition provides meaning in conventional terms, but it does not give a complete description of how grief can alter one’s life.

As a police officer, I first encountered incidents that made me cognizant of sadness in others. But none of the terrible situations observed compared to the horrific events of 9/11. The magnitude of devastation perpetrated is forever etched upon my mind and feelings of grief are often a part of my daily life.

At times it appears I am unable to prevent feelings of sadness take hold, most especially, as the dawning of another 9/11 anniversary draws near.  Almost fifteen years have now passed and yet, the trapped emotions have not fully released.  Resurfacing often as reels of film playing out across my mind, there are tears not shed.  They lay dormant in some hidden space not of my design.  Unspoken words left unheard – the stillness of my voice silently screaming for the ability to describe the visions that haunt.  The events of 9/11 are still more a part of my memory bank than all other recollections. 

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The responders of 9/11 initially set their footprints on the properties of the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and on a remote landfill in rural Western Pennsylvania.  In the inceptive moments of that historical summer day, they were the first to arrive.  In the grueling months that followed, they were the last to leave. 

Although it has taken years to regain a sense of balance, I did finally allow feelings of hope to return in my life, and laughter, too.  What I have learned from my experience is the importance of acknowledging the changes in my emotions and to pay special attention to the signals that my mind and body are sending.  When I sense a change in my emotions, I utilize coping skills learned from medical and mental health practitioners who have aided me in my healing.  

Some practices include:

1. Be gentle with yourself

Give yourself permission to feel.  

2. Breath

Retrain breathing patterns through methods such as Heart Math (www.heartmath.com)

3. Rest 

Make time to nap 15-20 minute during the day. 

4. Journal

Jot down thoughts and feelings as a visual aid to better express and understand emotions.

5. Exercise 

Engage in a form of physical activity that helps release endorphins and reduce stress. 
Take nature walks. 
Learn yoga. 

6. Meditate

Learn mindful meditation to help restore balance. 

7. Pray

Say prayers to God or the higher power of your belief
Invoke your guardian angels 

8. Support

Seek the counsel of a trained medical or mental health professional.
Share your thoughts with trusted family members and friends.

9. Find joy in the simple things in life

Stop and smell the roses. 
Give yourself permission to laugh again – after all, laughter is the best medicine. 
Watch a humorous movie or television show.

“As long as you are grieving there is more right with you than wrong with you.” ~ Jon Kabat-Zinn

 

During my tenure in law enforcement, I learned all too well the causes and effects of grief by observing incidents that I responded to and witnessed.  With each new emergency call, I viewed individuals grieving over loss of life, violent acts, property damage, addiction, and inhumane acts that wreaked havoc upon those involved.  As a result, I became all too aware that grief is an instantaneous emotion that alters life and permeates the heart, mind and soul.

In my travels, I have had the privilege of befriending fellow responders who served on 9/11.  When sharing their memories of the events and post days of recovery, I have come to realize that they too carry imprints of the horrific occurrences and aftermath of that day.  The stilled impressions are vividly ever present. If you are experiencing grief from a loss or a trauma, please try to practice as many of these 9 tips as you can and let me know in the comments below if they bring you comfort.

 

About Author
Lillie  Leonardi
Lillie Leonardi worked in law enforcement for more than 25 years before retiring to pursue her lifelong dream of writing. In 1984, Leonardi was appointed to serve as the first female police officer with the City of Arnold, Pennsylvania. She broke bar Continue reading
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