by Victoria Simpson
Everyone will experience loss at some point in their lives. Knowing of ways to help cope with grief can be a key to moving through the emotions of a difficult time.
Everyone deals with loss, be it the loss of a job, a career opportunity, a family member or friend in their own way, and each way is as unique as our individual personalities.
Professionals say sometimes moving through the stages of grief happens naturally. Emotions change on their own from denial to anger and acceptance as time goes on.
But sometimes changing our actions is easier than altering our emotions, and action can be a catalyst for confronting reality and change.
Candy Chang, a New Orleans artist, is someone familiar with this process. After losing someone she loved and experiencing severe depression, Chang decided to share her loss with others by encouraging society to focus on celebrating life.
To do this, Chang created something called the ‘Before I Die Project.”
The ‘Before I Die’ project is described on their website as a “global public art project that invites people to reflect on their lives and share their personal aspirations in a public space.”
Chang created an interactive wall on an abandoned house in her neighbourhood after obtaining city permission, by using chalkboard paint and stencilling a grid of the sentence “Before I die, I want to_______.”
Passersby were invited to finish the sentence with available chalk, sharing their own dreams and aspirations with the public. Within 24 hours, the wall was full of responses and it kept growing.
Today, 1000 ‘Before I Die’ walls can be found around the world in 35 languages in over 70 countries including Kazakhstan, Iraq, Haiti, China, the Ukraine, Portugal, Argentina, the USA, Canada and South Africa.
Chang has tips on how to get started creating your own wall on her website, where a list of step-by-step instructions, a checklist of materials and helpful examples are provided.
She promotes the original idea and suggests re-mixes by also encouraging changes to the wording of the original sentence to such things as “Before I graduate”, and “I run because.”
Seeing others share their thoughts publicly can be cathartic.
Professionals suggest that other ways of dealing with grief can include talking with those emotionally close to you, writing in a personal journal, preserving memories by organizing visuals such as photos and artifacts and displaying them, creating a memorial website or a tribute such as planting a tree, or celebrating the positives of the past to bridge to the future.
Joining a support group of others going through the same process, or creating your own if none exists can also be very helpful.
Some actions should go on hold though, when dealing with grief. The Mayo Clinic suggests not taking major decisions while grieving, and to seek guidance from others as grief clouds decision-making abilities.
It is also suggested to focus on keeping the basics of sleep, good nutrition and exercise going, and to get a medical check-up to ensure that grief isn’t eroding daily routines and healthy practices.
Acknowledging pain is a first step in helping wounds heal.
Around 250, 000 people die each year in Canada and countless experience a variety of other losses to be overcome. Finding what works for you, is key.