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Grieving When Tragedy Strikes

If you’ve been following the news, you probably know by now the sad news that the roof of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris collapsed yesterday as a blazing fire ripped through the world-famous landmark. Videos and images captured show the cathedral engulfed in flames, with dark clouds of smoke billowing into the sky.

The cause of the fire appears to be accidental and one firefighter was seriously injured while fighting the blaze. As firefighters worked to control the flames, tourists and locals alike gathered near the Seine river and watched in shock as one of the most historic landmarks in Paris burned.

With an unexpected tragedy like the fire at the Notre Dame Cathedral, grief is sure to follow. Despite the widely-believed myth that grief occurs in five stages, the truth is that grief looks and feels differently for everyone. Whether over the loss of a loved one, a job or other opportunity, a relationship, pet or another kind of loss, your grief is going to be a unique process to you.

There is no right or wrong way to grieve. You might find that talking about it helps. But research shows that people who used “repressive coping” (directing their attention away from their negative emotions) after a loss felt less depression and anxiety and experienced fewer health complaints than those who expressed their negative emotions freely. So, if you feel like you don’t want to talk about your feelings of grief, that’s OK too.

During the grieving process, be gentle with yourself and take steps to support positive mental health. One of the best ways to do this is to get moving. Participate in any activity that appeals to you, such as hiking, swimming, yoga, group classes or bicycling. Exercise triggers the release or neurotransmitters such as endorphins, serotonin, dopamine, glutamate and GABA, which are known for their role in mood control. It provides a sense of purpose and can help naturally fight feelings of anxiety, depression, pain, insomnia, fatigue and brain fog.

Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) may also help in the healing process. EFT can be used as a do-it-yourself form of acupuncture that balances your body’s subtle energy system and resolves unrelenting emotional pain. Instead of using acupuncture needles, you use your fingertips to stimulate specific acupuncture points.

When your energy system is balanced, emotional pain dissolves, allowing you to move past the grief and embrace the next phase of your life. While grief can feel overwhelming and become all-consuming, take comfort in the fact that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.