Grief: When Major Loss Challenges Your Beliefs
A major loss can make you question your beliefs. Sadness, anger, guilt, hopelessness—all these emotions can make you question everything you once believed about life, death, and suffering.
Some people are able to find comfort, courage, and hope from their beliefs. But if you're like a lot of people, you just feel lost. And that's not because you're weak or because your beliefs aren't strong enough. It's because you are human.
Your spiritual health—your belief system—is part of your overall health. Belief systems can help us face fears and let go of the past and have courage. They help us learn to live with understanding and care for the world, for others and for ourselves.
After a major loss, finding your way back to your beliefs—or maybe revising your belief system—is important. It can be helpful to take some time to think, talk, and write about your feelings. Here are some things you can try:
- Explore your feelings. Are you feeling unsure about what you believe? Do you feel that your beliefs have let you down? Do you feel empty because you don't have a belief system that answers your questions?
- Give yourself the right to question. It's all right if your answer is, "I don't know what I believe right now" or "I don't know why this happened." Saying this instead of making up an answer or giving someone else's answer is often the first step in finding out what you truly believe.
- Talk with someone you trust. Talking can help you figure out what's bothering you. And it may help you find the answers you're looking for.
- Find a way to handle the feelings that arise. Anger, distress, and feeling helpless will make it harder to get through this tough time in your life. It's important to recognize your feelings and handle them in the way that helps you. If you find yourself consumed with anger or guilt, reach out to someone to talk about these feelings.
- Search for answers to your questions about religious beliefs. If you are confused about a specific religious belief, ask someone who may know the answer. Talk with a leader in that church or religion. Read books about it or find more information on the Internet. And know that it's okay to still have questions about your beliefs.
- List your sources of spiritual comfort or practices. What gives you comfort? Do you feel the need to be alone or with other people? Are there practices in your religion that you haven't done for a while and would like to try again? Are there other spiritual practices that you think might help? If it feels right, talk with someone who can help you list and do some of the things you choose to do.
During hard times of loss and questioning your beliefs, it's important to take care of yourself. Find ways or activities that help calm the mind and soothe the heart. Get support from those you trust and love.
If you or someone you know is having trouble addressing spiritual questions that arise during a time of loss, think about talking with a clergy person or a licensed counselor, social worker, or psychologist.
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Current as of: December 8, 2019
Author: Healthwise Staff
Anne C. Poinier MD - Internal Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Jean S. Kutner MD, MSPH - Geriatric Medicine, Hospice and Palliative Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine