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How to Cope with Grief and Loss

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The Water Hippo AKA Grief

For the past two weeks I have had an uninvited visitor I will call “The Water Hippo” enter my life.

Mother and baby hippo sitting side by side

“The Water Hippo” is dark, heavy, suffocating and prone to causing anxiety at inopportune times. He sits primarily on my chest, lies down and puts all of his pressure directly on my heart.

At times I feel like I can’t breath.

I feel panic rise up and have to remind myself that it is just a feeling, that I am safe and try my best to focus on my breath in my belly and not the sensation of panic.  

Usually that works, other times the panic takes over and I have to sit down and be an observer to my panic and anxiety. Controlling panic never works for me.

I allow myself to cry and feel anxious; within a few minutes the panic is gone. 

Who is “The Water Hippo”?

Let me introduce you to “The Water Hippo” who is my grief and entered my life like an uninvited guest.

A person sitting down with their wrapping their arms around their legs

I was ill prepared for this type of grief and not expecting or wanting it to enter my life.

It came when I least expected it; crawled into my life and popped it’s heavy head directly on my chest.

I kept pushing it to go away, opened the house door and tried to shove it outside but “The Water Hippo” was stronger than me and still had one foot inside the door and nudged himself back in.

He looked at me, shook his head and said that I can’t rush him out; he will leave when it’s time.

I felt resigned, weak, small and asked myself “how am I going to simultaneously manage ‘The Water Hippo’ and continue to function in my day-to-day life?”

I’m grieving a loss that I did not think I would need to grieve.

I thought I was okay; I was initially sad, disappointed and confused about the loss, but I figured that the deep sense of relief I felt after I heard the unexpected news would allow me to move on quickly.

Boy was I wrong. 

Remedy for Grief

I was not prepared for “The Water Hippo” and the dreadful feelings that come with it.

Like most people, I have experienced losses in my life. Some were harder than others, but looking back I was able to get through the loss.

Unfortunately, there’s no “Get Over Grief Quick” remedy. Trust me, I’ve looked into it.

Fortunately, you can try other remedies that help like daily exercise, restorative sleep, eating nutritiously, surrounding yourself with friends/family/loved ones/pets and spending time outdoors.

However, nothing will expedite or reduce the time it takes you to grieve.

You can’t rush grief, even though I would do almost anything not to feel this depressed, sad, anxious and overcome with the heaviness of “The Water Hippo” who envelops me nearly all day.

To Numb or Not to Numb the Pain?

Clearly, no one wants to feel horrible pain and “The Water Hippo” is quite uncomfortable. I feel like a huge ten-ton brick is lying heavy on my chest.

Numbing is not an option for me. I don’t drink or do drugs.

So rather than numbing myself, I have chosen (maybe unwisely), to accept feeling this despair, because in some respect I have choice.

I can either choose to numb, ignore, avoid or accept the pain.

I think acceptance of the pain is the hardest because ignoring hasn’t really worked since the moment I think I’ve successfully ignored it, “The Water Hippo” sighs loudly, shakes his head and the heaviness returns.

Hippo with his chin on a wall

Why oh why?

The other question I ask myself is why? Why did this happen? What did I do to deserve this? Why me?

I guess that’s the bargaining stage of grief and loss. Unfortunately, there are no answers. 

If you’re a spiritual or religious person, you can get some relief that God or the Universe has a plan for you. However, knowing that still does not make the questions disappear.

It’s natural to ask why.

Fortunately, I have not been too caught up in the why. Nonetheless, the why questions come up at times, and I remind myself that “The Water Hippo” does not have the answers. 


I know that experiencing grief will make me stronger. I know that it is just a process and that my life will continue. I know that I can not rush grief, and that I have to be gentle and patient with myself.

I know that it will just take time, and the best approach is one day, one breath, one moment and one little step at a time.

As I write this, the weight of The Water Hippo feeling has decreased just a little. He nods his head yes, as if I’m on the right track, and the heaviness lifts by a few pounds.

Maybe that’s the secret after all?

Talk about the grief, be present and acknowledge it. Once that happens, the sensation of The Water Hippo isn’t as profound.

Perhaps that is all that is needed to make grieving a little bit easier to cope with?

What has helped you grieve? What has made it easier for you? What has helped with the pain? Please share your stories and comments below.

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Pantea Rahimian

Take control. Feel better.

Start your Self-care Journey.

Take control.
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Pantea Rahimian

Take control.
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