Small Bites: Coping with Grief in Times of Loss

Authored by Coach Polly Shyka

Small Bites are short, informational articles with practical ideas about stress reduction, improved communication, and farm and family well-being. They are written by coaches from UMaine Extension’s Farm Coaching team. Farm Coaches are available at no cost to work remotely with farmers and farm teams.

Coping with Grief

red poppy in field

When our family milk cow died of milk fever 19 years ago, I was alone on the farm for the weekend. I’d been checking on her and her heifer calf all day and evening. All was well. When I entered the barn early the next morning and found her on her side, stiff and barely alive, I nearly passed out. I called a neighbor dairy farmer and he came over to help. As we walked down to the barn to assess, he said, “When you have livestock, you have deadstock.”

This simple truth was good for me to hear and it speaks to the basic truth of our own mortal existence as humans, as well. We will all lose loved ones through life. The COVID-19 pandemic brought loss and grief into so many lives, all over our country and world. Ongoing systemic oppression causes whole communities to grieve the loss of freedom, opportunity and sometimes life.

How we choose to tend to these losses is called grieving or bereavement. Some people choose to keep their grief to themselves and may not want to burden others with their “heavy” feelings. Others reach out to talk to family, friends and/or professionals. The important thing is that you are able to access the resources of time and space and connection/solitude that you need. Only you know what feels best.

Loss or bereavement groups are a way to be in community with others like you who are suffering a loss. Most communities have groups that meet for 4-8 weeks to discuss loss and healing. Local churches and hospice organizations often host bereavement groups online and in “normal” times, in person. There are some wonderful resources on the importance and many faces of grief online.

Here is one video that is short and sweet but you can search through TED talks for lots more thoughtful offerings that might help you navigate through a big loss.

Need help in figuring out how to prioritize what’s important to you & how to get it done? The  Farm Coaching team can help!