In my last blog, I talked about the importance of normalizing the emotions connected to grief. We live in a culture that often downplays and denies the need to process loss. The more people who get in touch with grief-related feelings, the better we can collectively get at handling loss. As important as this step is, there are plenty of other actions that need to be taken.
Mourning requires our participation. It may also require the support of a skilled professional. We’ll get to that later. For starters, let’s explore some of the tools you can use. When you choose to participate, grief becomes a little less daunting.
Before you can begin taking self-help steps, you need to move to a place of acceptance. Grief is not the temporary obstacle we’re considered to see it as. After a loss, grief enters your life to stay. With time and skill, you learn to accept it and live with this unique form of loneliness. Speaking to a mental health professional is highly recommended (see below). To follow are some self-guided actions that may help this process along.
1. Take Care of Yourself
If grieving is a given, what else can you do each day to provide some balance? A good place to start involves sleep. Setting up and maintaining a regular sleep schedule is necessary under any circumstances. After suffering a loss, it is non-negotiable. Other important factors to consider:
- Make healthy eating choices
- Take part in some daily exercise and/or physical movement
- Practice stress management and relaxation techniques
That last entry deserves a section of its own!
2. Daily Relaxation
Since relaxation is in the eye of the beholder, this concept is very flexible. The idea is to cultivate ways to counterbalance the sorrow and stress. What helps you slow down? What eases your mind and body? Some common options might be:
- Gentle movements like yoga or Tai Chi
- Finding a creative outlet
- Meditation and mindfulness
- Listening to mellow music
- Self-care mainstays like warm baths, aromatic candles, or burning incense
- Getting absorbed in a book or movie
As you can see, it’s up to you and your imagination. However, be on guard to not fall into harmful coping mechanisms like junk food, substance abuse, and risky behaviors.
3. Have Some Guilt-Free Fun
There are no rules that say you must grieve all day long. It may sound cliché but also keep in mind that the loved one you lost would not want you to be unhappy all the time. Find ways to make yourself laugh or smile. Reach out to people who will offer good company. You need friends and loved ones who can listen to you or distract you—whatever you need at the moment.
You are not disrespecting the deceased by giving yourself a break from bereavement. If anything, you are honoring them in a profound way.
4. Maintain Structure in Your Life
It can be quite helpful to make plans—big and small—and stick to them. This reduces the chances of you slipping into long bouts of rumination. Feeling productive is a nice way to add some positivity to each and every day.
Talk to a Therapist
Left to its own devices, grief can become complicated. It can impact you in seemingly invisible ways. There is no shame in needing support. It’s 100 percent normal in a time of mourning. Your weekly sessions can be the safe space you crave. You can share openly and learn skills and tools to guide you. If you’ve experienced loss, I’d love to talk with you and help you.