The last few months have been a difficult time for my friends and family. Loved ones have passed away, intimidating diagnoses have been received, and unexpected news has made us feel like we’re on unstable ground. My heart hurts for everyone in my life who has been suffering and grieving for any reason.
One of the hardest things to do while going through the stages of grief is function normally, let alone practice any amount of self-care. How can you try to meditate when you are consumed by anger or sadness? How can you put on a face mask if you can’t get out of bed? Self-care is daunting when you simply don’t have it in you.
The important thing to remember is that there is no right or wrong when it comes to your suffering and healing. Please do not put pressure on yourself while you are experiencing grief. There is no grief template. Your timeline is yours and yours alone.
The coping ideas and methods written below are merely suggestions from an empath who believes in mental health. Try out the ones you’re comfortable with if you think they may help. Make tweeks, go at your own pace, you do you.
Lean On Your Support System
It can be easy to retreat and be reclusive while you are grieving. While it is certainly healthy to be alone sometimes, it is also good to seek out the help of your loved ones when you need it. Total isolation can make it harder to feel like yourself again.
Your friends and family can be there to listen or offer a shoulder to cry on if you ask them. If they’re grieving as well, it may be easier to share what you’re personally going through. Grief can be a bonding experience.
Keep in mind that you do not have to express your feelings to your loved ones if you’re not comfortable doing so. You can simply spend time with them doing something you enjoy together. Company can be a great distraction. If they’re grieving as well, doing something together that you usually would, like seeing a movie or cooking a family meal, could help things all feel a little bit more normal.
Your support system can also include a therapist, faith group, support group, or grief counselor. Mental health professionals have helped others through their grief and they can help you process and heal as well. Check out my previous blog post for some mental health resources.
Feel Those Feelings
Shock, sadness, confusion, anger, guilt, fear… Numerous and complex feelings come along with grief. They can consume you when grief first hits and can strike you randomly as time passes.
While it may feel easier to try to ignore those feelings, it is healthier to acknowledge and express them somehow. If your eyes well up, let the tears flow. Scream into your pillow and cry in the shower if you need to. Pushing down your feelings will only make it harder for you as time passes. There are no right or wrong feelings to experience. Let yourself feel whatever you are feeling and try not to judge or rush yourself as you grieve.
Feelings can also be expressed in alternate ways. You can get involved in an organization that is related to your grief. Volunteering or campaigning for a cause close to your heart can make you feel better. There are also creative ways to express feelings, like journaling, making art, and scrapbooking.
As time passes, certain dates, holidays, or milestones may bring up those all-too familiar feelings related to grief. Do what you can to prepare for tough days and accept that they’ll be hard. Consider doing something special or commemorative on those days if that would help you. If traditional Thanksgiving will be too difficult this year, change up the routine and go for an Autumn hike instead. You might not know how you’ll feel until the actual day hits, so try to be flexible and easy on yourself when it does.
If your feelings become all-consuming and you feel it is too much to bear, please seek out professional help. Unresolved and complicated grief can manifest as psychological trauma and should be taken seriously. Remember that you deserve peace.
Take Baby Steps to Get Back to Feeling Normal
I won’t lie, it can take a long time to discover your new normal while you’re grieving. The key to getting there is taking tiny strides and letting them add up over time without rushing yourself.
Don’t minimize what you once considered to be a minute task. Getting out of bed can be a big deal for someone who is hurting. Drinking water, eating, and taking a shower are other good steps. Each little thing is an accomplishment. Maybe you can consider cooking or exercising after basic self-care is doable. Resume your favorite hobby or try a new one. Make plans to meet with your friends and let yourself laugh. The small efforts will add up and you will eventually feel different than you did when grief first struck you.
I also encourage you not to shame yourself for the habits you developed in your time of grieving. You may have gained or lost weight or had a change in your sleep patterns. You may be consuming more alcohol than you regularly would. Please do not judge yourself. Physical changes are a part of grief and can be addressed by a professional if you are continuously bothered by them or become a running problem.
I’m sending loving and peaceful vibes to anyone who needs them. Remember that your pain is ever-changing and will continue to transform as time passes. Your grief may change you but it also has the potential to help you grow. Take all the time you need to be or feel okay.