When you’re living your life, you go about your normal routine as usual. Then when someone you love dies, surviving grief can feel like you’ve been transported onto a Ferris wheel in the middle of a lake. When you’re up high, you feel like you’re on top of things and have some measure of control. As you descend, your view and perspective changes. So do your emotions and your coping strategies. As you gain momentum plunging downward, you can feel an unraveling dread and a rise in panic. Suddenly, you’re totally submerged in deep water, much longer than you care to be, struggling for your very breath. Then the realization hits you. You’re drowning and you don’t know what to do. You don’t even know how to breathe anymore… You are at a total loss.
Initially in grief, you can have many people around you such as family, friends, neighbors and coworkers. If you join a bereavement group, you may also have the understanding and support of the members. However, during times of intense pain, it’s necessary to learn to rely on yourself.
The following are three “Self” resources that can help you during this difficult time of grieving:
Self Care: Follow the wisdom of your body
There will be moments, hours and days when you are alone and no one will be around to help you. This is when “self care” is of the utmost importance because it will be in these times of “grief ambushes” that you will become your own first responder. You can choose to abandon yourself or become your own champion. Be in touch with your senses and be aware of what is going on in your body.
1) Breathe – During crises, we hold tension in our body, we tend to hold our breath and forget to breathe. Breathe by inhaling slowly through your nose. Then exhale slowly through your mouth, expelling more air than you took in. Repeat. Do not do this while driving or operating appliances.
2) If you feel tired, then rest or take a nap.
3) If your body is craving something, feed it, but in moderation.
4) If you feel like you need a distraction, take a walk, watch a movie or look through a magazine. Do something that doesn’t require a whole lot of energy or concentration.
Self Compassion: Listen to what your heart is saying and needing
Self compassion in grief means allowing yourself to mourn your personal multi-layered losses. Each one is a gaping wound. Regard yourself as if you are a skilled physician with an exceptionally warm bedside manner, attending to your devastating wounds. You would be gentle, soothing, attentive and mindful of not causing further injury.
1) When you feel sad, allow yourself to cry if you can. Releasing tears is cathartic.
2) Give yourself permission not to have to do anything that is noturgent. Tell yourself that it’s all right to wait another hour or another day to attend to something that commands your attention today. It is okay to stay home and not deal with people or life when you’d rather not. It is also okay to go out and be among others when you don’t feel like being home alone.
3) If you want to avoid grief in the moment, go ahead and do so, because your grief will be there when you’re ready.
Self Love: Embrace your spirit of survival
The first step in learning self love is self acceptance. It is the ability to let yourself be just the way you are and the way you are not, without judgment, criticism or opinion.
1) Treat yourself as though you are your very own best friend.
2) Do something nice for yourself — treat yourself to something.
3) Exercise the art of being self aware, self encouraging and selfpraising.
4) Make a list of your outstanding qualities and highlight youraccomplishments.
5) Ask your most trusted friends to write you a letter about whythey chose you as their friend.
6) Fill in the blank with your name: ________, I love you.
Repeat throughout the day until it becomes a habit.
7) Last, but not least, practice the healing gift of gratitude. Although this may seem difficult at a time of pain, it helps you to heal. Start with the letter “A” and don’t stop until you get through the letter “Z.” What are you grateful for right now from A to Z?
There is no time frame in the journey of grief. Everyone has their own unique experience. Allow yourself to follow your own process, whatever it may be. In time, only you will know what feels right for you. This may be the time when you learn how much compassion you have for yourself and a redefined meaning of self love. This too, is a journey. Ironically, it can happen simultaneously with grief.