In our first article published last week, we looked at coping with grief and how you might feel during this time. We looked at some of the feelings and emotions that you might experience, and the effect that grief can have on your physical body too.
There is absolutely no right or wrong way to grieve, this is true. Grief is a natural way to respond to a loss and everyone will feel differently at various times. However, there are healthy ways to deal with the grieving process, which might make it easier to cope.
Grief can be difficult and challenging particularly if you feel there were things you wanted to say or do with the person you have lost. It takes time to heal after losing someone you loved and care for.
Here we look at ways to deal with the grieving process to better support yourself:
Accept support from friends and family members
Whether you are usually a strong, independent and self-sufficient individual, now is not the time to show solitude and retreat inwards. Instead, now is the time to lean on the people who care about you and want to help you. Rather than avoiding people and staying alone, draw friends and loved ones even closer to you. Accept all the help that is offered, and all the love and affection given.
Be aware that people might not always know how to act around you or know what to say whilst you grieve or know what support to offer, so help them out by telling them what you need. Whether it’s a shoulder to cry on, an ear to listen to you or help with admin or housework, they will be happy to offer you help in all these ways.
Face up to your feelings
There is a strange myth that if you suppress your grief, it will disappear. But the truth is, you can’t avoid it forever. In order to start the healing process, you have to acknowledge the pain first.
Attempting to avoid feelings of sadness and pain will only prolong the grieving process for you longer. Unresolved grief can also lead to longer-term issues such as depression, anxiety, addiction, and health problems.
Although it might be hard at first, express your feelings in a tangible or creative way. Perhaps write about your feelings in a diary. Or maybe you can write a letter to the person you have lost, letting them know all of the things you never got to say. You could make a photo-book or an album to celebrate the person’s life or all the things that you experienced together. It might also help to volunteer or get involved in a charity or organisation that was important to your loved one. This will help you to continue their legacy into the future.
Be compassionate and accepting to yourself of your feelings and frustrations.
Connect with support groups and professionals
Grief can be a very lonely time, even when you do have loved ones around. If you don’t feel that you have anyone you can regularly connect with, or ask for help, then it’s never too late to build new support networks. There are many charities and bereavement support groups available such as Just B (a Harrogate based Counselling service) Sue Ryder or At a Loss where you can get support online, on the phone or via social media platforms. It’s sometimes comforting to connect with people who are going through a similar experience to you. This way, you can share stories and feelings, knowing that you will be well understood.
If your grief feels like too much to bear or you find it hard to talk to family about your emotions, you might greatly benefit from talking therapy with a therapist or counsellor. An experienced therapist is likely to have helped many people in the same situation as you and can help you work through intense emotions and overcome obstacles to your grieving. You can choose to see your therapist face-to-face or speak via the phone instead if you prefer.
Treatments such as acupuncture and hypnotherapy may also be used to combat anxiety, aid relaxation and help with sleep issues.
Take good care of yourself as you grieve
As we looked at in our first article, the stress of a loss can quickly zap your energy and your emotional reserves, thus affecting your health. Therefore, it’s more important than ever to take care of yourself. Looking after your physical and mental wellbeing during this time can help you to get through this. Feeling healthy physically will allow you to better able to cope emotionally.
You may not feel like eating healthily or drinking plenty of water, however, it’s essential to keep yourself well-nourished and hydrated. Accept home-cooked meals from family and neighbours, or arrange weekly supermarket deliveries to ensure you have all the supplies you need. Eating little and often might be a better idea in the first few weeks and months, until you resume your normal habits.
Avoid the use of excessive sugar, caffeine, alcohol or drugs to numb the pain of grief or lift your mood temporarily. These crutches will all have long term complications as the numbness wears off and interfere with your overall wellbeing.
Getting enough sleep is also important. Try establishing a sleep routine that involves a bath and a relaxing activity before bed. There are also many breathing exercises and bedtime meditations available online if you struggle to drift off or wake up frequently during the night.
Try to maintain your exercise routine, as well as slowly re-introduce your usual hobbies and interests. You will find comfort in your usual routine and getting back to the activities that bring you joy. It might also be a good time to start something new. A new activity or interest could connect you closer to others and might help you come to terms with your loss and aid the grieving process.
In our next article on coping with grief, we will look at different ways to help others to cope.
In the meantime, if you want someone to talk to about the loss of someone close to you, then I am here for you. I work with many people who have experienced grief and who are dealing with a number of different situations at the same time.