Grief is never something you get over. You don’t wake up one morning and say, ‘I’ve conquered that; now I’m moving on.’ It’s something that walks beside you every day. And if you can learn how to manage it and honour the person that you miss, you can take something that is incredibly sad and have some form of positivity. ~Terri Irwin
Recently, I had two people that I am quite close to
The other loss was a business associate that also dealt with a lengthy illness. While I didn’t know they would die from it, they did and again it hurt me to my bones. This all happened just a few weeks apart. Ten years ago, I would have lost myself in the grief and pain. Ten years ago, I was fighting my own battle with stress and depression and could handle very little. But I was taught, and I learned about grief and self-care. I learned how to get through what we all must handle at some point, the death of a person we care so much about. Having a past or current mental health issue will not stop death and grief from happening, so here’s what I learned and what I am currently doing to handle the inevitable pain and grief that is happening to me right now.
But, before I go into my solutions, let’s understand the 5 stages of grief that we all tend to go through, although not necessarily in this order.
1. Denial and isolation – At first you must get used to what has happened. Our mind and body don’t adjust right away. We deny it’s happening and want to be left alone. This is normal to the start of grief.
2. Anger – Yes, anger is a natural feeling in grief. You are mad at the world for taking away someone you cared about. You are mad at yourself for not being there for the one who has passed. You are mad at death. Know this is coming. Find an outlet for the anger.
3. Bargaining – Do we try to ask for help and say, “well if I do this…than it will be better.” Who are your bargaining with? Is it g-d and what is it you want to ask for? Yes, this is typical. Your guilt might say “if only”.
4. Depression – Let’s not shy away from the idea of situational depression. Depression comes in many types and certainly a death of a loved one can bring about depression, particularly if you have dealt with depression before. Yes, you may be able to handle it by yourself, but don’t shy away from seeking professional help to get through your loss. Therapists do have specialties in grief counseling. It is, again, common and if you have a propensity for depression in the past, this can creep up again.
5. Acceptance – I wish I could tell you that everyone accepts a death in the end. But it doesn’t always work this way. While we must find a way to accept it, it is from within that this must happen and some of us deny it to be. It is a personal experience and not all death is easy. So, we must understand and learn to accept non-acceptance as well.
So how is it I did not let this one, two punch of grief put me in a tailspin this time as it would in other times? What changed for me? I changed, and I fight each day to not allow myself to fall again. That doesn’t mean I don’t allow these stages of grief to happen. I just now prepare myself and remember that self-care is important for me to get past life’s ebb and flow. So, here’s what I’m doing.
1. Gratitude Journaling – I write something good about each day. What could I write about, though, when my father died? The day of the funeral I wrote, “It was nice to see and be comforted by my family and friends that love me”. I got to see my other loved ones. Even though I lost someone, I got to be with those who gave me comfort.
2. Nutrition – This may seem like a no-brainer, but not eating when grieving is something many of us do. We are not hungry and not taking care of ourselves. Eating gives you energy and good eating give you serotonin, which keeps you in a positive mood. Remember that serotonin is the main neurotransmitter that doesn’t work right in people with depression. But did you know that 90% of serotonin is made in the gut? What you eat does affect your mood. Remember to eat and eat good foods.
3. Talk Therapy – Talking about your loved one, your feelings, past stories of you and your loved one that has passed is helpful and important. You can choose to share this with an empathetic friend or see a grief counselor. But don’t shut everyone out. You need and want to express your feelings and getting them out is proven to make you feel better. It is so important to the healing process. A professional can help be an ear and advise. A friend or loved one can listen with intent. But holding the pain in is only going to make it more painful. So, let it out and don’t be worried about talking about your feelings all the time. Others understand you are grieving and it is needed.
4. Mindfulness – You will forget that you need your busy mind to rest as well. Maybe sleep is off now, due to this death. Maybe you are ruminating. Mindfulness allows you to find peaceful ways to rest your mind. Try Yoga, Meditation, a walk in nature, a quiet time to read a book or listen to a book. Let your mind rest. It will fight you but find a way to be mindful and care for yourself.
5. Forgive Yourself – This may be the hardest thing to do. Sometimes people pass on at a time you are not getting along with them. The guilt of not having a chance to say “I’m sorry” can overwhelm you. So, stop…forgive yourself…forgive them…allow it to pass. Like all things in life, this too shall pass.
Sounds so easy, no? It took me 10 years to learn and practice these five items. Now I am dealing with two deaths of loved ones at the same time. But I am making it through. Yes, I am grieving. Yes, I am letting the grieving process happen naturally and trying to be patient. But I am not going to fall down the hole anymore. I have to practice self-care. This is not selfish, but something that I must do…as the survivor…as a person making their way through life…one day at a time.