Loss and life - 10 tips for self care

Loss is a universal experience. We will all encounter losses of various types and at variable depths in our lifetime. Our early attachments, relationships, patterns and individual world experience means that how we each respond to a loss is completely unique to each of us.

Any change in our world, such as school, work, redundancy, retirement, routine, relationship, health or death, can trigger a range of emotions, thoughts, behaviours and physical sensations that we perhaps may not have expected.

Depending on our circumstances at the time, we may not always have the space, time or people around us to talk to about how the experience is affecting us, or sometimes, grief, our response to a loss, can feel overwhelming and it can feel difficult to know where to start. 

The following may be of use to you or someone you know:

1. Time

There is no time limit to grief. Time is the most precious and valuable gift that we can allow ourselves or provide to one another.

2: Acknowledge

Often, there is worry that by acknowledging or talking about a loss, it will make things worse, or upset someone that seems to be managing. Conversely, people who have experienced a loss often don't want to trouble others, or be seen as tiresome. Unfortunately this can lead to people not talking about what has happened. Here, it can be helpful just to acknowledge the situation and offer your support, which gives control to the person who has experienced the loss to either accept, or reassure you they are okay.

3. Listening

We live in a busy world. Truly listening, and accepting what is being said, without waiting to talk, or wishing things were different, can help someone to feel heard, understood, and less alone.

4. Journalling or list making

If things are feeling overwhelming, keeping a journal or notebook with your thoughts or lists, can help to make sense of thoughts and feelings that may occur. Some people prefer to do this on their electronic device. It can help us to prioritise, see things more clearly, and monitor progress.

5. Self care

Paying attention to your own body, taking gentle, regular exercise, healthy meals, water, air, sunshine, showering or bathing, rest and sleep, will help to ensure that you are in the best place possible to facilitate healing and build your resilience.

6. Mindfulness

This doesn't have to be quiet meditation. Walks, swimming, knitting, colouring, cooking, music, gardening, eating, reading a book or watching a favourite film... any activity which helps you to pay attention to being in the present moment can provide a break from busy minds and constant thoughts.

7. Reach out

Find someone you can talk to. Whether it is a friend, neighbour, relative, support or community group, professional, or extra supervision, check in regularly with someone whom you can tell how you are really feeling. If you are worried about yourself or someone else, please do access support from the GP or an appropriate organisation such as the Samaritans, Cruse, or Mind.

8. Be gentle with yourself

Change and grief can feel exhausting. Try and let go of 'should's' or comparing yourself to others. We are all different, and the loss you have been through will mean something different to you than someone else. You may need to help others understand what it means to you. There may be some days and weeks when you feel you are managing well, and others when you wonder if things will ever feel any better. Both are normal. Days and weeks where your feelings are more manageable should increase over time.

9. You know yourself best

We all have our own unique qualities, abilities, systems, experiences and default behaviours that see us through difficult times. Some of these are more helpful than others. Trust your intuition and ensure you are self caring and or accessing support in the best way you possibly can to support yourself at this time.

10. The Dual Process model, by Strobe and Schut (1999, 2010)

Describes how it is important be able to oscillate (move between) acknowledging your loss, perhaps by talking or journalling, visiting special places, attending a group or participating in activities that connect you to and allow space for thoughts and feelings around your loss, and also, engaging in life restoration activities, such as learning new skills, adapting to new routines, and doing things that help you to live in the now. This isn't always easy, but this popular grief model highlights the importance of allowing yourself to do both, without judgement, accepting yourself for wherever you are. If you find yourself or someone you are worried about becoming predominantly stuck in one or the other, it can be an indicator that extra support may be useful to help with this dual process of oscillation between our experience of loss and life.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, HP2
Written by Tania Cohen, MA, UKCP, MBACP (Senior acc.), Psychotherapist, Supervisor
Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, HP2

Tania Brocklehurst (MBACP snr accredited) is an integrative counsellor and clinical supervisor

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