The importance of self-care while grieving
While we are grieving, it becomes even more important to show ourselves compassion.
Here, in no particular order, I have listed a few ways we can do this. If you are struggling with grief, have a read through and see what feels 'doable' for you and try to include a couple into your day. Ultimately, the best self-care is to do what feels right for you.
Acknowledge the loss
Sometimes we may feel pressured to move through or 'get over' our grief quickly. Give yourself permission to really feel your loss.
Talking about your grief through therapy or journaling might help, or perhaps a more creative outlet such as photography, painting or music appeals. Try to find some time each day to access your feelings of grief and acknowledge your loss.
Go easy on yourself
Grief is painful, so treat yourself the same way that you would treat a good friend going through the same loss. Try to put any self-criticism and judgments aside. You are doing the best you can.
Sleep, eat well and move your body
This one can be tough, but now really is the time to nourish your body with healthy meals. Drink plenty of water and avoid alcohol as this disrupts your sleep schedule and depresses your mood. Physical movement, whether you choose walking, yoga or even the gym, will contribute towards better sleep and overall sense of well-being.
Grief is a whole-body experience. It doesn't just affect us emotionally, it affects us physically too. Mindfulness can benefit in a couple of ways. First, it turns off the stress response known as fight or flight, allowing us some relief from the physical sensations of grief. Secondly, it encourages us to connect with the present moment, as difficult as that moment may be, and acknowledge it from a place of non-judgement.
As Megan Devine, the author of 'It's OK That You're Not OK' tells us, even though it may be painful, 'acknowledgement of the truth is a relief, and it heals'.
Connection with others
Isolation may feel tempting. Grief takes up a lot of energy, plus it may feel difficult to allow yourself to be vulnerable in front of others. The feeling too that other people's lives are continuing unaffected when it may feel as if yours has ended, may lead to us feeling like we want to withdraw completely.
However, loneliness can have negative consequences on both our physical and mental health. Building a support network is an important step in the grieving process. A walk with a friend, lunch with a family member or finding an understanding support group or bereavement counsellor are all good ways to feel connected.
Spend time in nature
There is strong evidence that being in nature improves both our physical and mental health, but there is also something quite comforting about being 'held and contained' by something bigger than our grief. Nature too mirrors for us the cycle of life and death.
As Kirstie Dyer, MD explains:
Being in nature, one becomes aware of the infinite circle of life. There is evidence of decay, destruction and death; there are also examples of rejuvenation, restoration, and renewal. The never-ending cycle of birth, life, death and rebirth can put life and death into perspective and impart a sense of constancy after experiencing a life-changing loss or a death.
Write a letter
Writing can be a really effective way of processing our thoughts and emotions. Why not try writing a letter to your future self offering consolation and hope for the future? You could also try writing a letter to your lost loved one. This can be a wonderful way of expressing anything left unsaid or saying goodbye in a meaningful way if this was not possible at the time.
I truly hope these suggestions will help you while navigating the painful process that grief is. However, if you feel that you would like more tailored support, please get in touch with a verified counsellor who can help you to understand your grief, process it and move forward.