Grief Tool Kit
Transitions in life are marked by a level of difficulty or discomfort depending on the circumstances surrounding it. When we adjust to major life changes, we gradually find our footing, gain familiarity with all that feels new, and eventually life just starts to feel “normal” again after awhile. This is not normally the case with bereavement.When you lose someone you love, life is forever changed and you along with it.
Learning to live in the wake of death takes time. It is a surreal experience that we are never truly prepared for. Among the number of cherished ones who have departed in my life are my mom and dad, who had both died by the time I was 14. My life has been greatly impacted by that loss and my energies devoted to processing it personally, in my relationships, and on a deeper soul level. Here I am 25 years later, and I’m still continuing to grow through this life trauma and allow myself the space to grieve when it is needed, still, and always. It is important to point out that deep feelings of loss can occur connected to other events such as a relationship break up, a move, or job change, or some other transition in life, which all require honoring the individual process that grief brings during those difficult times.
If you are coping with some type of loss in your life please know that grief does not work in a predictable pattern, nor is it something that ever expires, it simply changes. The more you become aware of and honor your personal needs, the greater your healing potential.
Here are some ideas for helping to take care of yourself in times of loss:
The power of journaling is immense. Especially in times of grief it is incredibly important to allow yourself to emotionally ooze out onto paper if needed. We are often fearful of confronting the intense feelings that accompany loss, therefore we tuck them away in order to function. However, if we do not create an outlet for our anger, sadness, and confusion we end up complicating the grief process and delaying our catharsis. Expressing your feelings through journaling is a way to make it all visible, which makes it easier for us to accept where we are and begin to have more compassion for our suffering. It is a lot like being there for a dear friend in a time of need, but instead, you are taking the time to be there for your Self and listening to your own story as it unfolds.
2. A picture is worth a thousand words.
Isn’t it amazing how the energy of a moment can be captured in just one picture? A lot of times, we feel like we are losing our memories of passed loved ones or fear that we will eventually. Sometimes just riffling through old photos can give us back that sense of connection that we feel we have lost. It can be fun to travel back in time to when a photo was taken and try to fill in all the details of life at that time. It is also nice to be able to share a story or two with a partner or friend about which pictures are important to you and why. Being able to access these memories helps to enhance our own personal narratives about life and brings a sense of volition to our stories. This can be a deeply therapeutic activity to engage in.
3. Nurture yourself.
It is a hard task to remember to put a priority on self-care when you are in the grips of feeling hopeless and overwhelmed. This makes it doubly important to make self-check-ins a regular practice in your life. Here are some examples of how to do it:
How is your overall energy level?
If you are feeling low and do not feel like doing much of anything, just stretching your body can help to wake it up a bit and get your energy moving. Getting outside really helps awaken your senses, especially if you have been indoors and stagnant for too long. A simple walk around your neighborhood can help you get back into the flow, move your body, and connect with the natural world around you. (Even if you don’t feel much like connecting with anyone else.)
Are you getting enough rest?
If you are having trouble sleeping, try to create a restful oasis that will support your body’s need for rest. Sometimes taking an Epsom Salt at night can help you to emotionally detox and ease you into a state of relaxation. Light some candles and put on some mood music to enhance the scene. Does reading sometimes put you to sleep? If so, then grab something good to read and be ready to doze off!
Is your body nourished?
Our bodies give us hints about what it responds best to. Everyone processes foods differently, so pay attention to how you feel and choose foods that make your body feel good. It is also nice to have a little comfort food now and then, so be sure to treat yourself to something special that gives you a sense of self-nurturing.
Are you having any fun?
Make a special date with yourself to do something interesting that you enjoy and do not break it! This can be any little thing that your heart desires. Start by making a list of the top ten things that you enjoy doing and make a commitment to schedule at least one into your week.
When was your last “friend” date?
Call a friend, sibling, or relative and put something on the social calendar. Lean on your support team and commit to a small outing so that you have some quality time together rather than always relying on texting or social media to communicate. Remember you are not alone!
These small check-ins can really increase your experience of wellbeing and help you to feel more regulated. So, make taking care of your Self a habit and not an afterthought!
4. Break a smile…sort of.
There is a practice that started out in the Buddhist Tradition called the “half smile”, which has been adopted by modern day psychology. This involves turning the corners of your mouth up, just slightly. When you’re stuck in a state of depression it is hard to smile, move, or even think sometimes. When you begin to practice half smiling, your brain benefits greatly from this small but powerful exercise. Sometimes it helps to also add “smiling eyes” to give yourself an added boost of hope on those gloomy days. There is evidence that shows that this practice can change our brain chemistry and begin to break us out of feeling emotionally distressed. Go ahead and give it a try!
If you or someone you know is experiencing any complications from grief due to losing a loved one or is struggling to make sense of another type of loss in their lives and would like to explore this in a safe, supportive, and therapeutic setting, please contact Life Enhancement Counseling Services at (407) 443-8862 to schedule an appointment with one of our experienced mental health counselors.
The Healing Power of Grief
“Tear Soup: A Recipe for Healing After Loss”
By Pat Schwiebert & Chuck DeKlyen
“Bearing the Unbearable: Love, Loss, and the Heartbreaking Path of Grief”
by Joanne Cacciatore