How many times have you heard someone tell you: “get over it!” or “It’s time to move on!”, when you just experienced a deeply disheartening loss?
The sad truth is, most of us, get really uncomfortable when dealing with someone else’s pain. Whether we don’t know how to help, don’t have the right words or simply what happened to them hits home with us and it triggers a memory you just don’t want to remember. And you sit and stare in a panic, because you feel compassionated or obligated to say something and make a situation better right away. We all been there. We are all afraid of pain.
One of the definitions of grief, is “deep sorrow”. And we are wired to feel it for a purpose. I compare grief to taking a shower. We take showers to clean up, ease aches and pains or simply relax from stress. Why are we so afraid of grief? Often, I’ve seen friends and family get stuck in chronic depression or funky moods after the loss of a loved one, or a job or even a dream that didn’t come true. Grief becomes part of their identity and sometimes it’s mistaken for a personality trait. But if you dig deeper, often, that person was not allowed or could not feel they had the right to grieve their losses at the time that it happened and find themselves years later still dealing with all sorts of mental health issues. Some of these issues even become physical health issues.
Recently, I lost my dad to Covid, and in the midst of that excruciating pain, I still felt the need to let everyone know I was ok, when in reality I was in a really dark place. I didn’t want to face those scary feelings, after all you only lose a father once, and I couldn’t figure out how to keep those awful foreign emotions from coming. But this incredible friend I have, drove two hours to be with me and my daughter on the day of his passing, and instead of telling me what to do, how to feel or that everything was going to be all right, she sat quietly next to me, and let me cry until I had no more tears. It was the shower I needed. No pressure to fake that I was strong, since in that moment I was just a little girl who lost her hero and protector forever. Let the tears come and fall down. Let your emotions flourish and be acknowledged and the pain accepted. Like when you have a virus, that you just have to let it run its course, and all you need is some hot tea and love.
Let’s allow ourselves and others to just feel the pain, the loss, the panic and sadness during difficult times. Comforting someone can be shown in so many ways and not pressuring ourselves or loved ones to rush through grief can be the very best ailment and gift you can give others and yourself.
Along with self-awareness it is also important that all of us practice self-love and self-care during stress and grief. Here are some ideas and routines that may help you stay focused and strong during these challenging times specially if you are a caregiver to your family or others.
- Journaling: Writing down your feelings on a journal can alleviate your heart from heavy emotions and help you track your progress. If you feel that after a while you are not improving, it’s time to look for professional help in your area or online. There are incredible resources for grieving. Links will be attached at the bottom .
- Memory Box: when you lose someone you love, you don’t lose the memories, you can keep them alive by making videos, or photo albums of all the moments you shared together. Collect memorabilia and personal items that remind you of your loved one. A ticket of a special trip you took together, a piece of jewelry or a book you both enjoyed.
- Spa Day: If this is an option for you, do it! a nice and relaxing massage can help your body relax and eliminate toxins that are released in our bloodstream when we experience sadness and stress increasing the levels of cortisol. A little “me time” is very important to give you a break and help you take a breath before going back to activities that before were just part of your routine, but now feel like overwhelming. Even doing dishes can be a tough chore during grieving. There are plenty of great Spa chains out there or even a charming and special neighborhood spa and nail salon.
- Alone Time: If you are like me, I prefer to be quiet when the pain comes, and I feel this overwhelming sadness. Because it gets hard to stay focused or interested in conversations, when I would rather watch tv, read, listen to music or simply sit quietly until I feel social again. During this time, it’s very important to not feel pressured to accept invitations to social gatherings or events that can send you in a panic mode and make you feel like you have to act normal or even smile when all you want to do is cry. This is about recovering, not pleasing others while you are weak and vulnerable.
- Travel: People grieve in so many different ways, and there is no such a thing as right or wrong. Some prefer to stay home and nest, while others take the first flight available to “as far as possible” location from the place they experienced loss. Traveling can actually help to change scenarios a bit and give your heart a break by seeing different places or cultures, eat different foods and try and have a little fun. And yes, it’s ok to have moments of fun even in the middle of bereavement. It’s called survival.
- Meditation: Mornings can be quite challenging for people suffering from depression due to the loss of a loved one. Starting your day with a clear mind and a light heart can help you face the tough day ahead and give you a calmer mindset. Find a quiet place to meditate or you can do while still lying on your bed. I use guided meditations on YouTube, and it has helped me tremendously by setting a positive tone for the day.
- Therapy: I understand this option is not everyone’s cup of tea, but it is still the most important one in my view. As a former counselor, I cannot imagine going through all the losses I went through in my life without that kind of support. A therapist can help you navigate the incredibly difficult myriad of emotions that come with loss in a non-judgmental way and point you in the right direction to recovery utilizing the right resources available. One day you feel normal and all of a sudden, you’re back down in the dumps. And your family may also be mourning and not professionally trained to give you medical advice. There are plenty of non-profits and private practices that can help.
- Cooking: For some reason, I find a lot of solitude in cooking. I prefer to cook alone and while I am gathering ingredients I am focused on task and excited about the outcome, especially if I’m cooking a new recipe. It’s also a great form of self-love since healthy foods are crucial to fight depression, anxiety and insomnia, all very common during stressful times. If you like cooking, this can be a great outlet for stress, whether you do it alone or gather a few people you love for fun night of homemade pizza and ice cream and a feelgood movie.
- Pray: In the best seller book and movie ” Eat, Love and Pray” by Melissa Gilbert, there is quote I love: “Do not apologize for crying. Without this emotion, we are only robots.”. Praying can give you strength, clarity and the freedom you deserve to mourn, feel sad and use this time to get closer to a higher spiritual power. Perhaps renew your faith and feel closer to the one you lost and our Creator.
- Plant a Tree: The thought of death, brings awful feelings of ending. The finality of it is quite disturbing for most of us. The idea that you will never see that person again is simply devastating. A friend of mine who lost her mother a few years ago, decided to plant a Jasmine Tree in her back yard, in honor of her mom who loved the smell of Jasmine flowers. When the missing of her mom would become unbearable, she would sit under the tree and chat with her mom as if she could still hear her. It gave her a sense of something palpable and real. Something tangible to remind her of the times she spent at a park with her mother when she was little.If this is an option for you, choose a tree or plant that may have a connection to your loved one.
- Donate: Donating your time or money to your loved one’s favorite nonprofit may give you that great feeling of continuity. Continuing one’s work or beliefs can keep us incredibly connected emotionally and happy that although they are gone, their passion for an idea or cause will live forever. Some families take it to the next level and create foundations in honor of their lost ones, leaving a trail of love and compassion, and legacy.
Remember the several stages of grief: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance, and don’t just go through them, GROW through them, understand how powerful you are and how crucial it is, to be kind to yourself and patient with your heart.
I leave you with love and gratitude.
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