Loss is a part of life. Sooner or later, we will all face the trauma of grieving someone we love. As much as we may understand this intellectually, there is nothing that can fully prepare you for the reality of mourning.
Grieving is both an inevitability and a process. It is neither linear nor predictable. There is no right or wrong way to grieve. Managing grief, however, means practicing extreme self-care. This article provides strategies for taking care of yourself properly while you’re grieving. It also discusses common, but potentially harmful, behaviors to avoid when you’re in mourning.
Feed Your Body and Spirit
When you’ve lost a loved one, probably the last thing on your mind is planning a nutritious meal or getting your daily exercise. However, nutrition and exercise are never more important than when you’re in the grieving process.
The loss of a loved one is the most stressful experience in life. Your body and your spirit need extra nurturing. So try to make it a point to eat nutritiously every day. Try to incorporate lots of healthy proteins and fats, as well as fruits and vegetables, to ensure you’re getting the micro- and macronutrients your body needs.
In addition to nourishing your body, you also need to feed your spirit. Gentle exercise, such as yoga or tai chi, can help calm your mind and soothe your spirit. Regular exercise will also get your blood flowing and your heart and lungs pumping, all of which will help you feel stronger, more motivated, and more energized.
Create a Healing Environment
When you’re grieving, you need a healing environment where you can be quiet and feel comforted. Focus on personalizing the space with items that make you feel peaceful and happy. Adorn the walls with favorite photographs. Fill your shelves with your most treasured mementos.
Choose soothing color schemes, such as warm earth tones, and select cozy furnishings and textures. In other words, design a space that is inviting, comforting, and restful.
Allow Yourself to Grieve
Denial is a natural and inevitable response to losing someone you love. It’s an essential coping mechanism, especially when the loss is new. However, if you get stuck in denial, if you find yourself trying to avoid your feelings of loss, you are likely only to exacerbate and prolong the worst of the pain.
Unfortunately, it can be difficult to recognize that you are in denial or that you’re engaging in avoidance behavior. You may think you’re simply keeping busy or trying to be productive at work, for example, when what you’re really doing is lapsing into a work addiction.
While this may seem to provide some temporary relief from your thoughts and your grief, eventually, you’re going to burn out and break down. Then not only will you be faced with the physical and mental repercussions of overwork, but you’ll also have to face the grief you’ve been consciously or unconsciously trying to avoid.
Rather than trying to deny your feelings or avoid the pain, it’s far healthier, far more healing to allow yourself to feel what you feel. Recognize that your pain will ebb and flow. It will strike when you don’t expect it, but moments of lightness, joy, and laughter will come when you don’t expect them as well. Both are okay. Both are good and necessary.
The important thing is not to deny or try to avoid whatever emotion may come, whenever it may come. It is all a part of your healing process and it is as unique as you and your relationship with your loved one.
When you’re mourning, often the last thing you feel like doing is socializing. You may feel resentful when you see the people around you moving on with their lives when you’re missing your dear one.
You may feel guilty for getting out into the world when your loved one no longer can. You may not feel like talking about your loss or, conversely, your loss may be all that you want to talk about — but perhaps you feel you can’t or shouldn’t. You may even feel discomfited by the sight of your friends’ discomfort in the presence of your pain.
But when you are hurting in this way is exactly the time you need your friends and family most. Rather than isolating, make a concerted effort to spend time with loved ones. If you don’t feel up to talking, then go to a movie or for a bike ride with someone you’re close to.
Above all, if you find yourself stuck and struggling, reach out for professional help. Seeking grief counseling may well be the best gift you can give yourself as you navigate the grieving process.
The loss of a loved one is something you never get over — but you can find healing and happiness again. An essential element of the grieving process is knowing how to practice self-care without lapsing into the harmful behaviors that may only worsen and prolong your grief.
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