The topic of grief always comes up around this time of the year for me. It’s the holidays approaching and the leaves falling, reminding me that everything has a season. When I wrote my workbook on GriefI talked a lot about how all-encompassing it can be. I also wrote about the different stages of grief and how I experienced them. I don’t really look at them as stages because that implies you go through one, into another, and another. But really – you feel them all in a tangle. But I wanted to break down the “traditional” stages and give you self-care for the 7 stages of grief. It’s not comprehensive but it will give you a good place to start!
The Grief Tangle:
I found this quote (forgive me but I couldn’t find the original source of the quote) “Grief is like a suitcase sitting at the bottom of your bed. Every day, you must carry it with you, without fail. Some days, it feels like it’s filled with rocks. Some days, it feels like it’s light as a feather. That’s how you get through this: when there are more days of feathers than rocks.”
I like that analogy because it shows that we carry all of those emotions with us. They pop out of the suitcase at different times. “I’m still here,” they say. Then they bury themselves back inside and we carry on.
Here are some self-care ideas for the 7 stages of grief.
Denial: I still like to fantasize that I’m a superhero and will one day figure out the super secret formula to going back and changing the past. And then I can stop it. Or delay it. Or say the things I wish I would have. It still hits me and it’s been a little over 5 years since I lost my mom. Here are some things that help cope with denial or disbelief.
Breathing Exercises: Breathe deep into those feelings. Feel them as much as possible and then slowly breathe them out. Looooong exhale. Practice deep, mindful breathing to reconnect with your body and reduce anxiety.
Journaling: Write down the thoughts. Even the ones that hurt. Set them down somewhere other than that lovely brain of yours. It deserves a break.
Nature Walks: Go outside. Look up at the sky. See the wild expansiveness of it and be reminded that you’re not alone. (Not in an extraterrestrial kind of way, but as there are so many other people in the world who experience these exact feelings and they’d probably give you the warmest, tightest hugs if they could.)
Self-Care for Anger
Anger at yourself, the world, time, the person you lost. There’s generally a whole lot of anger everywhere. Try your best not to hold it in and find healthy outlets for it.
Physical Activity: Move your body. Give the anger a way to move out of you.
Therapy or Support Groups: Talk to a therapist or join a grief support group. It helps so much to share those feelings with someone else, it really does.
Self-Talk: Remind yourself that 100% of what you’re feeling is normal and okay – even if you feel guilty for it.
Bargaining: As much as it sucks, this is the reality that you were dealt and the only path forward is finding a way to get through it as best we can and find some level of “okay-ness” on the other side. During this stage, you might try to make deals in your mind (like my time-traveling superhero fantasy).
Meditation: I think it’s okay to visualize what would happen if your bargaining came true, as long as you don’t get stuck there. Send your loved one love. Send yourself love. And then try to quiet your mind and find acceptance in the present.
Affirmations: Remind yourself that you are doing your best and you can get through this.
Self-Compassion: Be kind to yourself. It’s part of the journey.
Self-Care for Depression
There’s sadness and then there’s depression. Post-loss depression is real and it’s serious. Please reach out for professional help if your feelings of depression are telling you that things are too hard to get through. Please talk to someone and get support however you can.
And finally, acceptance.
I call it “okay-ness”. It doesn’t feel like a pit stop. It doesn’t feel like a long, happy, road. It’s just the acknowledgment that there’s a loss and it’s there, will always be there, and you’ll always have some type of FEELING when you think about it.
Sometimes that feeling will be happy. And sometimes it will be sad. Sometimes it will be so fond and loving and other times it will ache.
That’s what acceptance feels like for me.
Celebrate: Celebrate the good parts, the love, the positive impacts they had. Memorialize them and keep their memory alive. (And it’s also okay if your relationship doesn’t fit into happy times or good memories. Your grief is just as valid)
Lean on your support system: Don’t shy away from sharing memories. You’re allowed to. It’s good for you.
Tiny tips right? But I hope they’re able to make a difference to you.