Let’s chunk the journey of loss into 3 parts- survive, heal and grow. It’s easier for my head to wrap around it that way. Grief is really complex, so we are going to simplify it, if possible! There are so many things that make a difference in this journey- your history, personality, how your loved one passed away if you have children living at home, and if/how you let yourself grieve.
Grief is a healing process that brings us comfort in pain. There are many stages of grief/loss and this is HUGE- there is no right or wrong way to grieve! And there is no €œtypical€ loss! Choose for yourself what is best for YOU in YOUR situation. Don’t let anyone tell you differently. It seems that happens a lot- people giving you advice- and it is usually from someone who has never had a close loved one die. To tell you the honest truth- they have absolutely no idea what it is like. I have been through it and I have no idea what it is like for you. I know some basics but remember EVERYONE GRIEVES DIFFERENTLY.
The first thing that happens in this journey is you have to figure out how to survive. There are some deep things within each item, but we are simplifying this sweetheart! All you have to do is this:
5 basic needs to survive:
1. Air ( pretty basic, but if you learn how to breathe deeply and slowly it does help)
2. Water. Drink it. All you need to remember is your body will do better if you drink in ounces half your body weight. So if you weigh 150 pounds, drink 75 ounces of water. Find a water bottle that has about 24 oz and drink 3 a day. Or if it’s easier. drink 1/2 gallon (64oz) a day. Just do it.
3. Food. Eat something! You can go for about 10 days without food. But who knows what you’ll be doing those 10 days without your brain working well! I had a very hard time eating. But I was looking like a skeleton- not healthy- so I had a nutrition shake in the morning, lunch was leftovers from what people had brought to me for dinner the night before and dinner was what anyone brought over or leftovers. I know some people don’t stop eating. It is interesting to watch what your body and mind do when going through trauma. Observe that. And then try to fix it!
4. Shelter from cold and heat. Hopefully, we all have this one down in some way to have shelter over our heads.
5. Sleep. Ok yes, this is extremely difficult after a loved one passes away. There are good reasons for this. I did not want to fall asleep because I didn’t want to wake up with that same old thud in my heart when I realized that he really wasn’t there. I didn’t want to have bad dreams. I didn’t want to go to bed alone. But at the same time all I wanted to do was sleep- let this pass while I’m OUT! We all know the importance of sleep, so try to do it or talk to a professional and get some help.
For the first few months concentrate on these 5 things for you and your children if you have any. Don’t put any other pressure on yourself if at all possible. Ok, we got surviving down! Remember you may come back to this at any time you need to. These stages or this process isn’t done perfectly in a straight line, you can’t cross one off and go to the next, and you may go back and forth a lot! Knowing the possible stages makes us better equipped to cope with the loss.
Healing is finding a way to heal over these large gaping wounds. It takes years for your heart to heal and the scars may last a lifetime. There are certain tools you can use to heal.
1. Read. I have read hundreds of books. This has helped me so much but I couldn’t read a paragraph and remember it to save my life for the first four years after Jay died. My head was not in a place yet to do this.
2. Work out. This helped me get physically strong which helped me get inwardly strong. Yoga helped me the most. Oh no, I forgot- kickboxing was awesome on angry days. Find your way of getting exercise. It helps in so many ways inside your body, too like releasing feel-good hormones. And so much more. Try to do just 10 minutes a day. Anything will help. I promise on this one. Tony Robbins taught me if I need to change my state of mind, I needed to change my physical state. Try turning on some music and dancing to it- see, it works! When you are feeling sad, go walk around. He says, to say with each breath, “I love my life”. If you say it enough over and over you will love your life.
3. Grieve. Let yourself feel whatever emotion comes up. I like to step back and observe what I’m feeling and let it be. The farther along I got, the more I could do this and ask myself, “WHY am I feeling this?” and then ask why again until I got to the bottom true answer and then I could better deal with it. The pain of loss will not go away faster if you ignore it. Believe me, I tried it. Don’t put a time limit on your grief- for some weird reason, there is a “YEAR” time limit out there that everything should be just great after a year. Nope. I’m sorry but that is not happening. stages are responses to feelings that can last minutes or hours or years. You will grieve in different ways for the rest of your life. Some people say, “Time Heals”, but what really happens is over time we figure out how to deal with this better.
4. Find support. I only have two or three widows that I am friends with within my city, so I have found groups on social media that have helped me a lot. The most profound thing is knowing that I am not alone. Find someone to talk to. I married a widower and that has been simply amazing and I feel supported every day.
5. Take care of yourself. Realize you may not whip back into shape quickly. That means your brain, your body, your moods, your spirituality, and your identity. Treat yourself as if you are your mom or nurse taking care of you. Do things you love- find hobbies or activities that bring you joy. Laugh as often as possible. sit and watch a funny movie if you can’t find anything to laugh about!
GROW is finding meaning in what we have learned. We are growing from this experience and are moving forward. It is also finding your identity. We go on as the changed person who is better in many ways. Now you can help others and show how strong you really have become. You will be full of comfort and light to those around you. Yes, you may go back to some of the grief stages, but you are more fully equipped to handle the change now and keep moving forward. Remain teachable and things will work out for you!
You have now survived, healed, grown, and are ready to thrive!