Edisto Beach, SC 2012
I have considered writing this for many months( about 9 months) now, but have felt very unqualified to do so. Unqualified as I feel I did not ' get through' grief very well. But , I thought that this could possibly help someone who has experienced a tragedy , a death of a loved one. This is a small guide, suggestion list, of what may help you or a friend who is struggling with deep, intense grief. I am not talking about losing a job, marriage, pet or friendship kind of grief. I am going to be talking about the most painful grief I have personally experienced, the loss of a child. I had lost my grandparents, who I adored, my mother at 65 suddenly and also tragically, many pets that I also loved dearly...but nothing, absolutely nothing came close to the pain of losing my youngest daughter, Sarah, at age 21 in July of 2010.
|Sarah to the right here.|
But with a sudden death, or even a imminent death from an illness, our bodies go in to grief-mode, and do not function very well. I could not talk, think, read, or communicate very well for the first 6 months or so. I fell physically apart, from head to toe, lots of expensive medical tests, stressful appointments, and not much sympathy from many in my family for the first year especially. Because everyone reacts to grief differently. I fell apart physically, emotionally, and spiritually. My husband handled everything much better, and within a few months he was handling his life pretty well, grieving inside still, but not in as bad a shape physically and emotionally as I was.
I think partially it was how close I was with Sarah, I had daily contact with her...my husband did not. So I believe that whoever is closest to the person who died( closest in daily or weekly contact), that person will suffer outwardly through physical ailments, depression, etc. more than others. Also if you are simultaneously going through atdifficult time, depression, divorce, menopause, cancer,illness, job worries, etc. then your time will be doubly hard. I did not garner lots of sympathy from my family( though my sister and my dad were both concerned about my well-being), I do believe I was annoying and aggravating to many. I had to learn how to make it through a day with my broken heart and physical symptoms of grief I was experiencing, MYSELF. I felt God was not there, common even with religious followers, but I also knew He was, so a sort of conflicted religious state.
Regardless, I felt alone with the horrible pain and confusion, and I had to learn to treat myself gently, and take baby steps to be able to function in my family and in the world. You also need to be very , very gentle with yourself if you are going through a similar situation, male or female, tough or not, BE GENTLE and KIND with yourself. Do not attempt to jump back into your old life as soon as you can.
Your old life is now gone, and you are left with stepping into a new one, without your loved one.
At the bottom of this list, I will tell you why you have to do this, why you need to do this. But first some advice, as I have walked in your shoes, and I do know your pain.
And hopefully, some of these basic , easy tips can help you too.
Basic Tips to Help w/ Grief
1. Make a list, every morning or evening, with only 3-5 ' things to do' to get you focused . To keep you living. No more than 3-5 items, like Make coffee, do 2 loads of laundry, go to post office, make bed, rake leaves, water flowers, vacuum house, etc. Cross off each item once you accomplish it. I did this for months, and it helped me very much. Remember only SIMPLE tasks for the first few( 3-4) months.
2. Drink lots of extra water, 6-8 glasses a day, a banana or apple every day, and make sure you eat even a small meal with more vegetables and fruits than you normally eat. Going through grief depletes our physical bodies terribly. Cut way back on excess sugar, caffeine, alcohol as they drain vitamins and nutrients from your body, and the stress is already depleting your physical reserves.
3. Go buy a good multi-vitamin, put it in your kitchen so you can see it everyday, and take it. I also bought some adrenal support and stress support capsules from my local health food store.
4. Walk daily, even if it is for 2 blocks, better is 30 mins., to help your body and mind relieve the pent-up stress inside. Get outside, in the sun, in your yard or a quiet park. Diffused sunshine made me physically feel better . 20 mins. or more a day. Do not sit inside all day and not go outdoors, your body needs fresh air and sunshine. Make yourself go sit on your back porch steps or chairs and look at your trees, feel the warmth of the sun, feel the breeze, listen to the birds.
Breathe fresh air.
5. Tend your garden or yard, simple tasks though, not complicated gardening right now. Just go out and water, watering helped me relax. Raking, or pulling a few weeds is also good. Don't work like a fiend for 3-4 hours in your yard though, just 30 mins. to an hour for awhile. Plant a small garden or flower pot in memory of your loved one. I have a small garden I named Sarah's garden in front of my larger one.
Above is part of Sarah's garden. I put in things she would have liked.
Go when you are calmer inside, and the pain is not so intense.
7. Be very careful with what you watch on Television or at the the movies for awhile ( for me forever). Many shows have accidents, heart attacks, murders, ghosts and more mayhem that hits too close to home if you have experienced a recent death in your life . Even many commercials have disturbing content for someone who is grieving. Monitor what goes in your eyes , stick with light comedies, or home improvement shows, or any shows that do not deal with death, such as Law & Order, Forensic Files, and similar shows. Guard your eyes.
|Antique hunting in a local antique mall|
8. Recall and find that ' thing-passion-hobby' in life that helps and distracts you and takes your mind off your pain. With some people that may be reading, drawing, gardening, sewing, woodworking, etc. Mine is antique hunting for my site that I sell on. It was(is) an escape and keeps my mind occupied for short periods of time off my pain. Gardening is another, but in the Deep South of the United States, it is brutal sub-tropical gardening , with high humidity and heat. And I was having many physical ailments cropping up, so I was not able to garden as much as I had. I have heard many experts tell someone who is grieving to go volunteer somewhere, to help someone else. I only did a few volunteer activities, I really was not up to being out in groups for quite some time. I think if you want to volunteer, then do something for only a few hours at the most, and then work up to longer times when you feel able. If you do not want to volunteer, then look around and help someone you run across or live with in small or big ways.
|Son at Edisto beach, SC|
9. If you do not have a pet , I would suggest getting one as they really do help keep you company, love you, are affectionate and are there for you when you come home. Yes they are work, and are expensive, but they truly help with your pain.
That leads me to the why you need to do these or other actions , and there are three important reasons. One is your family and friends still need you. Your attitude, your happiness AFFECTS their lives. My extreme unhappiness and grief was not helpful to anyone in my family for long periods of time. My grief was changing their lives, for the worse. My remaining children still needed a mother to celebrate life with. I know that my daughter's death, should not make my other children's lives not all that they should be. I had to learn to smile again, even laughing hurt my face as it had been many months that I had not truly laughed or smiled.
No. two is YOU. You and I are important in this world, if you do not have children or a family, you still have people you encounter everyday, and your attitude, demeanor, your words AFFECT their lives. You can make someone have a better day or a worse day. I have done both, and am working at trying to make someone have a better day.
Just a smile, just a hi how are you, just a wave... but doing these are hard to do when you are grieving( they were for me), but ever so slowly make yourself enter back into the world.
And number three,God still needs you.
I do not know how or why, but He has important tasks He still needs only you to do.
Your loved one who is now gone was a very important person to God, and so are you...please do not forget that fact.
Oh, and one last thing, make plans, make a day trip to a nearby town, a overnight stay, a mini-vacation plan or plans. You have to have something to look forward to, it can help with your pain and distract you back into living again.
I hope this helps someone, I wish I could hug you , I do care about your pain.