Whenever you’re grief-stricken, the feeling can be unbearable. And one of the last things on your mind is taking the time out for a little self-care. There are different types of grief, and not all of them center around death and dying.
Grief comes at different times in your life, not only after suffering the death of a loved one but also when any other of life’s significant setbacks occur — separation, divorce, empty nest, or getting fired from a job.
Grief Can Strike at Anytime
The effects of grief can strike when least expected. Events in everyday life that you may consider as plain and not painful may take you by surprise and cause some grief. For example, the sale of your home, moving away to a different city, or even aging can cause you some form of grief.
Self-care and grief never seem to go hand-in-hand, but the reality is that without taking care of yourself and always taking care of others, successful grieving is nearly impossible. The following tips can help you learn how to practice self-care as you learn to cope with your grief.
1. Understand Your Grief
Knowing what grief is and how it affects you is one way of taking care of yourself. When you go through a journey of pain and sorrow following the death of a loved one, or any other type of grief, it will help you understand what to expect. There are books on grief that address almost every kind of loss. Look for those that address the issues that you’re going through to help you with your grief process.
The more you know about what you’re feeling, the easier it becomes to accept the grieving process. You’ll also find that you become less anxious and will worry less when you experience some of the more uncomfortable feelings associated with loss.
2. Get Proper Rest
Getting an adequate amount of sleep or rest is sometimes tricky when you’re grieving. It’s normal to lose sleep in the first few days following a death or other traumatic event. Fear and anxiety tend to overwhelm your thoughts, making it difficult to shut down at night when everyone else is sleeping.
Consider listening to relaxing music before bedtime, meditating, or drinking some tea for relaxation. You may even ask your doctor for some options they can prescribe to help you relax in the first few days following your loss.
It’s also possible to be getting too much sleep. Discuss this with your doctor if it’s happening to you. A sign of depression is when you find it difficult to get out of bed, sleep too much, or otherwise are unable to get your day started. Your doctor can also find a temporary remedy to get you through this stage in your grief.
3. Maintain a Healthy Diet
Proper diet and nutrition are also equally as crucial as getting adequate rest. Together, diet and nutrition help maintain a balance inside you so that you’re able to better function when things get stressful. Without eating the right foods in the right amounts, you may start to feel dizzy, lethargic, and unable to cope with your everyday routines.
Follow a diet and nutrition plan that is right for you based on your daily caloric needs, your activity levels, and what you know is the minimum amount of food to keep you functioning at near-normal levels. You don’t have to change the way you eat, just ensure that you are getting enough nutrients into your body to keep you going without falling ill.
Stress and grief tend to rob your body of the energy it needs to function correctly. Feeding it nourishing foods will help keep your mind and body right as you deal with your grief.
4. Meet a Friend for Lunch
Your support network, whether friends or family, is essential for you at a time like this. When you are grief-stricken, it helps to talk things through with others. Sharing your loss with a trusted friend over lunch will help relieve some of the built-up stress that occurs when you don’t let out your emotions.
Having a shoulder to cry on, or someone who’ll listen and give you some support helps you get through your grief sooner. It’s not only unhealthy to isolate yourself from others when you’re grieving but it can also lead to chronic depression in the long run.
Most people shy away from people who are in mourning because they don’t know what to say. Send a simple text message to your friend to say that you miss them and would love to meet for lunch.
Be specific on the time, date, and place to make it easier for them to say yes. A set date avoids the awkwardness of having to follow up with one another.
5. Take a Time Out
Self-care starts at home with simple things like running yourself a bath, surrounding yourself with candlelight, and relaxing music. Unplug from the rest of the world for a few minutes while you enjoy some alone time to recharge.
If you live in a house with others, let them know that you need some uninterrupted time for a few minutes to be alone with your thoughts. Don’t allow for any interruptions, as this will negate the effects of your time out. When there are young children present, ask a friend or neighbor to watch over them for a couple of hours so you can get some much-needed “me time” in.
6. Stop Apologizing
There’s no need to apologize for being overwhelmed, tired, or emotional when you’re grieving. All of these feelings and emotions are normal and will lessen over time. You don’t have to say yes to everything and everyone, and you don’t have to put on a brave front for others.
Accept that you’re grieving and that this is your reality for the next few weeks or months. Others around you will need to adjust their expectations of you for however long it takes for you to work through the initial stages of grief.
7. Write in a Journal
Journaling helps you get your thoughts together and make sense of your grief. A journal doesn’t have to be anything fancy or complicated. Any notebook will do. If you want to make it a particular part of your grief journey, go out and purchase a beautiful journal reflecting who you are or what you’re going through.
Things that you can put in your journal include:
- Your thoughts and feelings
- Triggering events
- How you dealt with your emotions
- Memories of your loved one
- Photos and mementos
8. Listen to Music
Music is healing to many who are grieving. You can listen to spiritual music when you need extra support, meditative music to help you relax, and upbeat music to give hope. Filling your home with music to elevate your mind and spirits will help ease your grief even temporarily.
If the mood strikes you, sip on a glass of wine or champagne and celebrate life for what it is now. If you’ve lost a loved one, honor the memory of when they were alive. If you’ve lost a job, a home, a best friend, celebrate having room for something new to come into your life.
9. Seek Counseling
You can expect things to get a bit overwhelming and difficult for you to deal with from time to time. At times like these, consider online therapy or counseling to help get you through the most challenging times in your grieving process.
Seeking and obtaining counseling are also part of self-care. Your mental and emotional well-being are an essential part of your healing process. Neglecting your grief and leaving it untreated may take longer for it to resolve.
10. Enjoy Nature
The sounds and smells of nature can also be very therapeutic to a grieving soul. Consider going outdoors for a few minutes each day to change pace from being cooped up indoors. Get at least ten minutes of sunshine each day to help elevate your mood.
You can do other things outdoors to enjoy nature, like going for a walk, hiking local trails, or simply sitting there and watching birds and people. You don’t need to engage in any conversations with anyone. Don’t feel the pressure of having to be social.
When you’re grieving and enjoying a few minutes outdoors, this is your time for healing. You should consider it a part of your therapy and set boundaries for who you’ll let in.
11. Buy Fresh Flowers
Buy yourself some fresh flowers now and then to remind you of the beauty of the world around you. Growing, buying, giving, receiving, or just admiring flowers trigger the feel-good brain receptors: dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin. They stimulate the senses and create a more serene environment in the middle of the emotional chaos surrounding your grief.
Flowers are one of the relaxation gifts you can give yourself. They are known to lift your mood and spirits by:
- Brightening up your room and your mood
- Having an uplifting effect on depression
- Chasing away anxieties
Self-care While Grieving
Taking care of your mind, body, and spirit is all possible even when you’re grieving a significant loss. You don’t have to have special permission to do something good for yourself in the middle of your grieving.
Self-care is essential as you grieve your loss so that you’re better able to face life’s challenges.
Post-planning tip: If you are the executor for a deceased loved one, handling their unfinished business can be a large part of your stress without a way to organize your process. We have a post-loss checklist that will help you ensure that your loved one's family, estate, and other affairs are taken care of.