We have all experienced grief at one stage or another. Whether it’s the loss of a loved one or the loss of something meaningful, grief and loss follow us around wherever we go.
There is not a single part of our lives that grief does not touch. It makes sense then, that effective selfcare for grief needs to be holistic – physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual.
In this article, I am offering possible selfcare strategies from each of the abovementioned categories. As everyone does selfcare differently, I invite you to take what resonates.
It’s common to feel so demotivated after loss that people start to miss meals or avoid their usual movement-based practices. Physical selfcare is all about caring for our body, feeling grounded, and being present as we move through grief and loss.
If you or someone you know is resonating with this, here are a few insights that might help.
- You might find that you prefer a gentler form of movement rather than high intensity, or vice versa. It’s okay to physically slow down after loss. Your body will speak to you and offer insights if you listen. Some people benefit from working fewer days per week, taking time off, or changing their career altogether.
- You might have low energy some days and it’s good to have ways to recharge. Some people like listening to music or having rest days with a good book. Be compassionate with yourself and the expectations that you put on yourself during this time.
- Plants are a powerful metaphor for life and loss. They are a reminder that we can begin rebuild. As we nurture plants, we might turn that nurture towards ourselves as we move through grief. Planting and nurturing something or spending more time tending to the garden to signify a new beginning amidst the loss can be an incredibly grounding exercise for some people.
The first aspect most of us notice about ourselves and others experiencing grief is the emotional impact. It may come across as emotional overwhelm or change in mood. It can also appear as no change at all or what may look like “numbness” to external situations.
Your feelings as you move through your loss are valid. Our emotions don’t simply switch off after loss. Infact, they can intensify or go in the opposite direction. Here are some tips that may help.
- Watch your thoughts for links to why you are feeling the way you are feeling. It can be helpful to keep a diary of triggers, thoughts, feelings, and corresponding behaviours. This can highlight patterns that may be emerging since the loss. You can work through these with a counsellor or CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) practitioner.
- Share with people who you feel supported with. It’s a sad truth that everyone does not know what to say to someone who is grieving. Sometimes comments can come across as insensitive as people rush to fix our grief or help us move forward quickly. It’s helpful to know who you can go to talk to where you feel heard and validated.
- Learn to forgive yourself. As you move through your loss, you might find yourself letting go some of the memories. This can feel extremely daunting and cause significant guilt for some people. However, how can we possibly forget our loved one, anniversaries, or memories that we made? However, life continues to move on.
Experiencing foggy brain, fuzzy and fragmented recollection, and lack of focus are common occurrences after loss. Our mind can feel like a minefield of questions, confusions, and complex emotions.
There are ways that we can move through grief and loss without feeling paralyzed by our mental state. Try these insights and tips.
- Build a routine. Notice what time of day you feel most energized and maximise that for things that need to be prioritized. For example, if you are most energized during the morning, perhaps get chores done in the morning.
- Disbelief is natural. There are days when the loss feels unreal. How could our person leave us? How could that special event or situation slip out of our hands? Begin to accept that disbelief is temporary and embrace it as such. Eventually, it will fade as you come into acceptance, thought this can take time.
- Begin to say “no” to the things that affect your mental state. There are people and events that you may not wish to be around for many reasons after loss. This can bring about feelings of guilt around saying “no”, especially if you have been a “yes” person in the past. Remember that saying “no” is a form of boundary setting and boundaries are not intended to hurt anyone. They are intended to show people how you wish to be treated. Don’t be too hard on yourself as this is a learned behaviour that comes with time and practice.
Spirituality does not have to mean religion or your faith in God. Spirituality may have to do with your meaning of life, your sense of purpose, and your meaning of hope after loss.
Here are some tips and insights as you make new meaning of life in light of loss.
- Create rituals that help you commemorate your loss. Some people light candles, use photos, create art, or use movement to remember the loss. Whilst the situation may have ended or the person has left, they don’t have to be erased from your memories. You can find new meaning.
- Volunteer for causes that help you feel connected, closer, or give back. Some people find it helpful to invest their time in causes that mean something special to them in light of their loss. This can help people find satisfaction and connection with their loss.
- Join a community or support group. It can be very tempting to isolate ourselves in the aftermath of loss, but the truth is, healthy connections can help us feel supported as we move through our loss. Being around people who “get it” by way of having similar experiences as us or being able to empathize can make the journey a little bit easier.
As I finish this article, I hope that you are able to honour your grief in a way that feels right for you with holistic selfcare strategies.
As we learn to accept the existence of grief and loss, perhaps we can begin to acknowledge that in impacting our physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual health, grief has change our lives forever.Fouz Fatima
How has grief changed you and which selfcare strategies have helped you the most? I would love to know in the comments.
For more on grief or to work with me, reach out here.