Your grief is as personal to you as your relationship was with your loved one. Everyone’s experience is unique and unfolds differently.
However, for those moments that have you wondering, “How am I going to be able to function after his? How will I survive?” I hope you remember to come to this list and can find something that eases your soul.
Please know that all things are not for all people. If you find something on this list that helps you — and I’ll be adding to it — please use it. If you try something and it doesn’t work, try something else. I’d also like to hear what works for you. When we share our experiences, we all learn and heal.
Art can be therapeutic when you don’t have the words to express how you feel. It can comfort, heal, and ease your grief. It can piece together the fragments of your life that have become broken, disorganized, or gone missing. So whether you already love art, have never attempted anything creative, or are somewhere in between, I recommend trying an artistic hobby as a coping method. To learn more about why art works for grief, check out Project Grief. They’re also offering a free course.
Writing a letter to your loved one can be a great way of dealing with loss. It gives all the words on your heart and mind a place to reside. In grief, we often have so much to say to the person who is no longer here. We give those thoughts a voice by writing them a letter.
Keep a journal. Writing down thoughts such as: what ’you’re feeling, what’s on your mind, what seems hard and murky, what today’s experience is like for you, or special times spent with your loved one can all offer healing. One of the best things to do during grief is acknowledging how you feel, and journaling offers room for this. It gives you a sacred space to say this has happened, this is where I am, and this is what it feels like.
Recommended book: Opening Up by Writing It Down: How Writing Improves Health and Eases Emotional Pain by James W. Pennebaker, PhD
Grief can add a ton of stress to the body, and movement helps relieve some of that buildup. Try taking a walk — even if it’s only around the block — or exercising at home or the gym. When you work out, your body releases endorphins that boost your mood and eases discomfort. Often, moving as little as 15 minutes can improve how you feel.
Only you can walk your grief journey, but you don’t have to do it alone. Being with those who understand grief, and are experiencing it in ways similar to you, will offer unique comfort. For more on this coping mechanism, read my article Why I Joined a Grief Support Group and You Should too.
A change of scenery can serve you well, but use caution with this one. The first time I was widowed, traveling helped tremendously. Experiencing new cultures, people, and places was inspiring and reminded me of how beautiful life can be. It helped me gain a bit of my independence back too.
However, the second time I was widowed, traveling was much harder. My second partner and I were heavy travelers, so going it alone didn’t help much. Again, each grief journey is different. Do what works best for you, and understand that this can change as you move through grief.
Meditation & Yoga
Yoga goes hand in hand with movement. It offers a meditative practice in which you can either reflect or choose to place everything aside for a moment. I’m not a yoga instructor or a psychologist, but I’ve taken many classes where the teacher told us that our emotions can be held tightly in our hips, heart and chest area, and neck. I’ve found that having movement in these areas, along with other stretches and chest openers, can ease the pain of grief.
I would not have survived my first loss without the help of my therapist. She was kind, validating, and gave me a sacred and safe place to express how I felt. While many go through their journey without ever seeing a therapist, having one is recommended and can be important, especially if you do not have support around you.
Lastly, remember to rest
Allowing yourself to rest in grief is essential. Your mind is undergoing a considerable amount of processing. This is tiring and can leave you mentally and physically exhausted. Be sure to take breaks throughout your day to rest. It’s OK to do nothing. You don’t have to conquer the world today, next week, or in six months. So, decide what resting and relaxing feels like to you. Create a ritual, get in your zone, and rest. Your mind, heart, and body deserve it.