What can you do that will help you during the grieving process?
Following a death, people cope with grief in different ways, and if there’s one thing people dealing with bereavement can agree with, it’s that grief certainly isn’t a linear process.
There will be days when you feel a lot better than you have for a while, and then the next day you may feel as though you’re struggling to make it through the hour.
You will face deep feelings of sorrow and sadness that seem complicated and difficult to navigate.
It’s never easy experiencing grief and it can often leave you feeling helpless to your ever-changing emotions.
To best handle your unique experience of grief, it’s important that you invest the time needed to slowly work through the emotional pain you’re enduring.
Focusing on your mental, physical, and emotional well-being and keeping these at the forefront of your self-care routine won’t magically make everything normal overnight, but it can go a long way towards helping make an impossible situation seem a little easier.
Below, we’ve outlined 8 things you can do to practice self-care while grieving, and we explain how it can make the day-to-day experiences of grief following the loss of a loved one more manageable.
8 Things You Can Do To Practice Self-Care During the Grieving Process
1. Keep Yourself Busy & Active
Our mood is easily affected by our energy levels, so if you feel overwhelmed, lethargic, or anxious, you could try doing something that will keep your body and mind both busy and active.
According to the NHS, regular bouts of exercise can boost your mood if you have depression and is particularly beneficial for those suffering with mild to moderate depression.
Whether it’s walking, running, hiking, yoga, riding a bicycle, hitting the gym, swimming, gardening, or any other activity alone or with a group, keeping yourself physically active is proven to positively impact your thoughts, mood, and emotions.
2. Make Sure You Get Plenty of Sleep
Most of us are aware of how groggy and unmotivated we feel when we are lacking rest.
A bad night’s sleep will never put us in a great mood, and it’ll certainly never leave us feeling at our best.
It cannot be underestimated just how much of an effect sleep has on the way we feel both physically and emotionally.
Failing to get enough regular sleep can even have profound consequences on our health.
If you often struggle to fall asleep, whether that’s always been the case or just since you’ve been grieving, take a moment to consider the things you do in the lead up to bedtime.
Avoid Eating & Drinking Immediately Before Bed
Are you eating or drinking within an hour of going to bed? If so, try to put this back an extra hour or so, and always avoid caffeine or sugar before trying to sleep.
Get A Bedtime Routine
Get a bedtime routine in place so that your body begins to relax in advance of you actually getting into bed.
This could involve cleansing and gently washing your face, listening to calming music, stretching, reading a chapter or two of a book etc.
Decrease Risk of Distractions
Your bedroom should be set up to help you get the best possible rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, so ensure there are minimal distractions and that the room is as dark as possible so that your risk of being awoken midway through the night is at a minimum.
That may mean fitting blackout curtains, wearing ear plugs and a sleeping mask, and making sure all devices are turned off, such as the TV, mobile phone, and laptop.
3. Talk to Your Loved Ones
Those who mean the most to you will be there for you as soon as you feel ready to open up and talk about your feelings.
Your friends and family will want to be there for you as you go through such a difficult time of grief.
No doubt they have been thinking about you, even if you’ve wanted to remain silent during the weeks following the death.
It is important that only you make the decision when the time is right for you to talk about things.
We are all different, so whereas one person may feel they would benefit from discussing their feelings and the life of the one they have lost very soon, another may prefer to wait several weeks or even months before confronting their feelings with another person.
It’s perfectly acceptable for you to take your time before jumping into the details of the grief you’re enduring with others.
Sometimes people may want to avoid talking to those in their life about their grief, and for those people there are support groups you can turn to instead.
Confiding in people who are going through the same journey as you or who are at a later stage of the grieving process can be extremely healthy and beneficial.
You can learn more about bereavement or contact grief support groups and counsellors who offer their services across South Wales at some of the below:
And below is a short video from the Counselling and Psychotherapy Central Awarding Body (CPCAB) where bereaved people discuss coming to terms with their loss:
4. Keep A Grief Journal
Keeping a journal may seem like a thing of the past, but it still very much has its place in helping with the grieving process.
In fact, keeping a grief journal to regularly write down the emotions you’re feeling can help boost immune function as well as eventually lifting your mood and well-being – quite the contrast to what most people would expect given the strong emotions that writing about your grief would likely trigger.
This is largely because keeping strong feelings boxed up inside without finding an outlet for them can increase blood pressure, heart rate, and muscle tension.
Putting your thoughts and feelings down on paper (or screen, if typing onto a laptop or iPad is easier), allows you to actively make sense of them.
You can use the journal to work your way through your emotions by being honest and authentic with yourself.
Even if you can’t immediately make sense of them, it’s recommended that you note them down so that you can later analyse the symptoms and triggers that were the likely cause of you being placed into that negative headspace.
According to psychologists, writing down feelings can help the brain regulate emotions and leave you feeling happier.
Your grief journal doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom, either.
If you’re looking for a way to brighten your mood, you could write down the things you’re most grateful for.
Think about family, friends, nature, and hobbies.
Emphasising on positive things can provide you with a better opportunity to control the factors that most affect your mood.
5. Visit Their Grave or Memorial
Purchasing a memorial is the most popular way to honour the life of a loved one, and also presents a physical place or monument that you can visit and spend time with.
For many people, a memorial not only commemorates the life of a loved one, but it also provides comfort and a way for people to truly celebrate and remember their legacy – something that is very important to many people and not so easily achieved elsewhere.
Whether it be one of the many bespoke headstones that can be installed on a grave, a cremation memorial at the burial site of their ashes, a memorial vase that you keep somewhere special, or any other form of memorial, once you feel ready, you can find peace by paying your respects somewhere physical any time you like.
It can give you a sense of power over your grief and an ability to keep their memory alive.
6. Read Books About Grief
When you are going through particularly difficult days of grief, why not spend some time reading a book dedicated to offering bereavement advice?
It’ll help you realise that you’re not alone in the sorrow you’re experiencing and that everything you face emotionally is perfectly normal and all part of the grieving process.
Books about grief can provide guidance and reasons for your painful emotions. It can bring some understanding and allow you to work through your feelings systematically while learning more about the journey of grief.
Even if a book about grief isn’t for you, why not pick up another book that grabs your attention instead?
Reading can be a great form of therapy as it can help you escape reality for a short while and connect your with other people’s stories.
7. Listen to Your Favourite Music or Podcasts
Listening to music provides another opportunity for us to escape reality while still remaining connected to our emotions.
We’ve all heard a song that has instantly changed our mood for the better, so this is the type of energy that we want to channel through music.
It could be sentimental music from the past that gives you the feel-good-factor, or maybe you have a love of finding new music so can invest your time in discovering new artists and genres.
If music fails to ignite your optimism, you could listen to podcasts instead.
No matter what topic takes your fancy, you’re sure to find a podcast that discusses something of interest.
There will be podcasts specifically about grief if you feel that may help, otherwise simply pop your earphones in and search for a topic that interests or excites you.
8. Take A Self-Care Trip
You might be someone who could benefit from some time away from your normal routine, especially if you’re always surrounded by things and places that remind you of someone who has passed.
While you’re working your way through bereavement, you could promise yourself that once or twice a month you’ll take yourself away from your normal day-to-day life and spend some time elsewhere.
This doesn’t have to mean you traveling to the other side of the world or even the other side of the country. It could simply mean driving or catching a train to another nearby city or town to soak up some new sights.
You could switch things up between coastal spots, urban or rural settings, spa days, camping, shopping trips with friends or family.
The ultimate goal of these short self-care trips is to ultimately escape your regular schedule, experience new things and take the time to do something for you.
This means you can connect with new experiences and lessen the prolonged periods of grief you’ve been dealing with on the daily while at home – if only for the regular brief day or two.