Grieving is very hard. It taxes the entire person: body, mind, spirit, emotions. For that reason, it’s vital that every bereaved person appreciate and cultivate the fine art of self-compassion. Grief is not a time to be “tough” on yourself.
Here are 10 quick tips for practicing self-care:
- Be patient with yourself. This is the place to start. The death of a loved one is a major life challenge. You will heal but it is never as fast as one wishes. Be patient with yourself.
- Recognized your limitations. Grief can be exhausting. If you’re employed and have some vacation time, don’t hesitate to take a day off when you simply need to rest. Avoid doing things socially which you presently find stressful and unpleasant.
- Respond to your needs. If you need to talk, find a compassionate listener and talk. If you need to cry, allow the tears to flow freely and without any sense of shame. And, if you need to reminisce and remember, pull out old albums, letters, notes and look them over. A friend of mine who had a happy decades long marriage was widowed when her partner died suddenly. She told me that “one of the things which helped me greatly during the first six months was sitting in his—not my—recliner every evening when I watched television.”
- Give yourself a treat. While respecting your finances, consider paying for something that lifts your spirits. This could be a massage, a spa treatment, a facial make over, a membership to your local botanic garden, a place which you could visit regularly.
- Get physical. Movement is therapy. Exercise is healing. If you already have a gym membership, go there and work out. If you have a bike, get on it and go for a ride. If you enjoy walking, put on your walking shoes and head outside. And, if you just don’t feel like you have the energy to exercise, find a gentle yoga class or a tai chi group.
- Maintain a healthy diet. Two things often take place when one is grieving—a great decrease in appetite or a desire to eat sweet, salty “junk” foods. When it comes to diet, the wisest approach is to eat balanced, nutritious meals. As much as possible prepare your own meals using fresh and natural ingredients. Eat out only on special occasions.
- Turn to your friends. Do this not only for social company but for emotional support. Rabbi Earl Grollman, a noted grief authority and author, observers: “The common denominator of grief is loneliness. A special person—your loved one—can no longer share your life. You are bereft, alone. Talk to a friend. Share your feelings. Let the right people now that you need support and feedback. They cannot bring you comfort unless you allow them to enter your sorrow.”
- Laugh. If you can’t laugh a lot, try laughing at least a little. In her book, When Will I Stop Hurting, June C. Kolf writes: “Some people may think laugher has no place in grieving. Indeed, it does! Human beings can use laughter as a release from stress. The mind and body have limits to the anguish they can withstand. When facing the loss of a love done, laughter can remove the cork from the bottle and allow some of the pain to bubble out.”
- Practice compassion toward those who don’t understand grief. Some people just don’t know what to say or do when someone is grieving. As a result, they may say and do nothing or they may say something awkward, clumsy, uncomfortable and inappropriate. Avoid becoming upset with the individual as that only builds more stress inside yourself. Rather than feel angry and harsh about the person, allow compassion to surface, reminding yourself they are simply confused about ways of responding wisely.