Grief is the natural response to losing someone or something that is important to you. Emotions such as sadness or loneliness may be experienced when a loved one has passed away, a relationship has ended, or a beloved pet has died. Life changes such as retirement, graduation, children moving away, job loss, chronic illness, or moving to a new home may also lead to grief.
Everyone grieves differently. There is no 'normal' amount of time to grieve. With time, the sadness eases. You'll be able to feel happiness and joy again - along with grief.
Some tips for surviving early grief:
1. Safety first. At a time when we are burdened with emotion and very distracted, be aware of your safety and the safety of others. Driving and crying, for example, can be too much in the early stages of grief.
2. Drink. Drink water. Crying is dehydrating.
3. Move. This is the most reliable way to induce calm. Yoga, run, walk - even to the end of the block.
4. Get Outside. Being outside in a non-human world is relief - the trees will not ask you, "How are you 'really'?", and the wind does not care if you cry.
5. Tend to something. Water plants, brush an animal, bake- thinking of others, giving love, or getting out of your own thoughts for a while helps. Reconnect with a hobby/interest.
6. Read. The right words will put you in a better place. Books about grief may be helpful.
7. Shower. Tedious tasks of hygiene often make you feel the tiniest bit better.
8. Eat. Some people eat under stress; others lose all desire or interest in food. Do what you can. Regular appointments with your Family Physician early on will allow him/her to intervene if you are in danger from your "grief diet". Small doses of healthy, nutrient-dense foods are more easily tolerated by your mind and body than full-on meals.
9. Say no, Say yes. Say "no" to people, places and events that may be big drains to your energy. It will mean leaving a place you thought you could be, right in the middle of everything. This also means saying "yes" to things that could replenish your energy by bringing a small amount of light or love into your hour, day, or week. Try out that new meditation group, explore the group for new widows, or meet old friends for coffee.
10. Sleep. Going too long with minimal sleep leads to other conditions. Talk to your Family Physician if you are unable to fall sleep, stay asleep, or are sleeping too much.
Adding to this list or creating a new one of your own might give you just the tiniest road-map to navigate a wholly disoriented time.
If you have trouble keeping up with your normal routine like cleaning the house or going to work, experience feelings of depression, a prolonged inability to sleep, thoughts that life is not worth living, if you are engaging in self harming or are unable to stop blaming yourself, you may need professional help. Talk to your Family Physician or Mental Health Professional.
Submitted by Keri Humphries, Behavioural Health Consultant at HealthWORX Clinic
American Psychological Association
European Archives of Psychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience
Megan Devine, Clinical Psychotherapist