During the first year and beyond, I always did best when people around me asked how I was doing or offered a pleasant memory. In this way, they acknowledged the loss and I felt less alone, less isolated. Here are some personal tips that to continue to help me:
- Grief has no timetable. The idea that one year is enough to grieve is a big myth. In my case, some of the hardest days and months came after the first year – well into the second year and even as I approach the third anniversary. Accepting that my grief will unfold it’s own unique way has helped me be more patient and compassionate with myself as I try to start over.
- Have a short list of people to call upon and who will hear you out and offer support is invaluable. Also, a relationship with a grief counselor or therapist can literally change the way you move through the world. Together this team can become the grief allies who see us through the tough times.
- Gently finding the way back to the future I learned to space to explore some of the things my husband and I once enjoyed together, but I had to do them in a new way. It didn’t happen all at once. I took baby steps. Sometimes, I enlisted a friend. Other times, I knew I had to venture out alone. Each time, I felt a little stronger because I knew I was honoring my past while gently making steps toward a future.
- Choosing moments to step away from grief, knowing it would still be there. Encouraging myself to do something enjoyable that is just for me. Moments of beautiful distraction can elevate the spirit.
- Planning for a future uncertain. When in deep grief, time is elusive even agonizing for the ways it reminds us what has been lost. In my early grief, the idea of “the future” pained me because I couldn’t imagine having to spend months, years, even decades without my husband. The future seemed a scary and long road of painful grief. So I had to learn to approach time in small increments. I still do. However, now it is easier to plan for a trip months in the future. And planning for something months into future now gives me something to look forward to. It allows me joy and optimism.
- Nurturing your grieving body Whether loss after illness or sudden, traumatic loss, the aftermath can leave our grieving bodies in distress. Studies have shown the physiological effects of grief on the body. Therefore, nurturing our physical well-being is important. Personally, I try to allow for a rotation of massage, acupuncture, walks, yoga or exercise. I confess that I don’t do any of them as often as I would like, but I’m trying.
- Tending to the creative spirit through writing, creativity and the arts.
- Let it go. Letting my grief come and go where it needs to and allowing for the full spectrum of feelings to find me, has been my personal saving grace. At this point in the journey, I have learned that the sad feelings will find me, but so will other feelings. Even joy. One does not negate the other. Allowing for both is how I am learning to live life as fully as I can.