This week, my father-in-law passed away and our family members gathered in preparation for the services. In the days leading up to the funeral, we shared memories, meals, and helped with the preparations. However, the energy of grief was heavy and omnipresent, leaving us all feeling exhausted. The funeral rituals bring some relief, as does the sharing of the experience with friends and family. However, what is often discounted, or set aside as “selfish”, is our self care for grief.
Self care is essential for us in any case and an absolute requirement if we are to effectively cope with the loss of a loved one. It is especially important in the following weeks when we are expected to pick ourselves up and march on.
I have a pretty strict self care routine, but due to the upheavals in our days, I could not always adhere to it. What I found, however, is that when I kept certain basic activities in place, I was able to maintain my energy and be fully present for those who needed me.
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Self Care For Grief Tip #1: Clear Your Schedule
When a large life event is occurring, it’s important to be able to be present. For this we need to clear our schedule and make space for what’s about to unfold. I’ve experienced several tragic losses in my life and always cleared my schedule for them. This time around, I somehow underestimated the impact the funeral would have on my life.
My father-in-law had been dealing with Alzheimer’s for many years and we had said goodbye in many stages. I, therefore, thought it would be a brief service and then back to regular life. I even kept most of my work appointments on the calendar. However, it turned out to be a much larger event than I anticipated, as more and more family members came to town, and the gatherings grew.
This forced me to weave in and out between my grieving family and business acquaintances that had no idea of what else was happening in my life. By the evening of the funeral, I had a migraine and sorely regretted my decision of continuing to work.
Self Care For Grief Tip #2: Start Your Day By Turning Inward
I generally start my day with a meditation practice. During these days of upheaval, it became increasingly important to keep this part of my routine intact. It was freeing not to think, and to just sit and breathe. Accessing a place of quiet felt even more wonderful during those challenging days. For those few moments I felt no need to be strong for anyone else and was able to let my tears flow freely and the grief to come to the surface.
A large variety of meditation apps exist today. The beauty of them is, that you can listen to them anywhere, without disturbing those around you. In the early mornings, while our house was filled with sleeping guests, I was able to put on my headphones and do my meditation without waking up anyone in the house.
Self Care For Grief Tip #3: Rest More Than Usual
Grief drains our energy. As a result, there were people napping throughout the days at our home. Rather than fight the urge, I allowed myself several power naps a day. None of my guests were offended when I said I needed a break and closed my bedroom door for a few minutes. If anything, it gave the others permission to rest as well, which most gladly did.
At night, I generally go to bed around 9 pm. And while I had visitors from different time zones who were still wide awake at that hour, I excused myself and kept up my rhythm. This allowed me to get up in the morning and support everyone with renewed energy.
Self Care For Grief Tip #4: Keep Up A Healthy Routine As Much As Possible
When we are facing days with many unaccustomed variables, the only meal we may be able to control is our breakfast. Stick to the healthiest choice at your disposal, as the rest of the day may only bring comfort foods. Self care for grief requires only that we do the best we can. So don’t beat yourself up, if your food choices slip for a few days. Simply eat the best choices available. You can go back to a more balanced routine when you or your guests return home.
Self care for grief also includes carving some time out to take a walk, a yoga class or a gym visit. Engaging in physical activity will feel especially restorative. Don’t force yourself through a high-impact class, but engage in something gentle that will feel rejuvenating.
Self Care For Grief Tip #5: Be Gentle With Yourself For The Time To Come
When you clear your schedule, add some time to the back end as well. Allow yourself a day at home to regroup. Spend some time in silence, journal or go for a walk. Light a candle. Allow the passing of your loved one to sink in. Chances are you are still very raw from the event and simply need space to grieve openly. Self care for grief means allowing ourselves this additional time.
Grief manifests in ebbs and flows. We feel it for a while and then feel some relief. However, sometimes quite unexpectedly, it comes right back and lingers for a while, until we feel renewed relief. This cycle repeats itself for some time. In time, with attention to self care for grief, the spaces of relief grow bigger and the moments of sadness become shorter.
How many times this cycle will repeat is different for everyone. I have experienced moments of deep grief several years after a loved one has passed. So know, that mourning takes time and to be gentle with your self when it shows up again.
Self care for grief can include many things; from an effort of maintaining healthful routines to allowing yourself rest or a few days off work. Grieving cannot be hurried and if we try to muscle our way through it, it simply will show up at the most inopportune times. So inviting it into your life is the best way for it to eventually move on.
To remind yourself of these steps, download my Self Care For Grief Checklist, by clicking on the image below.