Grieving after a big loss is hard work both physically and mentally. You feel it emotionally and you feel it in your body too. Sometimes it can feel like you are physically sick. It takes courage and patience to get through it. It often takes longer than you expect. But remember, things will get better. In the meantime, it is really important to acknowledge that your are suffering and show yourself kindness and compassion as you go through it.
I came across this really simple way to remember how to do this on a wonderful website devoted to grieving: What’s Your Grief? (I’ve adapted it slightly but its pretty much the same). You need to remember to BREATHE:
B – Be kind to yourself. You are suffering right now. It won’t feel like this forever, but while it does, be gentle with yourself. Don’t expect too much. Try to be as kind to yourself as you would be to a friend who was suffering. Find what works for you and make time to do it.
R – Respect your body. You feel grief in your body too. People often have trouble sleeping or eating, they may feel achy, tense and suffer other physical miseries. Do your best to eat well, even when you don’t feel like it. Drink plenty of water. Do your best to get enough (or at least some) sleep. Move around a little each day, get some exercise no matter how small. Try not to turn to alcohol, drugs, and bad food, the short term good feelings these might give you are quickly outweighed by the negatives.
E – Engage with others. This can be in small ways. Try not to isolate yourself. Go out for a walk or a local cafe. Reach out to a friend who you know you can talk to. Ring a helpline or see a counsellor if you need to. You don’t have to grieve on your own.
A – Acknowledge your emotions. Notice the way they ebb and flow like waves. Don’t run from them. Grief is more than just sadness. It is normal to feel lots of different emotions: angry, scared, guilty, lost, betrayed, confused, relieved, empty, numb, lonely. Your grief emotions will rise up sometimes, their intensity will increase, and then they will wash over you and drop away again. Accept that there will be good days and bad days, good hours and bad hours. It is ok to not be ok and it is also ok to feel good sometimes. Don’t feel guilty about the way you are feeling.
T – Take things slowly. It can take longer than you expect. Concentrate on one minute, one hour, one day at a time. The enormity of what it means to live life without your loved one can seem overwhelming. You don’t have to ‘get over it’. A big loss is something you try to get used to rather than get over. Coping with grief is something that happens little by little. Even when things are no longer as hard as they are in the early days, you can still be touched by it from time to time for the rest of your life.
H – Honour your loved one’s memory. Allow yourself space and time to remember them and to connect with them. There are so many different ways you could do this. For example: talking to other people about them, writing a journal, creating a box of memories, a photo album, planting a tree or garden for them, doing something you used to love to do together or visiting a place that was important to them.
E – Everyone grieves differently. You might have lots of ideas about what grief should look like or how you should cope. Don’t get too hung up on stages of grief or what other people say you should be going through right now. Remember, your grief is as unique as you are. Everyone grieves differently and at their own pace. So give yourself a break and accept how you are feeling and where you are at right now.
You will get through this.