Writer, Teacher, Planner, Dreamer

Category: Grief

Self-Care and Grief

Losing someone you love is hard. It effects every part of you – physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Grief can feel different for each loss and sometimes it’s difficult to know that what you are experiencing is a result of grief. I have learned that it is important to do what you can to care for yourself after a loss. Some self-care activities are pretty common. Make sure you are eating well. Get enough sleep and exercising to care for your body. Today, I am going to share some other self-care tips that could perhaps benefit you.

Self-care are things that you have control over. They are deliberate things that you can do to care for yourself. That being said, my first tip is not to allow yourself to get stuck on something you have no control over. When my first husband passed, our last conversation was not a good one. I was upset with him and had let him know that I was angry. I allowed that one conversation to torment me for years. It cycled over and over in my mind and convinced me that my husband died thinking that I did not love him or care about him. I could not change that last conversation that we had, but I could control what thoughts I chose to play on repeat in my mind.

One way that you can keep your thoughts in check is by journaling. Writing your thoughts down can help get them out of your head and allow you to rationally process your feelings. Gratitude journaling is popular right now. Consider starting a gratitude journal specific to the person that you have lost. Write down things that you loved about that person and experiences that you had together for which you are thankful. Making a scrapbook can also help with this. Sorting through pictures and writing down memories about those photos can help you remember good times rather than dwelling on one specific instance.

Second, spend time doing something you enjoy or discover a new activity. There were many times after each of my husbands passed that all I wanted to do was lay on the couch and watch mindless tv or sleep. It’s okay to do that sometimes but be mindful that you aren’t sliding into depression (and if you are, get help!). One thing that I did was sign up to take an art class. Trust me —  I am not an artist! However, that two hour class once a week was extremely therapeutic. One added benefit, I didn’t know anyone in the class. None of them knew my story nor were they asking me how I was doing every week. Consider picking back up a hobby or activity that you enjoyed in the past. If you spent time as a caregiver before your loved one passed then it was likely rare that you had time to do those things. Check with your local library, churches, or parks and recreation departments. Most have activities open to the community and you may find a new hobby!

Third, surround yourself with life. When my first husband passed away, I was in that phase of life where all of my friends were having babies, so I did plenty of babysitting during that time. That was a very healing activity for me. There was something about a baby laying on my chest — feeling its heartbeat against mine and the warm breath against my cheek as I rocked him or her to sleep that seemed to make my heartache and fear disappear – even if for only a short period of time. In that moment I was reminded that not only does life go on, but that life is filled with good gifts. Kids may not be your thing. My mother-in-law has adopted three cats since my father-in-law passed. Life can also be found by spending time in nature or by volunteering your time to serve others.  

Finally, laughter really is good medicine and is great for self care. Prior to my second husband passing, my mom, uncle and I had made plans to go and watch an old movie at the Louisville Palace. My Michael passed away the week before, and my mom suggested that we didn’t have to go. I told her I was looking forward to it. We went to dinner and then to watch the old Alfred Hitchcock movie, Psycho. I had never seen the movie before. I know you are probably thinking, “where does laughter come in with a scary movie?” Sitting in the middle of that old theater dating back to the 1920’s, I was in a daze through most of the movie. During the big reveal at the end when they realize that Norman is dressing as his mother and killing everyone and the police officer shouts that he is a transvestite, I got so tickled that I seriously thought I was going to have to get up and leave the theater. That laughter was a healing moment for me. So my last tip is find things that make you laugh. Maybe its watching a comedy with your family or having lunch with that one friend with a great sense of humor. Whatever it is that makes you laugh, spend time doing those things.

These are just a few things that brought me health and healing during grief. Find the things that work for you and take the time to do them! And please share with me any self-self care things that help you in your grief.

Aftershocks

I was going to write about something else today, but I changed my mind.  That’s one of the great things about writing a blog.  You can write about whatever you want.

I am going to share something that I haven’t shared with many people.  For a long time, I blamed myself for my first husband’s death.  He got up before I did the morning that he died.  I was still sleepy, so I rolled back over and started to drift off.  I was in that state of half sleep and half awake.  You know the one where you are still aware of what is going on, but everything is a haze and its feels like there is a 50 pound concrete block on top of you making movement difficult.  I remember distinctly hearing a thump.  I figured my husband had dropped something and that he would call for me if he needed help.  When I woke up a little while later, I was greeted with an awkward feeling – I felt like I was alone.  But, how could that be?  I called for my husband, “James?”  Silence.  Had he gone out?  Surely he would not have went out without me.  He couldn’t drive and it was a cold December morning, so where would he have gone?  At that point, panic hit me.  My heart started racing and I was nauseous.  I called his name louder as I went into the computer room where I usually found him, but not this time.  As I rushed out of the room, I noticed him face down on the floor.  His body was heavy and lifeless.  After the paramedics arrived and assessed the situation, one of them said, “It’s too late.  there’s nothing we can do.”  I remember thinking that morning and for a long time after, if only I had gotten up to check on things when I heard that noise, maybe I could have saved him – maybe it wouldn’t have been too late.

It took me a long time and lots of therapy before I could get to the point to where I didn’t feel like his death was my fault.  I realized today though that just because I had dealt with this and it happened over 8 years ago, that I am still affected by this trauma.  My life is still rattled by this experience, just like earth is by aftershocks of an earthquake.  Wikipedia says this about aftershocks: “Aftershocks are dangerous because they are usually unpredictable, can be of a large magnitude, and can collapse buildings that are damaged from the main shock. Bigger earthquakes have more and larger aftershocks and the sequences can last for years or even longer especially when a large event occurs in a seismically quiet area.”

earthquake

Just this morning I was made aware of an aftershock.  My husband started coughing while eating his breakfast, and I immediately asked if he was okay.  He shook his head and started laughing.  When I asked why he was laughing, he said because I am always asking him if he is okay-even when the littlest of things happens.  As I thought about his comment, I realized that he is correct.  I do ask him that frequently. I concluded that this action is a direct result of my first husband’s death.  I don’t want the same thing to happen to him.  It is an aftershock.

“Aftershocks can collapse building that are damaged from the main shock.”  I think this is the main concern.  If I continue to let my thoughts and actions be consumed by fear of something happening, then it is going to damage me and quite possibly my current relationship.  It is going to be easy for me to fall back into thinking that what happened to James was my fault.  I will become obsessed with ensuring that my husband now is okay.  When in reality, I am not in control of what happens to him at all.   Only God knows and controls the future.  I need to trust Him with it.

So, how do we deal with these aftershocks?  The Red Cross advises to do the following after an earthquake:  “Each time you feel an aftershock, drop, cover and hold on.”  Just like a physical earthquake, we may not be able to stop the aftershocks of traumatic events.  But when we see them coming or find ourselves in the midst of them, its best to drop, cover and hold on.  Drop to your knees and pray.  Ask God to cover you.  Psalm 91:4 says, “He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.”  And finally, hold on.  Grasp on to the truth.  Cling tight to his promises.  One of our elders was praying for me at church about this awhile back and she said sometimes you need to say these things out loud. There is power when you give it a voice – proclaim it.  It may be scary the first few times, but over time it will get easier as you realize that these aftershocks don’t have to consume you.

 

photo credit: Quake damage to River Road via photopin (license)

Healing Music – Honeycomb Tombs

“Music speaks what cannot be expressed, soothes the mind and gives it a rest, heals the heart and makes it whole, flows from heaven to the soul.” -Author Unknown

I love this quote because it rings so true for me personally. As a writer, I am a lover of words. It is how I communicate best. However, music seems to speak to my heart in a way that words often cannot. It is like a healing salve that can cover and numb the sting and pain. So, occasionally I will share  songs that have helped me on my journey through grief. I am going to share one of them with you today.

A very sweet and dear friend shared this with about a year ago. The artist is Karla Adolphe and the album is Honeycomb Tombs. Something else really cool is that you can download it for FREE from her website. The album is “inspired by and devoted to the process of grief”. The entire album is great, but one song that has really spoken to me lately is called “Invisible Lines”. It poetically expresses what I so often feel. The lyrics are as follows:

Our misery started today but our roads did not go the same way
Yours to the left mine to the right
Our misery started today

Our hearts broke at the same time torn along invisible lines
Mine was still beating yours said goodnight
Our hearts broke at the same time

You are like the shoreline
Constant but fading at the same time
You are like the sky above
You cover me, cover me

Our wells are empty and dry poured out and measured for life
Yours from the inside mine from my eyes
Our wells are empty and dry
Printed by permission.  All Rights Reserved 2012 Smallgate Music

I won’t elaborate on the lyrics or how they have ministered to my heart. Our wounds may be different and need doctoring in different ways. So, I simply share them and will allow them to speak to you in a way that you may need.

A Better Response

Grief is a very individual experience. I know that there are stages of grief that people typically go through. The thing that I dislike is that it seems to wrap grief up in a nice package. You work though these stages and then you get to the end and you are done and everything is better. Anyone who has ever experienced grief knows this is not the case.

There are a couple of things that people say that make me cringe related to grief. First is when people say: “I know how you feel.” Really? Because I seriously doubt that you do. And when you tell me that you do, unless you have also lost two husbands before the age of 36, you have pretty much lost me. I don’t know what people feel when they have lost a parent. I cannot imagine what it is like to lose a spouse after being married for 50 years and raising kids together. As a result, I have tried to erase that phrase from my vocabulary. I can relate to some of their struggles. I have experienced some of the same emotions. But, I don’t know how they feel, and they don’t know how I feel. What is a better response? A simple: “I’m so sorry.”

The second thing that people say that bothers me is when they comment about how strong a person is when they have lost someone and they seem to be holding it all together. I recently read an article written by Sara McNutt titled The Other Side of Grief that addresses this. She states:

” Since we have begun our own grief journey, I have noticed this subtle mindset that so many have about grief. The more outwardly composed and collected we are, the more praised we are for “being strong” and being a light and example. An example of what? Not collapsing on the floor in gut-wrenching pain and weeping that leaves our eyes nearly swollen shut and our faces red and blotchy? No, we save that for the privacy of our bedrooms… People who experience such profound loss and grief are not any stronger than you are. We did not experience our loss because we possessed more strength than you, and you are not exempt from experiencing it yourself. People who experience such profound loss and grief go on living because they have to.”

We live in a society that tells us we have to move on. After losing someone, we don’t keep functioning because we are strong. We do it because we have to. There are still jobs that must be done, bills to pay, laundry that must be done, cars to be taken care of and all of those things that had to be done before. Except now we are trying to learn how to take care of all of those things alone. Instead of praising us for how strong we are, a better response is simply ask how you can help. Ask how you can pray–that will give insight into where we need help that we won’t ask for.

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén