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Today, I have the pleasure to share a guest blog with you from Jennifer Scott. Jennifer has experienced anxiety and depression since she was a teenager. With that, she shares stories about the ups and downs of her anxiety and depression at SpiritFinder.
Welcome, Jennifer. Thank you for sharing your wisdom with us all.
Overcoming the Loss of a Loved One: The importance of self-care amid your grief
Finding the strength to cope with the loss of someone you love is one of the greatest challenges life has to offer. The process takes time, and there’s no exact road map for which reactions or feelings you might have along the way. Everyone copes in their own unique way, and will need their own time to do so. You can, however, make the conscious effort to make self-care a priority during this particularly difficult time.
What is self-care? Exactly what it sounds like: making the conscious effort to take care of your own needs. It comes in many forms, but it can be anything from reading a chapter of your favorite book each night to getting regular exercise to meditating every morning. And during this incredibly stressful time in your life, it’s more important than ever to do those little things that keep you balanced and help you recharge. Make time for yourself every single day, even if it’s only for an hour, to do something that makes you happy and brings you solace.
Another important aspect of self-care in these circumstances is taking steps to help yourself grieve. Again, everyone handles death in their own way, so you might be feeling emotions like shock, guilt, depression, anger, disbelief—or maybe even all of the above. However you’re feeling, allow yourself the opportunity to work through it. It might be therapeutic to write down your thoughts in a journal. Or, you might try art therapy. Taking a class can provide a creative outlet to express yourself, giving you something exciting to look forward to as well as being an enjoyable new challenge. Don’t push your feelings aside, but give yourself a regular opportunity to address and deal with them.
Just as it’s important to find healthy ways to grieve, a crucial part of self-care is steering clear of dangerous coping mechanisms. As a general rule, avoid overindulgence. You’re going through enough without overloading yourself in one area, so don’t throw yourself into three major work projects as a distraction or load up on high-calorie snacks when you’re feeling low. You’ll also want to be extremely careful about your drug and alcohol habits while you’re grieving. Falling prey to an addiction can exacerbate your feelings of hopelessness and despair, not to mention create new problems. You don’t have to give up the glass of wine you have a couple nights a week, but be mindful of how often alcohol enters your regular routine and don’t be afraid to reach out for support if you need it.
Perhaps the most important part of self-care while you’re grieving is making sure you always have the support you need, whether it’s from your children, your friends, or your family. Many people benefit from seeking professional grief counseling or joining a local support group. It’s often helpful to have an unbiased listening ear to vent to, especially if other members of your family are grieving, as well. Support groups are especially helpful because you get to meet others who completely understand your pain and can offer advice on how they’ve coped. Additionally, service animals can help give you the unconditional love and support you need—and they’re always there.
Allow yourself as much time as you need to work through your emotions following your loved one’s passing. The road ahead is rocky, so be patient and kind to yourself. Maintain the everyday habits that give you peace and consistency, engage in healthy coping techniques, avoid dangerous behavior, and above all, ask for help if you need it.
Other helpful links:
Meditation - http://www.yogajournal.com/slideshow/everything-beginners-need-know-meditation/
Art Therapy - http://www.psychreg.org/can-benefit-art-therapy/
Grief - http://www.niu.edu/facdev/resources/crisis/whathelpsgrief.shtml
Support Group - http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/find-support-groups
Service Animals - https://www.caninejournal.com/psychiatric-service-dog/