It’s spring! At least here in the Southern Hemisphere. It got me thinking about grief and how we sometimes need to do a bit of a spring-clean with it. But of course it doesn’t have to be spring to clean out our grief – it can be done at any time of the year. Grief can get draining and exhausting. It makes us feel stuck in our ways, our lives and our days.
Grief is quite sneaky that way, too. It starts off slowly and we might stop going to a certain activity that we used to enjoy and tell ourselves a break from it will only be short-term and is for the best. Yet, three months later, we are still in the same place and lost something we used to enjoy along the way. Don’t beat yourself up over it if that happened to you. We have all been there. I loved doing yoga and it felt great going to my weekly classes. After my loss, bam! I couldn’t get myself to go anymore. Everything seemed too much and was just a drag. It took me a year to get back into it. This is why a bit of a clean out is important and can help you see the path ahead of you a bit clearer.
Read below four ways on how to combat the dreariness of grief and dust off some draining habits that may no longer work.
This can be done in two ways – a detox for your physical health and one for your mental health. Both are important and worth a shot.
After our losses, grief settles into our lives and everything slows down. That is true for our metabolism as well and overall health. We start to feel sluggish and those days filled with energy seem a distant memory. As we know by now, it will take time to get used to our life after loss. In the meantime, you can help yourself by making a few small changes to your health. When it comes to doing a bit of a detox, remember that it will work best when you make small changes. They might take a little time to show their effects but in the long-term they will prove very beneficial.
For your physical health, remember to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. Grief is draining on many levels and we often forget to look after ourselves in those mentioned small ways during the day. You can get fancy and try fruit infused water and make them yourself if you like. If that is not your cup of tea then that is fine. Tea will do the same trick!
“Help yourself by making
a few small changes to your health”
If you are like me and then to turn to food for comfort in stressful and sad times, then you will know what a double-edged sword that is. On the one hand, eating comfort food helps you feel good as you eat it and shortly after. But then guilt sets in, maybe even shame because we indulged on chocolate or potato chips. Don’t beat yourself up. It is part of your journey and feeling awful doesn’t change anything. Instead, this can be part of your grief clean out and detox! Next time, maybe eat an apple first before reaching for the chocolate. It might do wonders for you. But there is no sugar coating it (ha!) that this is a hard road to travel. We must try though and make a small change. An apple first and then chocolate and the time after that it might only be an apple. These things take time. As for myself, I am still learning and whenever I detox and do a spring-clean of my grief, the comfort food is on top of my list. We must try – over and over again.
For your mental health, a detox can be a bit challenging. When I talk about a clean up for your mental health, I mean that we need to look at negative and destructive thoughts we all have about the world and ourselves. They are so easy to have and maintain but hard to get rid off. Once again though, we need to make small changes that will last in the long-term.
So next time you think something negative about yourself such as blaming yourself for your loss or feeling angry that you have to go on without your loved one, stop and take a deep breath. Consciously remind yourself of a positive memory that you connect with your baby or loved one. Think about it. Let it sink in. Feel the love you have for your precious one. Acknowledge it. Savour it. Sometimes we have to force ourselves to see the love instead of the darkness. But I promise you, it will be worth it.
I am a big fan of decluttering when it comes to life in general. I am forever worried that I am piling up too many things that are not needed and just take up precious room. I always feel like I need room to breath in a house, for example. Cramming as much furniture into it as possible is therefore not high on my list when it comes to living arrangements.
I have been thinking about decluttering in terms of our grief as well. Over the years, it seemed liked I was dragging around emotions and perceptions that no longer serve me but I hang on to them nonetheless. That is where the decluttering comes in. We need to take a bit of an inventory of our grief and the emotions and situations it brings to us. Some of them have taken up too much of our time and space and we should take a step back. Unlike actual decluttering, we can’t just throw away emotions or ideas and be done with it. But that is ok. There are ways around that.
I think of decluttering my grief as a way of allowing new emotions in. As time went on, I got tired of carrying self blame around with me. So I am making the decision to put it in the back of my head. I don’t want to blame myself for the near future. Instead, I will take time to look back on my journey and appreciate how far I have come. I will take a moment to acknowledge my struggles, highs and lows.
“Take an inventory of your grief”
You can do the same. Maybe there is one particular emotion that creeps up on you. Have you ever taken the time to look at it closely, examine it and establish what it does to you? Is it dragging you down? Are you tired of it? If you answered these questions with yes then it is time to declutter.
As mentioned, we can’t throw away the emotion but we can take its power over you away. Turn away from it and focus on something positive. What are the latest positive emotions you have felt? And why? Go back to them and remember how they made you feel and the energy and outlook on life you had while feeling good, happy, accomplished or content. Recreate it and soak it all up. It will help to put that dragging and draining emotion on the backburner where it can stay for a while now. It has taken enough of your time and energy and you deserve to feel a bit lighter and cheery.
It’s a wondrous thing how we discover what we have carried in our hearts and souls for so long when we take a conscious moment to examine them. We might realise that we have been on a path to self destruction and have gotten so used to it, we haven’t even noticed. Grief is a powerful emotion and companion. It leads us onto paths we never thought we would walk and sometimes it quietly but surely weakens our ability to consciously choose to change directions. This is why it is so important to stop and take a closer look at our grief and clean it up where we can.
You might notice holes grief has punched into your life, see that certain bridges started burning and that joy and happiness have not been with you in quite some time. Such is the power of grief and it can be frightening.
Before you start to panic – breathe. It is ok. If this sounds like you then rest assured that you are not alone. Anyone who grieves deeply is bound to walk through deep valleys of darkness and emptiness. Don’t beat yourself up over it, please. It is part of the journey and learning to live let alone manage grief is a huge task!
“Such is the power of grief
and it can be frightening”
When I talk about damage control, I look at it on a few levels. To me, it means to stop and smell the flowers. Literally. Force yourself to see the beauty that is all around you, no matter how big or small. Take the time to focus on it and appreciate that you just saw a beautiful flower, a butterfly or ladybug. It might sound very silly to you but the concept behind it is simple.
By looking at something mundane as a flower, you tell your mind that it is time to back off for a bit. We now need something light and fluffy instead of wrecking ourselves with guilt, what ifs and a general feeling of drowning in negativity. That vicious circle of emotions and thoughts needs to chill out. Right now. Hence the flowers and the bugs. It will quieten your mind and soul and bring you some peace in the busy world of grief and life. Damage control also needs to be applied to our relationships. They will have suffered because of our loss and grief.
Part of that is normal and can’t be stopped nor should it. A loss as profound as yours will teach you some very, very important lessons that are also painful. You will lose people you thought were your friends. Family members you thought would be supportive will turn away from you. That sucks. Big time!! Grief is unfair to us and so is loss. They explode into our lives and blaze through it with sickening speed, leaving behind a trail of chaos. This is a tough reality to adjust to. Don’t waste time on those that turned on you. They are gone and good riddance to them.
The damage control I am talking about is with your true loved ones – your partner, real close friends and family. Those that suffer grieve and mourn with you. Let them know that you appreciate them being there for you and show them you love them. It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture or a long speech. Just something small so they know you still see them and love them for all that they do for you.
Don’t worry, you don’t have to bust a dance move if you don’t want to. This is more about choosing to get active and fight the sluggishness of grief with some exercise. The heavy emotions of grief take a toll on our ability to go out and do something fun. They make us feel guilty just thinking about fun or considering doing something we enjoy.
Again, we can’t just apply a powerful cleaning detergent and be done with those downers. Instead, we need to make a conscious choice to do things differently today. Today, we will go for a walk, enjoy the sunshine or go for a quick swim. We are entitled to a bit of a dance if you feel like it. It is FINE to do that. Your baby or loved one would want you to. Allow yourself to get moving and dive into this joyful activity you have thought of.
If exercise doesn’t tickle your fancy then that is fine. This step of cleaning out your grief is about making a CHOICE to change things up a bit. Maybe you have always wanted to try painting and saw a class advertised? Go for it! Maybe you wanted to join a club or enrol in a course to learn a new skill. Do it ! So often after our losses we start to think that we don’t deserve nice things anymore. This feeling can almost become permanent. If that is the case then it is definitely time to put an end to it.
You do deserve nice things and it is ok to do something positive for yourself. After all, life is more than tears and depression. It is smile, laughter and love, giddiness and giggles, too. Allow yourself to see and experience that side of life again.
You deserve it.