Emotional emotions, we all get them from time to time. Personally I have had my fair share of grief losing four close family members in recent years. As I recover and come out of this bleak stage of my life, I would like to share ways to help others overcome grief.
Grief is a personal journey and one we will all experience in our life times. We will all lose our parents one day, or our loved ones, children, or close friends. Tragic things can and will happen. This is life. It can be amazing, beautiful, and challenging and difficult all at the same time.
My beloved parents died within two years of each other, and I also lost a sister, an aunty and a work colleague. There were a few other people dying around this time too, all compounding my grief and angst and confusion. I felt baffled and over consumed by all this emotion and death. I found this period of my life very hard to deal with, and felt there were limited resources or ways to help me deal with what I was going through. Grief is a unique experience, but one we will all go through at some point in time.
Over time I gradually felt better, recovering from the less frequent and overwhelming tsunamis of grief, tears, sadness and depression. Now that I am through the worse of it, I realise there are certain things that I did that could help other people deal with grief and sadness. So here goes; certainly not a comprehensive list, but hopefully a helpful one:
Ways to deal with grief:
~ Go to the beach. Swimming in the ocean, walking by the sea, smelling the sea salt in the air and admiring the glistening blue horizon, all made me feel better. At times I would still be crying as I walked along the coast, but regardless, I would always feel rejuvenated. Swimming in the sea felt cleansing; my heaviness would lift and the salt water would replenish me, enabling me to face my reality again.
~Travel. Some say we could be running away, but I think escaping the pressures of challenging situations at times can be necessary. Taking a break from your heavy and sad reality can make you feel better. I travelled extensively around Australia, New Zealand, Europe, Canada, Alaska, Iceland, plus more, and I loved all my new experiences. I took road trips, bus trips, sailing trips; I went hot air ballooning, snorkelling, hiking, biking, paragliding. I pushed out of my comfort zone and ticked off some major bucket list ideas. Trust me there is plenty more to tick!
Death is a good teacher, it has taught me we only have so much time; and it has instilled in me a sense of urgency to do all the wonderful things I can dream up!
~Avoid drinking and drugs. When my Dad died, I continued my usual social routines, but found my drinking was creeping up. I wasn’t working as much, and felt like I wanted to escape my reality; let’s face it, drinking is an easy and convenient way to do this. By the time my Mum died, I disliked who I had become and realised drinking alcohol was not helping me recover from all my loss at all. In fact it was making it harder, because not only was my reality shit, I also had a hangover. Not good. I knew something drastic had to change. The drinking had to stop. And I did stop; so far it has been nearly a year!
Life without alcohol is not for everyone, but if you are grieving, being alcohol-free certainly enables you to face your reality with a clear mind, head-ache and drama free. I feel that drinking is meant for celebratory fun times, not to serve as a way to commiserate and get depressed.
As for drugs, ‘drugs are bad’, say all good health Teachers! I have never been interested in drug taking or engaging in that level of escapism. I like my reality! I doubt that drugs will help with grieving in any way. I am talking about cocaine and ecstasy and escapism drugs, which really are all a huge distraction. Anyhow, whatever rocks your boat really, but in terms of overcoming grief, natural methods are best.
~Exercise and get outdoors. Exercise is an excellent way to boost endorphins and naturally feel better. The problem with grieving is its close association with depression and usually very little motivation. Try to push out and take a walk, light moderate exercise will boost your mood and provide a pleasant distraction.
Being outdoors always makes you feel better. Fresh air, green grass, trees, birds, nature, are all excellent natural feel good boosters. Perhaps pairing this with camping, photography, bird watching or any outdoor sport could be worth trying?
~Ask for help. As hard as it is to ask for help, it could really be beneficial to help push you through this challenging time in life. If anything ask for a hug. Hugs are the best and a totally under rated form of healing.
~Cry. Let it out. Cry when you can, when you feel it, just let it all out. I feel like I have shed a well of tears so far, and will no doubt in my lifetime cry heaps more! Crying can be very cleansing, therapeutic, and a good way to heal. At first when some one dies, we may not cry for a few weeks, and wonder why we are stone faced and dry eyed, perhaps it is shock? Then boom, those crocodile tears are uncontrollable! Cry as much as you want, it is healthy, natural and good for you.
~Take the pressure off. Reduce stress in your life as much as you can. Cut back on expenses, and reduce your work load as much as possible. Try and live minimally. I am lucky to have a flexible job where I can work intermittently, and I am good at saving. Aim to eliminate stress as much as you can, and focus on doing what makes you feel good.
~ Keep busy. There is a fine line between moping around the house listlessly and being over productive and strung out. This is a perfect time in history to be kind to yourself and pursue your passions. Discover the many hobbies you have forgotten about, or rediscover new ones. Go for activities that make you feel good, happy, content, calm and ideally ‘in flow’. This way you can find satisfaction in a positive way. I found writing and photography really helped me. It might be the saxophone, or knitting for you, or dog sledding. Do what you fancy, but the important thing is to make sure you love doing it!
~Know that it will pass. Emotions are strange. They can appear at the most inconvenient of times. On a walk, at a gym class, out at dinner, usually at completely random times. Even though it feels like the end of the world at the time, we have to reassure ourselves and know that ‘it too will pass’. Time is a magical healer of all wounds, and somehow we can overcome all difficulties and tragedies befallen on us.
We are a resilient bunch, us human beings. We are designed to forget pain, to grow, to heal, to overcome adversity and conquer challenges. We are designed to survive, and ideally thrive.
I have found death to be the biggest and best teacher in my life so far. It has taught me not to be complacent with the present moment, to make the most of reality and to aim to be as happy as can be. I hope some of my advice can help you overcome your sadness and grief. Please be kind to yourself and know that it will be all okay. My Mum used to say this all the time to me, and she was right, it will be okay.
Love Anita xx
P.S. One more final tip; surround yourself with lots of bright lovely colours. Colour will naturally boost your mood and make you feel better. What is your favourite colour?
P.P.S. What is your best tip for overcoming grief?