We all know loss is a fact of life, but the very personal experience of grief can be confusing and overwhelming. How do you know if you’re doing grief “right”? These feelings are entirely normal, and there isn’t a specific way to grieve - it’s highly individual. The best thing you can do is take care of yourself while grieving and honor the memory of your loved one through the process.
Give Yourself Permission
Whatever your feelings are - sadness, anger, frustration - give yourself permission to feel and express them. Grief is complex, and having a range of emotions is normal. Be kind to yourself by acknowledging that it’s perfectly okay to feel the way you do. Along the same lines, give yourself permission to do what’s best for you at the moment. At times, you may need to be alone. Whether you’re overwhelmed by the people surrounding you or simply need a break from the sadness, it’s ok to take a timeout for yourself.
At other times, you will need the support of others. Some friends may feel uncomfortable contacting you, but that doesn’t mean they don’t want you to reach out. Along with leaning on friends and family members, it’s also good to reach out beyond your immediate support system. Everyone experiences grief differently, and yet, there are commonalities that help us feel understood and connected. Joining a grief support group can help you make those connections. Many people also now choose online bereavement programs. Online support gives you resources that you can access from the comfort of home, anytime you need it.
Do Things That Are Positive
You should always give yourself permission to feel sad and cry, but it’s just as important to give yourself permission to feel better. This includes caring for your physical needs. Try your best to eat a balanced diet, drink plenty of water, get some rest and physical activity. Do things for your mental health too. Consider getting involved in an activity that distracts you or lifts your spirits. It’s also perfectly okay (and healthy even) to have fun and laugh. Many people are afraid that laughing is a discredit to the deceased, but it’s actually a caring way to honor their memory.
Do Things That Are Healing
Caring for yourself in a healthy way is not only good for you. It also shows respect for the person you’re grieving. Along with basic self-care, try some of these ideas that are healing for you and that also honor your loved one’s memory.
- Write: Putting your thoughts and feelings on paper is an excellent outlet for grief. The Mayo Clinic recommends writing a letter to the person you have lost. You can also write in a journal or create poetry. Whether you write just for yourself or to share with others, writing allows you to fully explore your emotions. It can also be a beautiful way to memorialize your loved one through meaningful words.
- Pay it Forward: A great way to work through your grief while honoring your loved one is to do an act of kindness in their memory. Pick something they had a passion for and organize a donation drive to support a related charity. Or if they have belongings left behind that you don’t know what to do with, donate them to an organization that can use them. Giving back is an activity that is healing for those who are grieving, and it also creates a legacy that honors your loved one.
- Create a Ritual: Many people worry that moving on with their lives means they’re letting the memory of their loved one go. A special way to keep your loved one’s memory alive while moving forward is to create a meaningful ritual to do around their birthday or holidays.
These little things may sound simple, but they are powerful. Loss hits you emotionally, physically, and spiritually, and self-care is important for coping. Taking these small actions will not only help you heal, but they will honor your loss and help you carve a path forward.
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