For today’s post, I want to focus on How to Cope with Grief: Tips to Find Hope and Healing. Whenever I ask you to send questions my way, inevitably there are one or two questions about grief and how I’ve handled my loss. Questions about sadness; will I ever get over my grief; will life ever go back to normal; what helped me cope; traveling alone; what does life look like now?
I should say upfront: I’m not a grief counselor, therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist. Nothing I say here is intended to take the place of a trained professional. I only aim to share certain difficult aspects of my life and strategies I use to handle my grief after losing my husband to liver cancer.
At this stage of the game, I’m 64 and soon to celebrate my 65th birthday, It’s important to me to share not only fashion and style tips with you but snippets of my life and how we can age with grace, strength, and beauty.
Today Beth shares her experience and tips for coping with grief
A big slice of the pie when it comes to aging is dealing with loss because many of us at a certain age have lost a loved one. But grief isn’t always associatied with age or limited to death. It could be the loss of a job, maybe you’re recently divorced, you’ve been diagnosed with an illness, lost a home, relocated, or you’re grieving someone who is alive but has experienced a cognitive, physical or psychological challenge. Loss comes in many different forms and secondary losses aren’t necessarily recognized by friends or family. And it’s good to remember that there’s no single right or wrong way to experience and process grief. Grief isn’t predictable and it isn’t linear with a set timeline. Instead, it ebbs and flows and never entirely leaves, although it could sit silently at times.
Learning to cope with grief is an important step to hope and healing. It requires us to look at diffent emotions, or thoughts that come hand in hand with loss. While there’s no one strategy or single coping mechanism that will get you through we can put together a toolbox that allows us to process our grief. We can become a stronger person than we were before and in turn help others who are experiencing loss.
Four years ago, my husband lost his battle with cancer. That day, I lost my spouse, my best friend, my confidante, the father to our three children, and the love of my life. Mr. Style was all those things to me and so much more. You can never prepare for the death of a loved one even if they’ve been diagnosed with a terminal illness. One day, in the blink of an eye, your world changes. And you are forevermore changed.
Looking back, I know the first year was so damn hard. I was overwhelmed. Overwhelmed with grief but also overwhelmed with how to move forward without my husband and carve a new life. Instead of we, it was only me. Ugh! My biggest cheerleader and my helpmate was now gone. It was a challenge to run my household and business all alone.
When we’re faced with living alone after a loss it’s all too easy to hole up with a blanket, binge watch T.V. and eat Ben and Jerry’s ice cream (I love their cookie dough), and refuse all human contact. But that’s exactly what we shouldn’t do and we need to be vigilant about keeping social isolation in check.
That first year after losing Mr. Style, I was running behind on my household and my business. For a person who was always on time and organized, I found myself woefully late for everything, and my daytime routines were a mixed-up mish-mosh. I just couldn’t seem to catch up with anything.
Then I decided to take it one day at a time. It’s the small things in life that have the biggest impact.
Tip 1: Take it One Day at a Time
Putting structure in your life is key because grief affects our mind, body, and spirit. Structure helps us to weather the pain. Every morning, I wake up at the same time, make a cup of coffee, feed Oscar and Ollie, head off to Pilates, Peloton, or Orange Theory, answer emails, check in on social media, do photoshoots, water the plants. All of those simple tasks are important to create a balanced life. Even something as simple as taking out the garbage can be added to your list. I hadn’t tackled that task before I lost Mr. Style but now it’s on my to-do list.
Tip 2: Grief is Hard work
Grief is hard work, and it’s also painful. But allowing ourselves to feel the pain is how we heal. It’s sad but true that in the 21st century, we are socialized to avoid grief and loss or repress lingering feelings of sadness. Grief works beneath the surface. There are no milestones to tick off. On the outside, we might look perfectly fine. But on the inside, we’re changing and transforming and hopefully healing. If you have just suffered the loss of a loved one, give yourself grace and space to heal.
Tip 3: Lean on Friends and Family
Lean on your friends and family or find a good support group. Our mental health is key because it’s all too easy to slip down a slippery slope into depression or hopelessness. And we have to guard against being frozen in time. Many of us get stuck in a pattern of looking backward and can’t seem to move past the pain and suffering. You may even find yourself not wanting to go forward with life regardless of any hope for the future. Picking up the pieces of your life is hard. Grief isn’t about moving on, but it has everything to do with moving forward. If your sorrow becomes chronic and disabling, reach out for help.
So don’t try to tackle your grief alone. Take your friend up on their offer for a coffee. Answer that late-night phone call from your sister. Fly out to visit your daughter for New Year’s. Sometimes the sheer act of being forced to articulate our amorphous thoughts and feelings into words is therapy in and of itself. Or, maybe this year it’s time to take the plunge and seek out a therapist or grief support group.
The point is simple: reach out to the people that make up your life, and allow them to reach out to you. It takes energy to connect with others but it can boost your mood and your energy level.
Tip 4: Take Baby Steps with Moving Forward
I love this jar graphic that shows grief doesn’t shrink with time. What really happens when we move forward with our lives is that we grow around our grief. Take it slow with baby steps that will start rebuilding your life. It was an important realization for me that moving forward with my life doesn’t mean I’m moving on from Mr. Style. But I have accepted the fact that he won’t be walking through the front door again and it’s time to carve out a life of my own.
Tip 5: Love Your Space
After the first year, I decided to redecorate my bedroom. It was a bold move at the time, but it was a key step for me. The master bedroom went from a masculine Ralph Lauren-ish room to something decidedly feminine. Honestly, I loved the room before I had it painted and purchased new furniture. But the transformation was an important step for me as I now claimed the room as my own. It was symbolic of my life, and I absolutely love the space.
Tip 6: Travel
Going to a movie alone, a museum, a play, or a restaurant can be a big deal at first. But once you’re comfortable with those activities you’re just steps away from traveling on your own. Two years after losing Mr. Style, I took baby steps to travel independently. I head to the beach several times a year on my own and zipped down to Amelia Island, Mexico, and a lovely resort at Lake Oconee. I struggle with dining alone, but I’m improving with each trip and no longer think twice about eating at the bar or a table for one. And there’s always room service! Recently, I put together a video that shares travel trips when you’re traveling solo. Watch the Video.
Tip 7: Take Care of Yourself
I’ve also learned that I have to take care of myself and my physical health. Grief not only takes its toll on your emotions but your body as well. Yes, it takes effort to take care of myself by eating well, exercising, and trying to get a good night’s sleep. Think of it this way: by pursuing a healthful routine, you are actually arming and equipping yourself to take on the new challenges with which you are faced in your time of grief.
Take time to exercise, Exercise is calming for both mind and body. Go for a walk outside, do yoga, bike, run, or even clean the house. Whatever form of movement you enjoy, do that.
Get a good night's sleep, Your body needs an ample amount of rest to heal. Give yourself the sleep you need to allow your body and mind to recover.
Pay attention to a healthy diet. Your mind is experiencing trauma. Replenish your body and mind with nutritious foods and plenty of water so that you can heal properly. Eating a healthy balance of vitamins and minerals is an important part of managing grief and depressive symptoms. Avoiding empty carbohydrates, sugary foods and alcohol are also important factors in maintaining a healthy diet during periods of grief.
I've tried my best not to drown my sorrow by drinking excessively, eating compulsively, or becoming a workaholic.
Moderation is the name of the game, and keeping my life balanced with healthy choices.
Tip 8: Reconnect with Your Passions
Coping with grief is all about the small things in life, like going for a walk, going to your bookclub, or getting a manicure or pedicure. Maybe you love to bake or play the piano; whatever it is, reconnect with your passions, big or small, and make it a priority.
Tip 9: Laugh When You Can
Laughter is like medicine. It doeth good! Laughter is shown to release stress-reducing chemicals in our brains. Do not feel guilty for having times of happiness and laughter. It doesn’t mean you miss that person any less. So go ahead and read or watch something funny. Allow yourself to be happy. It may feel unnatural at first—like you are somehow betraying your loss or your loved one—but this is not true: Your loved one wants you to find joy again. Your brain needs this. You need this!
Tip 10: Celebrate Your Loved One
Just because they're gone doesn’t mean they're forgotten. The holidays are a perfect time to celebrate your loved one. By allowing yourself to remember, talk about and celebrate the life of your loved ones, you can honor them in important ways. You could share a special story of them at Thanksgiving, make a donation in their name or set the table with a spot reserved just for them. Even though they’re not physically with us they will always remain in our hearts.
Tip 11: Be Patient with Yourself
Do not compare your healing, your grief journey, or your timeline to someone else's. Grief is personal so be patient with yourself. It might be one step forward and two steps back. But don’t neglect to try to build more fun into your day. Grieving takes time. There is no shortcut around it. You have to go through it. It is a natural process we experience when we care deeply for someone who has died. Many, many times we’re too hard on ourselves and expect too much. We hold ourselves to a higher standard than we do others. That’s when impatience or criticism creeps in. So I’m sharing this advice: Offer yourself the love, kindness, compassion and patience that you would give to a friend.
It’s been four years since I joined the club no one wants to join – widowhood. But, I can honestly say I’m in a healthy, happy space, and place. Early on in this journey, it may feel impossible that you could ever make it to a place of joy and peace in your new life without your loved one. As I said, it takes time and effort, and a lot of hard work. One thing I know for certain is that Mr. Style will forever live on in my heart because he is one of the most important people in my life. Most days, when I think of him, it is with a joyful heart. Although I know all too well there will still be days when missing him seems almost unbearable.
To all of us who have suffered the loss of a loved one, move forward at your own pace, and don’t be afraid to feel the pain. Spend time with your grief but allow yourself to heal.
It is well with my soul. I hope you find some comfort and solace in my thoughts on how to Cope with Grief: Tips to Find Hope and Healing. xo