Coping with Loss & Grief
Be Kind to Yourself
Module 3 page 4
children, marriages, and flower gardens
reflect the kind of care they get.
— H. Jackson Brown, Jr.
When we suffer the experience of great loss we often lose our sense of self-worth and find ourselves saying, "what's the use of going on." Because of this sense of worthlessness, it is very common to fail to take care of ourselves.
Grieving people often allow themselves slip far below their normal personal standards. They eat poorly, neglect their dress and grooming habits. It is not uncommon for total immobilisation to take place. They become almost house-bound and lose interest in newspapers, books, magazines and other regular interests.
For many, TV becomes a trap - an escape which is meaningless - a pathway to increased loneliness.
A personal liabilities and assets inventory can be a helpful exercise
Take a sheet of paper and divide the page with a line down the centre. Place a heading called Assets on one side and Liabilities on the other. (We are talking here of personal traits rather than material assets and liabilities) We all have these traits, whether we suffer from grief or not. Don't be afraid to pat yourself on the back when you record your assets and be honest about your liabilities. Find a friend whom you trust and share your assets and liabilities with him or her.
Now, on a separate sheet of paper, list only your assets. Place after each asset suggestions on how you can use your assets to benefit yourself and others. Make a separate sheet for your liabilities and and suggest ways in which you can improve upon, or eliminate, each one of them.
In the Gospel of Luke there is a story that illustrates how God values each one of us regardless of how very disappointed we are with our failures and feelings of worthless. Every grieving person needs to understand this. (read the story)
These practical exercises will help you to take steps toward the realisation that you still have the potential for loving others and living creatively after all. While you can no longer receive any response to your love from the one whom you have lost, you have not lost the potential to love. Love is from God.
The source of love has not dried up
You still have within you the potential to live creatively, and although the person who shared in much of your creativity is now gone, nevertheless you still have the capacity to love fully and that love and creativity is there waiting to be shared with others.
Life is a gift that cannot tolerate being kept in a box
You still have life and it must be shared for the benefit of others if it is to survive and thrive.
If you want to hurt yourself more than you hurt now through your loss, then decide to withdraw from others and live in the past for the rest of your life. Healing only comes when you reach out and use the most beautiful commodity you have - your God-given life.
Be kind to yourself by moving out into life
Move out a step at a time. Don't move too fast at first. If every little action requires force on your part to do it and you become extremely exhausted, then this can be a sign that you are trying to move out of the grief cycle too fast or prematurely. For women, simple things like baking a cake instead of buying one , or for men, attending to a needy household or farm repair, are often 'first steps.'
Do yourself a favour by having a compete medical examination
With your doctor's guidance, maintain a regular exercise programme. It is absolutely essential to keep active. Grieving creates tension which in turn tightens the muscles of your body and in particular the chest muscles.
Repeated sighing is a common to grieving people
This muscle tightening can be eliminated by proper exercise. Nothing beats walking. Brisk walking followed by leisurely strolling is a marvellous remedy for the stress.
There are no greater stresses to the human system than death or divorce.
To add other major life changes to either of these major changes is asking for real trouble. Changes during the first year or so, if posible, should be avoided. Keeping all the other areas in your life as stable as possible will make it much easier for you to handle the major loss of a loved one through death or divorce.
Be cautious of suggestions to make sudden changes
Beware of advise from friends and family who may try to persuade you to sell your house or farm, change your job, move away or have someone come and live with you or take a world trip etc. If the circumstances are such that any of these are absolutely necessary, then you have no option. However, in most cases this is not so and it is wise for you to wait until you have resolved your grief before you make further major life changes.
As with a car cooling system, a sound coping ability can be called our cool operating range. Below that range we freeze-up, and above it we boil over. This cool operating range can be restricted by our lifestyle.
Grief can easily affect our 'cool range'
We must be aware, and on guard, against other conditions that further narrow the range. Consider the following:-
However, there are positive steps that can be taken to increase our 'cool range.' These include:-
The pressure of life waits for no one. In grief things don't stop coming at us. Business matters relating to the settling of estates, negotiating with insurance companies, dealing with debtors and creditors etc., all demand urgent attention.
It is important to recognise that under the stresses of grief one can only handle a few items in any given day.
It is essential to develop a mind filter
We must decide which of the items coming at us can be labelled
We need to make a very large compartment marked "discard" and others decreasing in size until we have a tiny compartment marked "top priority." Only a very few items should filter through into this compartment in a given day.
You will be kind to yourself if you simplify your life each day. Grief is no picnic - you deserve a little pampering. If somebody has to wait a few days or weeks because of your grief - so what?
Discovery . . . Relief . . . Recovery . . . Hope