Everyone deals with grief differently. Some bury themselves in their work or focus their energy on a new project. Some separate themselves from their daily to-dos for a while. Some need social support and others spend time alone. After a loss, each person finds his or her own unique way to make sense of their lives, to put one foot in front of the other.
At the Grief Support Network, we believe that there is no single method of grieving that works for everyone. Our goal is not to impose specific grieving practices. Instead, we want to open your eyes to all the possibilities of what grief can look like.When you are open and vulnerable, you can be truly present in your own personal grief journey. And then your body, mind and spirit can help you to decide what form of healing feels right for you.
When I lost my son, Noah, I found that traditional books and strategies weren’t all that helpful for me. Instead, a few small activities and rituals were what ended up helping me to move forward toward healing and transformation. I’m sharing these activities with you in hopes that you might try using one or more of them to ease your pain:
Meditation and Yoga Practice
Before my loss, I was practicing yoga and meditating on a regular basis. After Noah passed away, it became even more important for me to show up at my alter each day or roll out my yoga mat. I wasn’t there to workout or to work through anything – my only goal was to arrive and take note of what I was feeling.
Some days, I would simply lie on my mat in a puddle and cry, scream, pound my fist on the ground, and let myself become unraveled. Other days, I would move my body, breathe, stretch, and challenge myself or work restoratively in my yoga practice.
None of this was easy and sitting meditation was the hardest part. I gave myself permission to sit for as long or short a duration as I needed. And, whenever my pain became too intense, when too many memories flooded my thoughts, I would shift my attention into my body, breathe deeply, and release whatever suffering I could.
Again, my only intention with these daily sessions of meditation or yoga was to show up. If you’re new to meditation or yoga, perhaps you don’t give your practice these names. But, if you can find time to breathe and let your thoughts flow, you may find some sense of relief.
Create a Container Everyday to Grieve
We can get so swept up in the process of grieving that we allow pain to spill over into every corner of our lives. As I as began to heal after Noah’s death, I began to set aside a specific time and space to hold my grief.
I created a specific place in my home (for me it was my alter, but it could be any place that feels safe to you. I would set a timer so that that my process had an ending point. The goal of this practice was for me to have space to feel all emotions and sensations fully, without judgement or restrictions.
I would sit on my yoga mat in front of my alter and some days just throw a tantrum or completely fall apart. Other times, I would sit quietly and sob, remembering and going deeply into the sadness. Then, when the timer would ring, I knew that my container for grieving was full, and it was time to move on with my day.
I learned that scheduling something else to do afterward, something distracting, was a helpful addition to this process. Eat something, go for a walk, call a friend, nourish yourself in some way… or do something simple and repetitive (like folding the laundry). Setting aside the time to really feel helped me to honor my pain without letting it rule every aspect of my life.
Yes, after losing someone you love, it is difficult to get out of bed, much less muster up the energy for physical activity. Even if you’ve were a marathoner or avid swimmer in the past, you may have lost the motivation to participate in these active pursuits. But for me, planning in some type of physical activity really helped me to move beyond my grief. If you do decide to exercise, be gentle with yourself – just try to do whatever exercise resonates with you, with no goals or expectations. For me, hiking was very helpful and healing. I was able to connect with the earth, find some gratefulness for the beauty around me, and move my body at the same time.
These are just a few of the activities that I found helpful for moving through my grieving process. As my aim is not to overwhelm, I will share more of these ideas with you the future. I hope that you might feel compelled to share your ideas for self-care in the comments below. As a community, we can help each other to move through grief and toward gratitude.
If nothing else, I do want you to take away this one important point about your personal journey through loss: There is no wrong way to do this. Others will want to give you advice and lend a hand. But, only you know what you need. Don’t let anyone else tell you how to grieve or feel. No matter how different we are when it comes to healing, we are all human. And every person’s experience is valid and pivotal in their transformation from grief to gratitude.
If you’d like more support in finding positive resources and activities that resonate with you, please consider becoming a member of the Grief Support Network. Our providers are here to help you heal and grow.