Getting Through the Early Stages of Grief

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Getting Through the Early Stages of GriefIf you’ve ever lost a loved one, then you already know what it is like to be overwhelmed. No matter how much you’d like to go back to how it was, your loss created such huge changes in your life that you hardly know where to begin or even how to cope.

At times like this, it is normal to feel confused or even disoriented. “Who am I now?” is a common question, as is “Where do I go from here?” When something this big comes into your life, where do you begin?

Taking care of yourself would be a very good place to start. Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Make sure you’re getting the rest you need. This may mean taking a break from whatever you’re doing to nap or just relax. Even stopping for a cup of calming tea or taking a leisurely walk can work wonders.
  2. Having trouble remembering things is normal. It just means your “circuits” are on overload. If this is happening to you, make lists. Do short tasks that don’t require long periods of concentration. If you keep forgetting appointments, ask someone to remind you. This, too, will pass. It just takes time for all the parts of your system to re-set themselves, so be patient with yourself. It will get better.
  3. Cry whenever you need to. Tears provide a healthy emotional release and help clear out the cobwebs.
  4. Don’t hesitate to talk about your feelings with others, particularly someone you are comfortable with.
  5. Consider starting a journal where you can reflect on what happened, and how this changed your life. A journal lets you release pent-up feelings and helps you begin the healing process. Just a few minutes a day gives you a framework from which you can view the changes you are going through.
  6. Make sure some form of exercise is part of your daily routine. It doesn’t have to be anything strenuous. Stretching or a few easy yoga poses can ease whatever constrictions you might be feeling. Even something as simple as a 20-minute walk can lift your spirit. Choose an activity you enjoy, so you can look forward to it.
  7. Ask for help when you need it, whether that means getting something from the top shelf or a more complicated task, like making changes to your insurance.
  8. Eating small meals 4-5 times a day can help curb emotional swings by keeping your blood sugar on an even keel.
  9. Make sure you drink a lot of water. I’m talking about 8-10 glasses a day. Every cell is dependent on water. A dehydrated body doesn’t function well and pulls you down emotionally. A hydrated body is a happy body, and a happy body … well, you get the idea.
  10. Also make sure you breathe deeply, at least some of the time. The body gets the oxygen it needs from the bottom of the lungs, but when we are tense and feeling stressed, our breathing tends to be shallow. Insufficient oxygen stresses the body, which just adds to the stress you are already feeling. Consciously breathing slowly and deeply not only helps you relax, it gives your system the oxygen it requires to function normally. If you’re finding it difficult to breathe deeply, try breathing in and out through an imaginary straw so the oxygen can get to the bottom of your lungs. Or raise your arms slowly while breathing in through your nose, gauging the intake so you reach capacity when the arms are all the way up. Then slowly exhale on “sssss” while slowly lowering the arms, again gauging your movement so you reach “empty” when the arms are all the way down. Repeat this 2 or 3 times and then stop and smile. Do this several times a day, or whenever you’re feeling particularly stressed.
  11. Spend some time each day praying or meditating. These practices bring you back to your calm center and help restore a sense of stability in your life.
  12. Don’t forget about humor. Deliberately find something to laugh about each day. Even though laughing may be the last thing you feel like doing, do it anyway. Give yourself permission to laugh about something. Laughter breaks up the clouds and leaves you in a better place.
  13. Try to end each day giving thanks for your blessings. Even in the toughest of times, there is something for which you can be thankful. What can you give thanks for today? Did support come from an unexpected place? Did someone say exactly what you needed to hear? Did a robin stop and sing on your window sill? Blessings come in many forms. You may even wish to begin a gratitude journal in which you record how each day blessed you. Gratitude heals at a very deep level.
  14. Try to go to bed around the same time every night. A regular routine helps create a feeling of stability. If sleep is difficult for you, a soothing bath or a cup of chamomile tea early in the evening will help you settle down as you prepare for sleep.
  15. Go at your own pace. Grief doesn’t have a time table. Allow yourself to do what you need to do and feel what you need to feel in order to heal. You are doing the very best you can at any given time, so be easy on yourself and let the process unfold.

No matter how difficult things may seem, there is always a way. You are being guided, whether it seems like it or not. Trust in that guidance. Listen for it. Tuning in to that inner wisdom is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself.

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| Grief Author

Donna Miesbach is an award-winning author, having received the 2013 Silver Nautilus Award for her book, From Grief to Joy, A Journey Back to Life & Living, in which she tells the moving story of her recovery from the loss of her husband and b...