When you have lost a loved one carrying on with life can be an arduous task. You’ve finished all the arrangements for the deceased and people slowly drift back to their own lives. I found that this was the time when I truly started to grieve and when I most needed something, anything, to help me be with my grief. I am by no means an expert but here are the 5 ways which have helped me accept my grief and find a little piece of peace.
1. Make time to grieve.
I listened to my Mum’s funeral song today for the first time 11 months after her passing and rather than being crippled with agony and longing , I was actually able to smile and think of how she used to sing that song while she was cleaning. I didn’t purposely choose to listen to the song, it happened to be on the radio this morning and I’ll admit my first initial thought was to turn it off, remove it from consciousness because I didn’t want to be reminded that she’s no longer here right now. But whenever I get these thoughts of avoidance, rather than do everything in my power to avoid them, I do the opposite and focus on them. The same with my grief. Rather than do everything I can not to think about my mum and to run away from the pain, I acknowledge it and allow myself to feel it. After my Mum died and before I gave birth, I spent the majority of the time on my own for 12 weeks and I used this time to do what I needed to do, whether that was to cry, scream, sleep, eat, write or just stare at the TV. I allowed myself to feel. Because of this I truly believe that I wouldn’t be where I am now in terms of managing my grief and living my life. Purposely giving myself that time was the best thing I could do in my journey of coming to terms with the loss. Even now I still schedule time in my day to sit and think about my Mum. On the occasions where I’ve been carried away by the days and tasks of being a Mum myself I really feel it. I start to get overwhelmed, irritated, anxious and distressed. My thoughts automatically turn to what I have lost and my mood plummets dramatically. Once I have taken that time to feel whatever I am feeling and more often than not have a good sob, I feel calmer and able to face another day.
2. Get it all out.
This may come as a surprise considering you’re reading this but I am quite a private person. I tend to be the listener and have taken the view in the past that others can’t help with my problems as they are mine and mine alone, so what is the point in talking about them. I suppose you could say this has been a positive result from my Mum passing in that I have found the courage to open up to those I trust. I believe that talking to my confidants has helped me greatly in figuring out how to adapt to my new normal and more importantly how to manage my emotions. When you lose a loved one you fundamentally change as a person, your very core being is altered permanently and whilst parts of the old you still remain, ultimately you have transformed into a new person. I remember my husband saying to me once that ” he had lost a mum but also his wife” and that’s true he did. Part of grieving is getting to know this new person, with new thoughts and feelings, new fears and new beliefs and a whole new way of living. Talking to someone I trusted enabled me to understand the new me but also to explore my new normal.
I have to give some credit here to my husband. He was the one I confided in and divulged my inner thoughts and feelings to, however I wasn’t and am still not a very willing participant. It took him to recognise when I was overwhelmed with thoughts and feelings and coax me to talk about it with him. He made me feel comfortable and secure, I knew he wouldn’t judge or ridicule me and actually sharing things with him allowed us to enter a new phase of our marriage and become closer.
Talk to someone you trust, talk about your thoughts and feelings, talk about your loved one but most importantly don’t bottle things up. If you struggle with talking then you can write it down, make a voice recording or even talk to your lost loved one. I’ve also known others who have used creative ways to express themselves including music and art. Whichever way suits you use it to release some of that pressure and to help you make sense of who you are and your new world.
3. Make a plan.
One thing that absolutely terrified me above all else was being on my own. Not just in terms of the rest of my life without my Mum or after I gave birth, but also when my husband and everyone else went back to their lives and back to work. If in the past I had ever felt lonely I would just get up and go to my Mums. Now that this was no longer an option I had absolutely no idea what to do. I spoke to my husband about this and we agreed to make a plan. We made a list of the things that I wanted to do but had not felt up to doing. This list was a ‘if you feel up to it’ list so there was no pressure if one day I decided not to do a single thing from the list or if I did them all in 20 minutes. The other list was around what I needed to achieve as a minimum everyday including things like getting up, washed and dressed. You don’t realise how difficult the simplest of tasks are when you’re consumed with sadness and despair. Life becomes pointless and purposeless. We agreed that if I accomplished the minimum list and then spent the rest of the day crying that was good enough. Having an initial plan gave me a sense of normality at a time when everything was so far from what was.
Now this may seem slightly contradictory but bear with me. In essence with this I did not plan further than each day. Anything more just seemed insurmountable for me so I took one day at a time. I could just about make it through one day without her. If you can’t contemplate a life without your loved one then don’t, remove that fear and focus on making it through that day only.
4. Don’t be afraid to seek professional help.
I am not ashamed to say that after my Mum died I did seek professional help and visited my GP. I needed it. Just as I would go to my GP for any physical ailments I did the same for my mental ailment. I have suffered from anxiety for many years and even though I’ve had periods where I have utilised medication alongside other talking therapies, generally I am experienced enough that I am now able to control my panic and function day to day. However after my Mum my anxiety went to a new level and I required some form of intervention in order to help me cope. I went to see my GP who prescribed me the best medication that posed the least amount of risks to my baby and one which I could safely breastfeed with postpartum. I was closely monitored by the midwives ,pre and post natal,and maintained regular check ups with my GP. My daughter suffered no effects from the medication whatsoever. The medication reduced the physical symptoms of my anxiety which meant I could focus on utilising coping strategies and tools. I was referred for mental health support and I completed 12 weeks of high intensity CBT therapy for my anxiety only, not my grief. I am by no way advocating that all those who are grieving need to be on medication or for that matter, need to receive some form of professional help. What I am saying is that if you feel you need additional support then don’t be afraid to visit your GP or seek other professional help.
This one is very simple: give yourself the gift of time.
There is no time limit on your grief. Take all the time you need even if it is a life time. There is no such thing as ‘getting over it’ or ‘moving on’, grief isn’t a single period of change, it’s a continuous period of change and one which is not governed by time.
11 months on and I am able to smile at the thought of my Mum more often than not when once I would be rendered paralysed. I still have a long way to go but my grief tides are less frequent, less intense and have reduced in duration. Rather than “bad days” and “bad weeks” I have “bad moments” in each day. I can think about the future and get excited. Absolutely my enjoyment of life is forever bittersweet but I am ok with that. My Mum was one of my greatest loves and I’ll always mourn the fact that she is no longer part of my future. Having that tinge of sadness to everything I do means that I still miss her, I want to always miss her and never forget her.
Grief changes us, defines us and ultimately becomes us, but it does not have to take our lives from us.
If anyone has any other ways which they have found helpful when dealing with their grief and you feel comfortable in doing so, please leave a comment on this page so others can possibly find some benefit from it also. We are all in this together. Alternatively you can message me directly or via facebook or instagram and with your permission, share your suggestion on your behalf or anonymously.
I am not a medical professional and the information provided above is based solely on my own personal experience of grief and should not be substituted for any medical advice or information. If you or anyone you are supporting have concerns regarding their mental health then seek medical advice.