5 Ways To Help Accept Your Grief

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.


5. Time

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.

Disclaimer

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.

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How I’ll Make Sure She Knows You.

When a loved one is lost and no longer present, how do you keep their memory alive?

The only way we can be together in a photo

If you’d have said to me before I got pregnant that my mum wouldn’t be there to meet my daughter there’s no way I would have believed you. Nothing was going to stop that woman from being with her granddaughter, she would have torn every brick down of my house to be with her.

I can say my mum loved my daughter before me.

Except she would be stopped from being with her by the only thing that could and that is the hardest part of losing her.

Losing my mum at the time when I probably needed her the most has been the worst experience of my life, but what torments me is not about me ,it’s about her and my daughter.

I know how devastated my mum would be to have left me at this time. She would have been so angry not to have been here to look after me and help me navigate motherhood but more so, to not meet her granddaughter and watch her grow up would have destroyed her. Family was everything to her. It is this which has caused me the most anguish. I hurt more for her and what she has lost rather than what I have lost. I hurt more for the fact that my daughter had already lost a significant figure in her life before she was even born and didn’t even get to love her the way I know she would have. They say you can’t miss something you never had- I miss the future my mum and daughter never got to have.

That we didn’t get to say goodbye and that they didn’t even get to say hello is excruciating.

So now we have a job that I never thought we would have. It is our job to make sure that my daughter knows her nanny and here are some of the ways we’re doing that.

Wish upon a star.

My cousins bought my daughter the most amazing gift, they named a star after my mum. Now we have a physical point in which we can look to and talk to together and every night we look up and say goodnight to nanny. It’s hard with not having a specific place to visit to be able to spend time with my mum, but having a star provides us with this and what better way to make sure she is always with us than being the brightest star in the sky.

You are here with us.

We didn’t know that my mum was going to die, there was no warning, no inclining, no ‘feeling’ that something was wrong,nothing. She was 59, plenty of time to be had to talk about funerals and what she would have wanted, or so we thought. Obviously it didn’t work out that way and we were left with not a clue as to what she would have wanted. I know she never wanted to die that’s for sure. We as a family did what we thought she would want but there was one thing I absolutely knew with certainty she would want and that was to be at home with us. And so she was cremated and now sits pride of place in the centre of my living room, spending everyday with us just as she had spent most of her life with us.

You are everywhere.

We have a feature wall in our house and it reaches to the top of the stairs. It is filled with pictures of our family and friends as well as few special pieces that hold a place in our heart. We have included pictures of my mum of course because I don’t want to keep her in a photo album, I want her face where I can see it everyday just as I used to, I want to look up and be able to see her smile., I want my daughter to be as familiar with her face as she is mine. Just because she is no longer here physically doesn’t mean that my daughter will not know her. I show her the pictures now and tell her who she is and how much she loved her and couldn’t wait to meet her. And when she gets older I will show her the videos I have on my phone of me and my mum having fun because my daughter has the right to know her nanny whichever way she can.

The nursery

This was a tough one for me. We hadn’t really started the nursery before my mum died, in fact we hadn’t really started buying much for my daughter at that point and the day before my died she had bought my daughter some bits. These were to be the only things she would buy her but they were the first things she had been bought, that my mum had been the one to do this makes it so special. After she died I was unable to even contemplate the idea of having a baby and I shut myself of from the practicalities of preparing for her birth. My husband was absolutely amazing, he took care of everything, he even packed the hospital bag with what me and the baby would need and he got it spot on. He decorated and furnished the nursery but it broke my heart that my mum wouldn’t get to see it finished. So what my husband did was he put bits from my mums house in my daughters room. He used the curtains from my mums bedroom and used plaques from her house as curtain tie backs. This was a way in which my mum could be a part in finishing the nursery and my daughter has parts of my mums finishing touches with her.

There will be many more ways as my daughter gets older that we as a family will include and remember my mum, making sure she remains a part of daily family life as she would have been were she still here and celebrating the special occasions. For me having reminders of her and parts of her around the house allows me to feel like she is still here, that she has in some way got to be a part of our new family life and to be with my daughter. I completely understand those who choose not to do this and that’s ok. With grief you have to do what feels right for you and not what you think you should do. I openly talk about my mum and encourage anyone who didn’t know her to ask me about her. Those who did know her I ask them to share their memories of her as I get to know more about the woman I love more than life.

This way and through some of the things I’ve mentioned, is how I keep my mum in the present and how my daughter will know her nanny.

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A dream is a wish your heart makes.

When having lost a loved one it’s hard to accept their absence in every form. But how do you prepare for their presence in your dreams where it’s a reality to spend time with the dead?

I’ve mentioned in previous posts how close me and my mum were and when you have someone like that in your life their absence is felt profoundly. I didn’t fully accept her death, in fact even now 10 months on I still don’t. The only way I can describe it is this; I know she’s not here at the moment but I’m waiting for the day when she comes back, I just don’t know when that is. So in the meantime I take each day as it comes, I accept she won’t come back on that day but contemplating anything more than this is just insurmountable. I suppose thinking and feeling like this is partly what enables me to continue living my life. If you read about the stages of grief, you’d probably say I was still in denial. I’m not for labelling and I don’t wholly agree with the stages, I find them vague and unhelpful but that’s just my opinion. I wouldn’t say I was in denial, I very much know she has died, visiting her at the funeral home made sure of that and if she wasn’t dead nothing would have kept her away from her granddaughter. It’s just I am able to better understand her absence in these terms, its how I have come to process the void she left behind.

After being without her for several weeks and very slowly developing my own way of understanding , I slept for the first time. Prior to this I hadn’t slept more than 15 minutes at any one time, I wouldn’t even say it was sleep more unconsciousness to which I would suddenly jolt awake and remember what had happened. I used to watch my iPad in bed because I couldn’t stand the silence, I needed noise, I would fall unconscious, jolt awake and have to rewind the film or program back to where I was. I think it took me a whole week to watch Monsters University ( Disney and Pixar films were a safe bet), my husband can’t stand the film now he’s seen it that many times. So I slept and I dreamt, I dreamt of her, my mum. There she was in front of me again, she looked normal, she looked as she always had and like nothing had happened. I’ll never forget this dream.

 

When I woke up the next morning what shocked me most was not reality rushing in, was not that she wasn’t here, but that I felt better for having seen her and spent time with her. Despite it only being a dream, I genuinely felt that I had been with her like always and I didn’t miss her as much because I’d had contact with her. Almost like I’d had a little fix after being without for so long. I’ve read about spirits apparently appearing in our dreams is really them visiting us and I’m sceptible about such things, I’m a girl that needs concrete evidence. I didn’t expect to feel happy because the reality remained the same, but I was in a way. Now this is what gets me about grief, you never know what’s coming next, you never know where it will take you or how you’re going to react. You also never know when but when it hits you got to take it and ride it out. I thought if I ever dreamt about her I would be crippled with despair and it would set me back for days, weeks even ( remember I was pregnant and probably at my most vulnerable). I was actually worried about dreaming about her because I thought this is what I would have to face, like losing her all over again. I’ve had a range of dreams with my mum in them, some of them upsetting, some of them nondescript, but every time I’ve seen her I’ve always felt a little better.

I suppose the point of this post is to show that there’s no right or wrong way to feel when grieving, rather it’s a case of accepting and embracing your feelings for they are yours and yours alone. If you are supporting someone who is grieving for a loved one also accept and acknowledge their feelings, try not to pass comment with your own opinion( unless asked) and approach with empathy not sympathy. Those who are grieving are not looking for sympathy believe me and share you’re own feelings about their loved one. Grieving is a lonely business so it’s nice to know that we’re not in it alone. 

I don’t dream about my mum all the time and I have a variety of dreams including trying to save her, dreams where she has come back as if nothings happened and dreams where she is just there. But despite the type of dream I always feel happy to have been with her even if it is only in my imagination. After all that’s how we live forever isn’t it, in the minds and hearts of loved ones.

pink decor with quote
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