Grieve Healthy – Moving on with Life

Grieving over the loss of someone that you loved is one of the most difficult things that you will ever have to do and this blog is dedicated to helping you do that in a healthy way. Grieving is normal after the loss of someone that you cared about, and everybody grieves differently, in their own way, and begins the recovery process at their own pace.

This time of stay at home is especially difficult for most people who have lost someone, because many of the ways that people begin the grieving process are not available.  Funerals, and the comfort of  being with family members and friends are all part of saying good bye and starting down the road to recovery.  The past several blogs have been about how to avoid delayed grieving when people can’t grieve in the normal way.

Mygrievingplace readers have said that they find some comfort using video calling to stay connected to family and friends. Although it’s not the same as in person human contact such as a caring hug, it’s better than complete isolation. Other readers have joined online grief groups or online meetups with people who have similar interests to their own.

Here, then are some grief recovery strategies from the American Psychological Association: (www.apa.org)

Mourning the loss of a close friend or relative takes time, but research tells us that it can also be the catalyst for a renewed sense of meaning that offers purpose and direction to life.

  • Talk about the death of your loved one with friends or colleagues in order to help you understand what happened and remember your friend or family member. Avoidance can lead to isolation and will disrupt the healing process with your support systems.
  • Accept your feelings. You may experience a wide range of emotions from sadness, anger or even exhaustion. All of these feelings are normal and it’s important to recognize when you are feeling this way. If you feel stuck or overwhelmed by these emotions, it may be helpful to talk with a licensed psychologist or other mental health professional who can help you cope with your feelings and find ways to get back on track.
  • Take care of yourself and your family. Eating healthy foods, exercising and getting plenty of sleep can help your physical and emotional health. The grieving process can take a toll on one’s body.  Make sure you check in with your loved ones and that they are taking the necessary healthy steps to maintain their health.
  • Reach out and help others dealing with the loss. Spending time with loved ones of the deceased can help everyone cope. Whether it’s sharing stories or listening to your loved one’s favorite music, these small efforts can make a big difference to some. Helping others has the added benefit of making you feel better as well.
  • Remember and celebrate the lives of your loved ones. Anniversaries of a lost loved one can be a difficult time for friends and family, but it can also be a time for remembrance and honoring them. It may be that you decide to collect donations to a favorite charity of the deceased, passing on a family name to a baby or planting a garden in memory. What you choose is up to you, as long as it allows you to honor that unique relationship in a way that feels right to you.

Grieve Healthy – Get Connected

The past several posts have been about  how to avoid loneliness if you are alone in isolation. If you did not see the post by Dr. Cheryl Woodson on April 10, Grieve Healthy – Lighten Up in Lockdown read it now.  Dr. Woodson has written about some great ways to deal with loneliness during this particularly difficult period. Even after stay at home restrictions are lifted and business begin to reopen again, life may not be the same again for many people.

People who are grieving over the loss of someone they loved are already enduring a significant change in their world so the social distancing response to the virus pandemic is making it even more difficult to start the healing process. Grieving in isolation without needed social support increases feelings of loss and loneliness.

Further, social distancing is preventing people from grieving in the normal way, such as funerals, physical contact with other loved ones and family members, and invitations to dinners or outings with friends. The result is delayed grieving which can have long term health affects.  Medical researchers have known for a while that chronic grieving and loneliness can increase the risk of heart attack, stroke  and disrupted sleep patterns.

Dr. John Cacioppo, a researcher at the University of Chicago developed the acronym EASE:

Extend yourself – do it safely, a little bit at a time

Action plan – commit to doing as many of the things in Dr. Woodson’s post that you can

Seek collectives – find new people who have similar interests, activities and values

Expect the best – don’t worry about how other people react to you

A good example of extending yourself is doing a random act of kindness.  Psychologists have recently discovered that performing a random act of kindness to others reduces feelings of loneliness. There are many opportunities to do this on line while we all stay at home.

There are other virtual resources available too, some of  which we have already written about in previous posts. Grief.com  has videos, live groups and links to other resources.  Grief Coach, https://grief.coach/,  is another good way to stay socially connected via texts from counselors for a small annual fee.

Grieve Healthy – Lighten Up In Lockdown

LIGHTEN UP ON LOCKDOWN
It’s hard to keep up our grief-busting activities when we’re on lockdown. Even so, we have to remember that we are not powerless, and we are not alone. Here are some tips to help everybody get through this.

Follow a schedule: Try to get up and go to bed at the same time every day, and allow yourself at least 7 hours of sleep. If you don’t follow a bedtime relaxation routine, now’s the time to start. Take a warm bath or shower with your favorite scent. Follow with devotions, meditation, deep breathing, light stretching, or relaxing reading. In the morning, instead of staying in your PJs all day, get up and get dressed. Don’t forget your favorite perfume or cologne. Ladies, put on some make up and jewelry when you start your day. You might even treat yourself to new sets of pretty lingerie from one of the online vendors like AdoreMe.com. When you look better, you feel better. Eat regular meals. Set the table, turn off the electronics (except music,) and take time to savor your food. Prepare (or order) something really tasty at least once a day. You deserve candles and a few times a week, if your doctor says it’s okay, maybe a glass of wine.

Reach out to others: Stay in touch with family and friends. You can even make new friends. Schedule regular time to read to your grandchildren and continue your coffee dates, book club discussions, and bible studies. If you have a smartphone or tablet, you can use FaceTime (Apple,) WhatsApp (Android) or other free apps for video visits. One of my friends celebrated Passover with members of her temple at a video-Seder. There are also online groups where people of similar experience can support each other by sharing their stories and coping strategies. This can be safe as long as you do not give out personal or financial information. If you’re a technocripple (like me,) a tech-savvy youngster can talk you though the communication process. Call your grandchildren, your neighbors’ children, or kids from church, and ask for help over the phone. If you’re reluctant to ask for help, think about this: if you were expert in something and someone asked, you would help, wouldn’t you? We all deserve help when we need it. ALERT! So do YOU! You can still connect even if tech is not your thing. A friend and I watched a movie together, talking on the phone the whole time.

Reach for professional support: You need to speak with a professional if you are not interested in eating, taking care of yourself and your home, if you are not sleeping well, or if you’re sleeping too much. If you have a therapist, ask for a telephone or video visit. If you do not have a relationship with a behavioral health professional, there are many counselling services available online like Betterhelp or Talkspace that offer free initial evaluations. If you are thinking about self-harm, call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (800-273-8255.)

Make Time for Exercise: Regular exercise adjusts brain chemistry to improve mood and even control pain. In most cities, you can still walk around the community as long as you respect social distancing. You may also want to wear a mask. If you can’t walk outside, can you walk around your yard, up and down the stairs, or in the hall of your building (again, with social distancing)? My partner’s daughter is in an outside exercise class where everyone keeps social distance. This may be an option for those of you in warmer climates. For the rest of us, YouTube has free exercise videos for every fitness level.

Open your mind. Speaking of YouTube, there is absolutely nothing you can’t learn on this site for free. Many colleges also offer free online classes so check with your local community college. The Great Courses (www.thegreatcourses.com) is one affordable way to learn just about anything from expert college professors without paying tuition.

Open your heart: Giving of yourself is a great way to connect and improve your spirits. Can you volunteer for a homework hotline, or read to a child over the phone or online? Can you make masks and donate them to your local first responders? Do you have a hobby or skill that could brighten someone’s day? People around here are singing and playing music on their porches, out their windows, and in other ways that respect social distancing. Again, the tech-savvy folks can put a video on Facebook or YouTube showing how to bake the best biscuits or any other activity in which you shine.

Nurture an Attitude of Gratitude: The news brings mostly doom and gloom, but there are pockets of joy, kindness, and hope out there, too. Every day, take some time to focus on the things in your life that ARE working, that make you smile, or make your life better.

The Key is Connection: You are not alone. Don’t stay isolated. It may take a little energy to make connections, but the results are so much better than being lonely in lockdown.

This post was contributed by Dr. Cheryl Woodson a gifted physician and award winning writer. She taught and practiced medicine for over 35 years.  Dr. Woodson is a frequent public speaker on how to “Live Out Loud and Age Excelently.” You can learn more from her by visiting her web site www.drcherylwoodson.com.

 

 

Grieve Healthy – Isolated But Not Lonely

This time of self-isolation can be very difficult for people who have lost a loved person. The feelings of loneliness are made even worse now that social contact with other people is limited or nonexistent for many grievers. We can no longer depend on many of the everyday ways to relieve loneliness, like going to the store, going to the movies, attending a concert or even going to the gym for the social contact that we crave.

Medical researchers explain that feelings of loneliness is the body’s way of telling us that something is wrong and if left unresolved can have serious consequences. Chronic loneliness can, for many people, take a toll on physical health. So, now that many of the usual things that people do to help with feelings of loneliness are not available, what alternatives are there?

Regaining a sense of control over your life can be the first step in dealing with loneliness. Start by thinking about what you can do today and tomorrow. Avoid thinking about the future by making short term plans like, what to eat for dinner, what clothes to wear today, or who to call tonight. Making these kinds of decisions give people a sense of control again. Make a schedule of things to do and keep the focus to the next 48 hours.

Since physical proximity to family members and friends is not possible, start using FaceTime or Zoom or any of the video chat apps to talk other people. While not the same as being physically close, eventually video chats will become an effective substitute.

Here is a great self-care practice, called Metta (Loving-Kindness) Meditation, that you can practice. Repeat the phrases below silently or out loud.

   You.
   May I be happy. May I be peaceful and at ease. May I be well.

   A loved one (say a name).
  May they be happy. May they be peaceful and at ease. May they be well.

   A stranger you encountered in the last month.
   May they be happy. May they be peaceful and at ease. May they be well.

   Someone you don’t typically get along with. 
  May they be happy. May they be peaceful and at ease. May they be well.

Thanks to Julie G. who is a wonderful yoga instructor for the self-care practice above, Julie has many other great self-care ideas, including videos, on her website www.juliegtheyogi.com

We’re all human, and we all deserve happiness, health, peace and love.

Grieve Healthy – Love Lives On, You Can Too

This post, “Love Lives On, You Can Too” is from Cheryl Woodson, a gifted physician, writer and speaker on “Living Out Loud”. Dr. Woodson spent many years practicing geriatric medicine and as a result, she became experienced in helping families deal with loss.

Everybody says the key to grief recovery is moving forward, but why is that so hard to do? I believe the reason is fear of losing the familiar. We fear change: meeting new people, in new places, under different circumstances. We fear participating in new activities, or having to learn how to be a single when we used to be a couple. We also fear rejection. Will people like us? Will we know how to respond, how to fit in?
These questions are all scary, but I think the biggest fear is losing our loved one a second time. We may feel guilty when we learn to enjoy life on our own. How will we forgive ourselves if we enjoy activities our loved one didn’t like or never tried? Many of us believe that finding happiness means we have forgotten our loved one. It’s even worse if we wonder whether we really loved the person or enjoyed the things we did together. It’s agonizing if we think that to enjoy life means we are glad the person is gone. Guilt causes pain and many of us will do anything (or do nothing) to avoid that pain.
The way to get past this barrier is to remember that the people we lost loved us too. People who love us would not want our want our opportunities for happiness to be tarnished by guilt. I believe love lives on after death and it goes both ways. As the Bible says in I Corinthians 13: 4-8, Love is patient; Love is kind… Love hopes all things…Love never fails.

Dr. Woodson has been a frequent contributor to Mygrievingplace. If you would like to hear more from her she will appreciate the opportunity to speak to you in a Ted Talk. Please check out her web site, www.drcherylwoodson.com. Please take a few minutes to nominate Dr. Woodson for a Ted Talk at https://speaker-nominations.ted.com/

Grieve Healthy – Without Loneliness

Mygrievingplace readers often write about feelings of loneliness after losing a loved one. People are naturally social creatures and often, social connections become lost especially when a partner dies. Friends seem to go away just when you need them the most. You no longer feel that you belong to your group any more because a big part of you is missing. You feel disconnected from your social networks and this can lead to strong feelings of loneliness.

Loneliness and being alone are not the same, but loneliness can have serious mental and physical consequences, so it’s important to establish new social connections as you recover from grieving. How can you determine if you are suffering from loneliness severe enough to affect your health and well being?

Researchers at UCLA have developed the UCLA loneliness Scale as a guide for clinicians and researchers to measure levels of loneliness:

  1.  How often do you feel unhappy doing so many things alone?
  2.  How often do you feel you have no one to talk to?
  3.  How often do you feel you cannot tolerate being so alone?
  4.  How often do you feel as if no one understands you?
  5.  How often do you find yourself waiting for people to call or write?
  6.  How often do you feel completely alone?
  7. How often do you feel unable to reach out and communicate with those around you?
  8. How often do you feel starved for company?
  9.  How often do you feel it is difficult for you to make friends?
  10.  How often do you feel shut out and excluded by others?

If you answered very often to most of the questions above, then you should consider making new social connections as a way to overcome the feelings of loneliness, but how?

Think about what brings you joy? What makes you feel good about yourself? Even if it’s only for a few hours, that’s a start. Commit to doing something for yourself that you enjoy. Maybe it’s something that you’ve never done before. A great resource is meetup.com This web site has information about hundreds of different groups dedicated to all sorts of interests. What ever it is you love doing, there is probably a group for that so this is a great way to meet new people in your area who enjoy doing the same things you do.

Grieve Healthy – Find Happiness Again

We are back with a new Grieve Healthy blog after a break for the holidays. We hope that you all got through the difficult holiday season okay without the people that you have lost. It does get a little easier each year as you find new traditions to replace the ones that are now gone. Replacing that empty place at the table is never easy so next year think about inviting somebody new who has no one to be with.

Replace that empty place under the tree where a gift used to be with a gift to someone else. Maybe to a child living with a family that is struggling and is not able to afford holiday gifts. It’s better than giving a gift to someone who really doesn’t need anything.

Next year create new traditions.

Feeling lonely can also be a problem especially during the holidays, but being alone and feeling alone are not the same. It’s OK to be alone if you don’t feel lonely. Loneliness, however can be unhealthy. People need friendships and social support in their lives, especially after experiencing a loss. Establishing new friendships and finding social support are important to grief recovery.

Recent medical studies suggest that happiness plays a strong role in health and longevity. Happy people tend to heal from illnesses, such as colds, more quickly.

Next year, instead of dreading the holidays and hoping they get over quickly, plan to do new things, create some new traditions, new friendships and find happiness through social support in new places.

Grieve Healthy – Recreate Yourself

The playwrite, G.B. Shaw wrote “Life is not about finding yourself. It’s about creating yourself.” For people who are grieving over the loss of a loved one life is about “recreating” yourself.” This is especially true for people who have lost a spouse. Mygrievingplace readers write about feeling lost, lonely, and hopeless about the future.

Losing the person that you loved leaves a huge hole in your life, but you’re still the same person that you always were. So what can you do? Recreate yourself. You’ve actually done it before without even realizing it. You grew to adulthood, became a spouse, significant other or partner. Perhaps you became a parent and raised a family or moved to a new city or went to work somewhere. These and other life activities were part of creating yourself.

Recreating yourself means finding out what else you can do. People often define themselves by the relationships that they have so when the most important relationship of all is gone we no longer feel like ourselves. Recreating yourself means finding new relationships and discovering what else you can do at the same time. This means joining new groups, trying new things that you’ve never done before, take a class at your community college or library, volunteer at an organization that needs your help. Doing something for others is a great way to feel good again.

Grieve Healthy – Keep the Ones You Lost in the Warmth of Your Heart

Dear Readers,
The following is a beautiful post about grieving written by the gifted actor and writer, Christopher Walken. Christopher talks about keeping the person that you lost in the warmth of your heart and how that person will be a part of you always.

“Someday, you will be faced with the reality of loss. And as life goes on, days rolling into nights, it will become clear that you never really stop missing someone special who’s gone, you just learn to live around the gaping hole of their absence. When you lose someone you can’t imagine living without, your heart breaks wide open, and the bad news is you never completely get over the loss. You will never forget them. However, in a backwards way, this is also the good news. They will live on in the warmth of your broken heart that doesn’t fully heal back up, and you will continue to grow and experience life, even with your wound. It’s like badly breaking an ankle that never heals perfectly, and that still hurts when you dance, but you dance anyway with a slight limp, and this limp just adds to the depth of your performance and the authenticity of your character. The people that you lose remain a part of you. Remember them and always cherish the food moments spent with them.”

Thank you Mr. Walken for writing this and for sharing it with those who are grieving over the loss of someone they loved.

Grieve Healthy – Something Lost, Something Found

Here is wonderful post from a Mygrievingplace reader about finding something new after a loss.
Lost and Found
“So sorry about your loss.” A phrase heard frequently at the death of a loved one. I’ve said it myself, as a way of offering some solace and empathy to. a person who is grieving. Recently, I have been the recipient also. My father died in January of this year. In addition to the many anecdotes shared with my brother and I at Dad’s memorial service, we also heard this phrase.

The past year and a half, my brother and I have had many discussions about life, loneliness, love and loss. In the Spring of 2018, his wife died, my sister-in-law. As I have traveled this very difficult journey with him, there have been moments of profound grief and sadness. Recently, we had a discussion about identity. While I was under the misconception that identity concerns were solely a part of adolescent angst, I was surprised about the path of the conversation. It turns out that the loss of a loved one, whether a spouse, parent, sibling, child or friend, most of us eventually face a struggle to find a new identity. Who am I now?

“We’re orphans now,” confided my brother shortly after our Dad died. It was profound because even though we are both “elder” citizens, both parents are gone and now it’s just us from our original nuclear family. In addition, my brother’s loss of his wife just a few months earlier, had precipitated a crisis of identity. He had been her caregiver-husband during her protracted chronic illness.

It was an important “light-bulb” moment as we both recognized and ratified the significance of acknowledging how the loss of identity is a normal part of the grieving process. It can be huge. Grappling with processing and discovering one’s self anew can be paralyzing.