Find Comfort When Grieving
Have you ever thought you’d find comfort again when grieving the death of a child? Has grief left you bereft, feeling that relief is beyond your grasp?
I felt this way after my fourteen-year-old daughter Elizabeth died from a rare pediatric bone cancer. Grieving left me weak. I was almost paralyzed, barely able to do simple activities like grocery shopping, making meals, or reading. It was as though the way that my mind and body functioned was overtaken by a debilitating force too strong for me to resist. I simply collapsed, unable to find needed strength.
After many months, I realized that I had to function again to return to work, take care of my surviving teenage daughter, and maintain my home. I started this process slowly and sought out easy-to-achieve, comforting activities. In time, with improved strength, I was able to try more activities.
Here are some activities to try.
Go on a Retreat
Try to locate a retreat within a 50-mile radius from your home. I found a silent retreat at an Episcopalian Monastery. The property was located next to a wide, tidal river with a hundred acres of conservation land. I stayed in a small cottage and ate delicious meals in the company of caring Brothers. Each day, I walked for miles along the riverbank and on woodland trails. I prayed with the Brothers in their chapel and sang some of my favorite hymns. I read and caught up on needed sleep. At the end of my retreat and for the first time since my daughter died, I felt at peace.
Garden for Comfort When Grieving
Create a new garden or refresh an older garden with new annuals and perennials. Go to a garden center and enjoy the variety of colors, shapes, and sizes of plants. Select those that bring a smile to your face. Choose your favorite-colored flowers and shapes of plants. And to make your gardening project even more enjoyable, ask a friend to till the soil, select which plants go where, and do the plantings together.
Exercise When Grieving
Look online for conservation trails in your town or a nearby town. Even on cold days, put on your warmest down coat, boots, hat, and gloves, and walk at a good clip. This can help you find comfort when grieving. Find a bike in a nearby store or borrow a friend’s, and set out a bike route. It may be a simple loop around your neighborhood or an organized bike group where you explore new territory. Remember the activities that used to make you feel energized and stronger, and try them again.
Writing Through Your Grief
Buy a journal, and write for fifteen minutes a day. Write about your sorrow, your worries, and your hopes and dreams. Many research studies have demonstrated that writing in a journal when you are in adverse circumstances can help alleviate stress and improve well-being. If you have trouble beginning, try using writing prompts to start, like “What was my favorite childhood memory?” or “Who or what brings me comfort?” or “What would I like to be doing one year from now?” You’ll find examples of more writing prompts here. (https://www.faithwilcoxnarratives.com/writing-prompts).
Remembering the Loved One
Go through the boxes of photographs that are sitting in your basement. Bring them to your favorite room in your house and open them up. Even though this may initially bring tears, it also gives you an opportunity to remember your loved one(s) when they were well and engaged in life. You can remember family trips, birthday celebrations, graduations, and more. Buy a few photo albums and place your photos in them, or if you have digital images, sort through those pictures on your computer and create a photo book online.
Engaging with Others to Find Comfort When Grieving
When you are feeling stronger, try some activities that connect you to others. Accept dinner invitations that you once shied away from. Note how you feel at the end of the evening. If you feel better, do this again. If you feel like this activity was too soon, wait a while before accepting again. Another activity you could try is signing up for a class. Engage your creative mind with painting, drawing, bird watching, learning a new language or brushing up on a language you learned years ago.
Exploring New Things
Exploring new places where you haven’t been in a while and engaging with art, music, acting, or comedy can bring your thoughts to a better place. For example, go to an art or antique car museum, a concert on your town green, a musical at the local high school, or a downtown comedy show. When you’re ready, plan a weekend away with family or friends. A change of scenery can be uplifting.
When you feel ready, find ways to witness and celebrate your departed loved one. On holidays, bring out something, like a favorite Christmas stocking, to imagine days when your loved one was with you. Bake your favorite holiday bread or make your favorite holiday meal, and remember the laughter as you sat around the table together. On the anniversary of your loved one’s death, be proactive, and make a plan on how to spend the day ahead of time. If you’ve made a plan, you have some measure of control over how the day unfolds.
I make these suggestions even knowing how difficult it can be to engage in life when grieving. After struggling for years upon years, I’ve navigated my way through grief partly by discovering ways that bring me comfort and a sense of peace. Ultimately, our departed loved one would have wanted us to be living a full life while holding on to and celebrating her/his memory.
Faith F. Wilcox