Care for Yourself

First and foremost, it is essential to take care of yourself when you have suffered a major loss. This is not selfish – it is necessary. It’s similar to a flight attendant telling you to put your oxygen mask on first, then assist your child. If you aren’t able to function, you can’t help those around you. Don’t feel guilty about taking care of yourself during grief.

Here are some ways to care for yourself.

Be as compassionate to yourself as you would to a beloved friend who experienced a major loss.

Focus on things you can control like simplifying your life. Let go of the many non-vital tasks around the house. Do what feels right for you. Some may find cooking a therapeutic distraction while others find it a burden. Some people gain solace from taking a nap while others prefer to stay busy.

Taking Care of Your Physical Health

One area often overlooked is physical health. This is something we still have control over. Be sure to eat a healthy diet and not skip meals. Depression can cause a person either to forget to eat or to overindulge with “comfort” foods. Unfortunately, these kinds of foods are usually high in fat and/or sugar and can cause nutrient deficiency as well as spikes and dips in blood sugar. Avoiding either extreme is important to not stress your body. Also, stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water and healthy fluids.

Discovering how to be kind to yourself is very individual. Often pleasant distractions, even brief ones, can offer a small respite from the pain of mourning. The following suggestions may be helpful:

  • Hit the “pause button,” i.e., take mini stress breaks throughout the day. Stop what you are doing and take a few slow, deep breaths.

  • Take a bubble bath

  • Ask for a hug

  • Have lunch, (or coffee, or wine), with a friend

  • Get a massage

  • Listen to music you love

  • Take a walk, especially in pleasant surroundings

  • Shoot hoops, hit a tennis ball against the garage, or go for a bike ride

  • Watch a light-hearted movie or TV show

  •  Visit a lake or the beach. As the water laps against the shore think of peace and comfort; as it recedes, envision your grief receding with it.

  • Read a daily spiritual reflection

  • Cuddle with your dog or cat

  • Listen to fast, fun music – if you are up to it, dance along!

  • Make your own list of activities that could be helpful and refer to it when you are feeling overwhelmed.

Excerpted from From Despair to Hope, Survival Guide for Bereaved Parents, by Linda Zelik

Read more from Linda on Open to Hope: Recognizing Signs From the Afterlife – Open to Hope

Linda Zelik

Linda Zelik is a retired occupational therapist who specialized in treating hand injuries. Unable to have children, she and her husband felt blessed to be able to adopt two newborns: a girl in 1984 and a boy a year and a half later. Being a family with these two beautiful children was a highlight of their lives. Tragically in 2010, Kevin their 24-year-old son, died in an accident. Linda and her husband have been consoled through witnessing many and varied signs from their son since his passing. Linda wrote a book entitled From Despair to Hope, Survival Guide for Bereaved Parents. Its purpose was to assist other bereaved parents and siblings through their painful grief journeys. Additionally, she details the many signs she has received in hopes that the readers will be open to recognizing signs from their loved ones on the other side.

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