Grief is a highly distress filled process demanding enormous amounts of energy. It must be balanced with a daily self-care regimen that replenishes both physical and emotional energy. Otherwise, the result is eventual illness and increased suffering.
However, self-care at the time of loss is hardly ever on the mind of mourners. Still, awareness of the need, and minor changes in daily activities, will play a major role in averting added physical and emotional distress.
Here are five self-care actions you can take to balance the drain of the grief process.
1. Take a daily stress break of at least 30 minutes. Find a quiet place, lie down, and elevate your feet. Play soothing music or listen to a relaxation tape if you wish. This rest period will also provide an opportunity to get away from overzealous caregivers or friends and fill the need to release the tension stored in muscles. While resting, take a deep abdominal breath. When you exhale, visualize your breath going through your muscles and releasing the tension. Repeat several times.
2. Drink plenty of water and cut back on caffeine use. Most people mourning the death of a loved one easily become dehydrated. This often leads to muscle cramping and feeling faint adding to the distress the body is under due to grief. Caffeine is a dehydrant and will increase fluid loss. Make every effort to increase your consumption of pure spring water.
3. Treat yourself to something you would like. Yes, every day treat yourself. There is nothing selfish about giving yourself a treat. Choose something that will help balance the sadness: sit by the ocean, window shop, eat a favorite food, purchase some flowers. With your loved one no longer meeting some of your needs, it is okay for you to reach out to yourself to fill the void.
4. Take a daily 10-minute walk. Granted you may be too overwhelmed by your loss to start walking in the first few days of your loss, even though it would be useful. But don?t let more than two or three days go by before you start. Remember, we all need physical outlets for emotional stimuli which cause so much muscular tension. The research is clear: energy expenditure through walking can have a significant effect on how you deal with the stress in your life and enhance your health. After a few days, try adding some form of music to your walk or try prayerwalking.
5. Bathe yourself in treasured memories. Take time each day to think of the memories that bring great feelings of accomplishment and joy involving your loved one. Focusing on these memories will not only assist in balancing negative thoughts that often arrive, but you can talk to others about them and receive additional input. Be sure to include in your memory bank those times you have felt loved throughout your life.
Although your caregivers will be trying to help you in many ways, it is important for your successful journey through grief for you to take primary charge of replenishing your energy each day. If may be useful to write down a schedule of times for delivering your self-care so you will be consistent and reap the benefits of your program.
At the same time, you will be starting some of the new routines that will need to become a part of your new life as you adapt to the loss of your loved one. Never forget your thoughts and attitudes about yourself play the leading role in how you manage your grief, maintain your health, and invest in your new life. Take the best care of yourself, and consider using your grief experience to grow in wisdom and insight about love and life.
Dr. LaGrand is a grief counselor and the author of eight books, the most recent, Love Lives On: Learning from the Extraordinary Encounters of the Bereaved. He is known world-wide for his research on the Extraordinary Experiences of the bereaved (after-death communication phenomena) and is one of the founders of Hospice of the St. Lawrence Valley, Inc.? His free monthly ezine website is http://www.extraordinarygriefexperiences.com