he New Year is a perfect time to plan for self-care and work on personal grief. I readily admit that making a commitment to deal with grief is a big commitment, which will take a lot of hard work. But it can be done.
I offer the following six tips on how to get on track with your grief this year.
1. Put a support system in place. Grief is not the kind of work that should be done alone. You are not alone and there are many people willing to help. The support can consist of family members, close friends and other acquaintances or you can choose to participate in a local support group. Many bereaved parents received their greatest help from a support organization called The Compassionate Friends.
2. Face your grief head-on in spite of the pain. There is a normal desire to avoid or deny the loss because it hurts so badly. I encourage you to try not to hide from it but find ways to approach it. You can write about it, talk about it with a trusted friend, argue, scream, or fight with it; but don’t give up on it. And don’t try to rush it to completion, because it has no time frame and no template. It is in walking through the grief that we come out on the other side of the pain. Grief causes pain, but it will not always hurt so badly.
3. Learn about grief—attend seminars and workshops as well as read everything you can find on the subject. Knowledge is power. Learning about grief helps us to understand that we are not alone and it helps with preparation for what to expect along the journey. It takes courage to overcome the normal resistance to want to avoid the subject. There are many print resources, including beautifully written books and magazine articles as well as electronic resources, poetry, and music of all types.
4. Engage is a regular program of exercise and other physical activity. Exercise not only helps to relieve stress, but it strengthens the bones and muscles, helps with weight control and most importantly, for newly bereaved individuals, it elevates the mood.
5. Keep your child’s memory alive. One of a bereaved parent’s worst fears is that a beloved child will be forgotten. Choose something as simple as lighting a candle, making a scrapbook, planting a tree, writing a book or establishing a foundation. In additional, when we carry a linking article (something that belonged to our child) it helps keep the memory alive.
6. Reach out to help others, by giving a service or doing volunteer work. Because of our experience, we can understand more fully than many others, what others may be going through. When you use your pain to make a difference in someone else’s life, for a moment you take the attention off yourself and put someone else’s needs ahead of your own. This reaching out benefits the giver as much, if not more, than the receiver. It is fulfilling and adds meaning to life.
The hard work of grieving includes seeking support, facing grief, learning about what to expect, daily exercise, cherishing memories of your child and reaching out to others There are no easy answers for how to go on living when a child dies. Living with grief is neither quick nor easy, but it can be done. The reward of doing so is to add meaning and bring joy back into life. I wish for you and yours, a blessed new year.
Coralease C. Ruff