By Dr. Lou LaGrand —
Has it been weeks since the death of your loved one and you still feel sluggish with low energy levels? Are you hesitant in making decisions? Confused? Is hope draining out of you and all you think about is a bleak future?
It is not unusual to suffer physical and emotional depletion when mourning. Adapting to the loss of a loved one is always a major challenge and calls for a new awareness and the development of new routines without the presence of the beloved. It will help you immensely to deal with all of the changing scenes in your new life if you will create the intention to focus on what you can do to maintain your ability to make quality choices and decisions. This means taking exceptional care of your brain.
It is easy to fall into poor habits of eating, sleeping, and taking care of yourself when your attention is solely on the sadness of your great loss. Here are several things you can do to strengthen your ability to cope with change by taking care of the very center of the decision-making process.
1. Having a specific goal is critical for positive brain function. Make the following one of the major tasks of your mourning: to grieve fully and at the same time reinvest in life. You must not believe that you have to be sad all day every day. It is critical to understand that you need respite from the stress of grief work. This means treat yourself to something you like every day. Accept an invitation to eat out, to be in the company of others, to enjoy a pleasant event. This approach has a powerful effect on the brain.
2. Eat protein at all three meals every day. You don’t need a large portion. Protein will assist a strong transmission of nerve impulses in the brain. It is the major fuel for brain function. One of the amino acids in protein, tyrosine, will increase the levels of two important neurotransmitters, norepinephrine and dopamine. They will help your energy levels and you will feel better physically.? Eliminate toxins from your diet, such as those found in artificial sweeteners like high fructose corn syrup, crystalline fructose, and aspartame.
3. Add omega -3 fatty acids to your diet at least once a day to assist cerebral circulation and reduce inflammation. You can obtain this either in capsule form or by eating salmon, tuna, or consuming fish or krill oil. At the same time, if you are a smoker, cut back. At the very least, do not increase your use of tobacco. Smoking is the worst thing you can do to your brain, especially at this time of mourning, as it increases inflammation.
4. Keep learning. Anything new that you learn will stimulate the growth of new cells and neural connections. One of the important ways to fill this need is to find out all you can about grief and grief work, since our culture is not open to discussing death in a healthy way before it comes into our lives. Or, try learning new skills that you can use at home or on the job. Keep learning something new for the rest of your life.
5. Never miss an opportunity to exercise. You may have heard this often in the past and given it little thought. Now more than ever, science has shown the positive effects exercise can have on brain chemistry. It may also serve as your best treatment for reactive depression that is a common condition when grieving. Some studies suggest exercise is as good as most anti-depressive drugs.
6. As soon as your grief allows, search for meaning, purpose, and your mission in life. And go for it. Love what you do.
7. Hydrate. Drink more clean spring water each day than whatever is your normal beverage. Water is crucial in brain function, especially in relation to caffeine and alcohols which are dehydrants, sucking water from cells and adding to that let-down feeling. Staying hydrated will also keep your lymph system working to remove toxins from the immune cells and reduce the possibilities of infections when under stress.
8. Make every effort to focus on what you can do to strive to be more loving. In my 30 years of helping the bereaved, I am convinced that love is the single most effective coping strategy that will get you through any loss. For the brain, it will minimize, often eliminate, the power of negative thoughts to generate excessive and unnecessary emotional and physical pain.
By changing your frame of reference-with attention to seeing all you come in contact with through the lens of love-you will find that fear of the future is stripped away. Equally important, you will feel loved. To love and feel loved is the very foundation of life itself. Meditate for a moment on this quote from Mother Teresa: “There is more hunger for love and appreciation than for bread.”
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 monthly ezine-free website is www.extraordinarygriefexperiences.com.Tags: grief, hope