Loss has been a prevalent theme intersecting with my life over the past six weeks. In this time, there have been four deaths of people whose lives have touched me warmly: my sweetheart’s precious mother; a beloved cousin; a compassionate former colleague; and, a man whose contagious smile I first remember when we were both kids and our families attended the same church. As well, one friend’s adult step-daughter and another friend’s father died during this time.
I wish I could hug all of the people grieving their losses. I bow to their beautiful spirits of Fran, Connie, Estelle, Danny, Tina, and Nicholas.
I am reminded of certain reactions that can happen when grief is at the forefront. Forgetfulness often shows up. Here are ways it has been surfacing for me lately.
Being mixed up momentarily about day or date or time;
Missing or nearly missing appointments (transposing what I record in my planner);
Misplacing certain papers, keys, or other items.
I used to volunteer at our local hospice. They kept a supply of lovely bookmarks that had a letter printed on them. It was written from the viewpoint of a newly grieving person. Forgetfulness, roller coaster emotions, interrupted sleep patterns, changes in appetite, and sudden out-of-the-blue memories were mentioned.
I will write about some of my experiences, because I want you to realize just about anything falls into the category of “normal” about the range of what can happen as part of intense grief.
After my husband died, I found it was difficult for me to talk with the business people I needed to contact, such as companies dealing with his insurance, credit cards, and banking. I would breathe deeply, doing my best to center myself in preparation for making each call. Almost invariably, my voice would crack and I’d find myself weeping in the process of reporting his death.
When I received a jury summons, I knew there was no way I could be sure my emotions would not be all over the place in a public setting. I ended up sobbing on the phone to someone in the Federal Courthouse office, and she gave me a 6-month extension.
The supermarket was another tough destination. Walking down an aisle and seeing one of his favorite foods could send me into fresh tears.
I am sharing my experiences as a way to invite you to be easy with yourself. Here are 5 actions that helped me through intense grief.
Take Breaks – Regularly give yourself a half hour or more to do something you might enjoy (gardening, wood working, walking or other exercise, reading, cooking . . . whatever works for you).
Self Talk – Remind yourself you are experiencing challenges in how your emotions and thoughts normally work. It won’t be this way forever.
Ask for Help – Ask for what you need, whether from a friend, family member, clergy, doctor, massage therapist, counselor, etc.
Be with Friends – See what your comfort level is. Maybe you can do this in small doses, even a 20-minute walk with one close friend.
Bereavement Support Group – Hospices often have support groups with well trained facilitators. Some people benefit from attending one or two sessions; others find comfort in attending for months. I went twice a month for about a year and a half.
If you have questions or if you want to share approaches that work for you, please comment here.