Self Care for Grief
Grief Is Love.
Unending, forever in your heart...
- Rambling Mind
To live fully is to love fiercely, and to grieve deeply.
Self Care for Grief
Especially during times of emotional upset, it is important to practice self care.
Sometimes we all need a reminder to be more gentle and loving with ourselves.
Remember there are no rules or 'right or wrong' when it comes to grief.
Self care tools to help you during your grief
1. Nourish your body and mind. Sleep, Eat and Move!
During times of grief it is easy to neglect even these very basic needs.
Our emotional state is impacted by our physical and mental state so while this may be the last thing on your mind, taking care of your body and mind is vitally important.
Insomnia can occur especially during the initial phase after a significant loss.
When you are heartbroken, it can be difficult to quiet your mind, shut down and sleep.
If sleep won't come then simply lay down, close your eyes and rest.
This means eating foods which are nutritious and good for you.
Stay hydrated. Limit your intake of caffeine, alcohol, drugs and unhealthy substances.
Moving your body and getting physical exercise is good for you on so many levels and helps release endorphins which can help to elevate your mood.
2. Know the stages and symptoms of grief: recognize that you are grieving.
Grieving can involve a roller coaster of emotions. You may feel everything from shock, numbness, denial and deep sadness to anger, guilt, fear and anxiety. You might feel like you're going crazy. These emotions can feel so intense that physical symptoms may also manifest: like someone has punched you in the stomach, knocking the wind out of you. You may experience fatigue, nausea, insomnia, poor concentration, weight fluctuations and even pain. The loss of a pet is heart breaking and the pain is real. Your nervous system may be in overdrive, triggering feelings of a loss of control. By being aware of these feelings and symptoms, you may be better able to cope with them. If you are concerned with any emotional or physical symptoms or if they continue for any extended period of time, see a medical professional.
3. Allow yourself to grieve.
Understand that it is okay to not be okay.
Allow yourself to feel however you feel, without self judgement.
Know that your feelings are natural and normal.
Grief is not a 'one size fits all' experience.
Some people cry, others grieve silently- and everything in between.
There is no right way to grieve; there are no rules.
You may need time. Give yourself permission to grieve and to fully experience your emotions. Releasing those emotions regularly can help, especially in the beginning.
4. Go out.
Get outside. Take a long walk, somewhere close to nature if possible.
Fresh air and a change of scenery can do you a world of good.
See also the section below on the benefits of Eco Therapy.
5. Do things that make you happy.
You need to get those dopamine levels up, stat! The best way to do this is by doing some of the activities you love, whatever it is that brings you joy. Think back on any activities that helped you de-stress in the past and try doing more of them. Those who are grieving are usually still able to experience moments of happiness.
6. Engage your mind.
Mindful activities can help take your mind off of your loss, even if only for short periods of time.
Dive into a good book, watch an engaging or funny film, tackle a detail-oriented project.
Meditation and mindfulness exercises can be beneficial.
7. We all need somebody to lean on.
You may feel like being alone but try to avoid it.
It is important to be able to openly express how you feel.
Talk with a trusted friend or family member- someone who can "be present" for you; someone who will listen and acknowledge how you feel. They don't need to 'fix' you.
You may also benefit from seeking comfort and support through a faith-based organization.
It is equally important to stay away from individuals who do not empathise with what you are going through. They might not understand the incredible bond you shared with your animal companion and may even seem to be judgemental of your grief. Although unintended, these individuals can actually end up making you feel worse so it's best to limit your time with them and not converse about your loss or feelings of grief with them.
8. Get professional and/or peer support.
Seek out a grief support practitioner specializing in pet loss and animal-related grief.
Join a pet loss support group online/offline or both.
It can be difficult initially to think back upon all the memories you have of your pet, especially in the early days following a loss. You may benefit from expressing yourself in non verbal ways: keeping a journal, writing letters to your beloved pet, creating a memory book with photos and happy stories. Try to focus on the positive memories you have. Doing this gives your body and mind a different emotional experience and helps create more gratitude for the time you did have together.
10. Focus on the positive.
Consider all the good things that are part of your life. Your dear animal friend would not want you to suffer. They would want you to go on living and to do so is also a way of honouring them.
Please do not feel bad or guilty about moments of happiness and getting back to enjoying your life. This does not mean that you miss your loved one any less, or that the pain has fully disappeared. Instead, you have learned to integrate the loss into your life.
11. Memorialize your beloved animal.
Creating a memorial is something that can help with beginning to release some of your sorrow. A memorial can be as simple or elaborate as you wish. Some options for memorializing your pet's memory and life are: holding a ceremony or funeral observance, create a memory box with your dog or cat collar and tags and an imprint of their paw, planting a lovely flower/shrub/tree in your dog or cat's favourite spot out in the garden or even just you spending time there yourself. Memorials can help give focus to our feelings, provide greater closure and aid us in accessing memories. A memorial may take whatever form you feel is right for you.
12. This too shall pass.
This is more of a reminder. Keep in mind that how you are feeling now will eventually shift.
Grief is a process and the loss will be integrated into your life. You will probably never stop missing your loved one, but the symptoms of grief are no longer debilitating. There will likely still be times (especially around significant dates, anniversaries, birthdays etc.) when you miss your animal friend dearly. Some things may suddenly remind you of them: triggering an emotional reaction. This is normal. Eventually though your mind will turn more to happy memories you shared. You can live with the loss and move forward. It doesn't mean you have forgotten your precious friend; they will always be a part of you.
Eco Therapy for Self Care
Being deeply connected to Nature is necessary for one's
mental, physical and spiritual wellbeing.
CONNECTION TO NATURE
Many people are feeling disconnected from naturethese days, spending a great deal of time indoors, connected to devices rather than to each other- or even themselves! This can cause a myriad of issues. Studies have shown that spending time in nature reduces depression by 70%. Eco therapy focuses on our reconnecting with nature and improving our mental and physical wellbeing through being outdoors. No this doesn't mean you have to climb a mountain, that is, unless you are up for such an adventure- then go for it! Connecting to nature can be as simple as spending time in your local park or being next to a stream. There are many ways to reconnect to nature without having to travel to far off places.
When people feel connected to nature, they feel more connected to themselves and others and everything becomes clearer. Sometimes we need to get grounded and go deep within ourselves- with Mother Nature as our guide, as our healer. The forest itself is the therapist. The oceans, mountains and meadows; even the ground beneath our feet can help to enliven us in ways that may have many positive health benefits.
The healing power of nature is not new. Steven M Taylor, a psychologist who has studied the effects of eco therapy has said: "It’s not surprising that nature has a therapeutic effect when you consider that the human race – and all our evolutionary forebears – have been closely bonded with it for all our existence. It’s only in recent times that many of us have been confined to man-made environments. For us, contact with green spaces is therefore like going back home, and fills us with the same sense of safety and belonging."
He goes on to say, "the main reason why nature can heal and transform us is because of its calming and mind-quietening effect. In nature, our minds process a lot less information than normal..and most importantly, the beauty and majesty of nature acts a little like a mantra in meditation, slowing down the normal ‘thought-chatter’ which runs chaotically through our minds. As a result, an inner stillness and energy fills us."
DO IT YOURSELF ECO THERAPY
There are many ways to reconnect with nature. This is something that you can do by yourself or with others. Being alone, it allows you to also 'go within' and become an observer- observing your own feelings, thoughts and sensations and also letting your senses enjoy and absorb the sights and sounds of the natural world. It doesn't mean you have to book a trip to Yellowstone National Park, you can go to your local park or favourite green space - as long as you feel like you are somewhat close to nature. That might be sat next to a stream or brook, strolling in a meadow of wildflowers, down by the seaside, sitting under a tree- no matter where, it is how you feel when you are there that matters. You'll be able to feel if you're in the right spot. Wherever this is should resonate with you. Remember there are no rules; there is no right or wrong.
So take off those shoes and socks, plant your feet firmly on the ground (grass, sand, pebbles)- and connect your feet to the EARTH. Sit with your back leaning up next to a tree, dip your feet into the water, listen to the breeze, observe other beings - the birds, insects and any other critters who might come along the way. Take as little or as long as you want. Even just 15 minute can have a beneficial effect on your emotional and mental state. And don't forget to BREATHE.