One of the things that makes grief so difficult to experience is that there is no way of ‘fixing’ it. You can’t fast-forward through it. It won’t magically disappear overnight. For some people, although feelings of intense grief get less frequent, there will always be part of them that is grieving.
With this in mind, the best thing you can hope for is to find ways of coping with grief, small actions that make the pain more bearable. Here are 10 proactive, practical tips that could help give you some comfort.
1. Express your feelings
Psychologists have long talked about the benefits of expressing how you feel. Recently neuroscientists from UCLA have shown that talking about emotions has a noticeable effect on the brain and reduces the intensity of the emotion. In short, it’s important that you find a way to identify and accept how you are feeling. This doesn’t always have to be by talking to another person – try writing a journal instead if you’re uncomfortable talking about your grief.
2. Look after yourself
Grief often causes disrupted sleep patterns and a loss of appetite. This can have a major impact on your physical health, which will only make you feel worse. While you can’t make your grief disappear, keeping yourself physically healthy will give you the strength to deal with your emotions. Sleep when you can and try to eat well and regularly.
3. Join a support group
Support groups allow people going through similar experiences to come together and share their feelings. You may find that meeting people who understand you makes you feel less alone. You won’t be pressured to share your story if you are not ready.
4. Do volunteer work
There’s growing evidence from various studies that doing volunteer work has a positive mental impact. Apart from providing a distraction, doing something to help others can make you feel better about the world, boost your self-confidence and help you meet new people.
5. Take up a new hobby
Finding a new hobby to invest your time in can be a rewarding way to distract yourself occasionally and give you something to look forward to. Creative hobbies like arts and crafts will give you a sense of achievement, while physical activities like sports will boost the chemicals in your brain responsible for positive emotions and keep you healthy. Many people find that gardening does both of these things by providing moderate physical exercise and a creative outlet.
6. Or revisit an old one
After losing someone you love you may have put a lot of your life on hold. You may have lost enthusiasm for many things you once enjoyed. In time, when you feel ready to start healing, you should think about returning to hobbies and interests that you enjoyed before your loss. Discovering that you can find enjoyment in small things again can be an important part of healing.
7. Try to keep to a routine
Many people find that keeping to a routine gives a sense of structure and security during an otherwise uncertain time. Small things like going to bed at the same time or planning what you’ll do with your weekend can help. It will provide focus and clarity in at least one aspect of your life as you learn to cope with your grief.
8. Avoid alcohol and drugs
It can be very tempting to try anything that will numb the pain of losing a loved one. You might think that alcohol and drugs will make you feel better, but any relief will only be temporary and you will feel much worse in the long run. If you are drinking or taking drugs more frequently as a way of numbing your emotions, contact a bereavement support organisation for advice.
9. Socialize with friends
Grieving is an isolating experience. If you feel like you need to be alone, that is fine. You have to grieve in the way that seems right to you. But maintaining social relationships can be a way of getting the comfort and support you need. Try to schedule a few meetings with friends in an environment that you are comfortable in. And remember – if you have fun, this is okay. The small moments of laughter and happiness during grief are important and you do not need to feel guilty about them.
10. Find a token of remembrance
Dealing with grief does not mean forgetting your loved one. Many people find comfort in thinking of ways to keep their loved one’s memory alive. You could keep a few of their possessions in your home, or have a special photo album full of good memories. This way you can honour the memory of your loved one in a positive way and make sure they still have a place in your heart and your life.