Well, it’s certainly been a long time since I’ve submitted a post on here. I lost my mother earlier this year to ovarian cancer and simply couldn’t find the motivation to write again. Even though she was fighting her illness for several years and we knew this would be the inevitable result, I realized that there is nothing that can truly prepare you for the feeling of losing one of the most important people in your life.
One of the recurring feelings I still have, months later, is the desire to pick up the phone and call her because that was something I did every single day. It hurts to not be able to hear her voice on the other end of the line.
Anyway, I wasn’t sure I’d ever start writing here again and I almost felt embarrassed that it had taken me so long to write again, that I avoided sitting down to write at all. In the hopes of getting my groove back, I figured I might as well start writing about the topic that has posed such a profound challenge in my life and, in my opinion, is not discussed nearly enough.
In this post, I’ll share some tips that I have found helpful personally. If you’re experiencing grief or another form of loss, hopefully these tips can be useful for you as well.
1. Get outside and move your body.
Right after my mom passed away, one of the most therapeutic things for me was to get moving. I couldn’t fathom doing any intense exercise, in fact, it took me months before I could return to the gym or run. Something about grief just sucks the energy out of you.
Going on long walks outside, however, helped me to process my feelings when all I truly wanted to do was cry and stay in bed for days. Some other form of gentle exercise like stretching, yoga, etc. would be a great option as well.
As time went on, I found I could return to more normal exercise habits, but gentle movement was helpful for me at the start. Much like movement, it is also essential to get outside in nature to breathe fresh air and take in the sun. I also remember being hyper focused on my senses and enjoyed the sounds of running water, wind passing through leaves in the trees, the feel of the breeze on my skin.
Somehow, this helped me feel both comforted and closer to my mother. Read more here about how exercise can help those dealing with grief.
2. Talk to someone.
Going to therapy or talking to others about what you’re experiencing is a necessary part of the grief process. My therapist was able to give me lots of ideas for how to process my emotions, as well as to help me understand the stages of grief. In addition, talking to others about my mom to get to know her from others’ perspectives was what I needed to process the feeling of losing her.
Talking to someone in a setting where I could feel comfortable breaking down and crying was important for me as well. It’s okay to let people know if you’re not in the right state of mind or setting to talk about things. I found this helpful when I went back to work and people would ask me questions. At the same time, it’s important to know that it IS okay to show your emotions in front of others. It’s human and it’s real and it’s your reality.
3. Do what works for you.
I went through a lot of trial and error in trying to find ways to feel comforted and connected to my mom. For me, writing “letters” to my mom was helpful as I processed all of the emotions that were coming up. I also found it helpful to look through her belongings, to listen to music that reminds me of her, to learn more about her and her past, to keep things that remind me of her close to me. For example, I keep her favorite ring on a necklace that I wear very day because I find it comforting.
Other people may find different strategies helpful for processing their feelings such as talking out loud as if you’re speaking to your loved one, using art or music as a comfort, meditating, taking a trip to get away for a mental break, being alone for periods of time to process your feelings, or, on the contrary, surrounding yourself with loved ones or pets.
4. Try to do things that feel normal, even if you don’t.
Getting back to work, taking care of mundane things in your life such as cleaning or walking the dog, and enjoying hobbies that bring you joy help ease you back into a more settled state of mind. You can focus your energy on something positive and productive. I personally found cooking for myself and others to be quite therapeutic during that time. Whatever feels normal and healthy for you, do that.
5. Give yourself some grace.
Grief is a process that is different for everyone. Be gentle with yourself because it’s not an easy ride. It’s okay to take time away from work, to lay in bed if that feels like what you need. Grief can be exhausting and your body and mind just need time, especially at first.
Later on, there may be days when you feel like everything is okay, but suddenly you hear a song or see something or smell something that reminds you of the person you’ve lost and you get huge surges of sadness.
I’m currently experiencing some of these bursts of emotion as important “firsts” come up like the first holidays and birthdays without her there. This is okay and it’s normal. Take things one day at a time, or even one minute at a time. Breathe. Things WILL get easier. You’ll never forget or truly completely heal from losing a loved one, but, with time, the grief gets easier to carry.
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