"When we give ourselves compassion, we are opening our hearts in a way that can transform our lives." ~ Kristin Neff
Ongoing sadness due to the death of our loved one is deeply demanding and can easily crush our spirit. Yet, it is a normal part of confronting the massive pain and emptiness that seems to continually surround us during grief. Often, grief causes us to think about why we are here as we examine our beliefs about a Higher Power and the fairness of life. At some point, we sometimes wonder if we can continue to bear it all and wonder if it will ever stop.
How long deep sadness continues depends on our internal programming and our ultimate decision to transition to a life without the physical presence of the beloved. At the appropriate time, and you possess the inner wisdom to know that time, you will want to take a break from your grief and recharge. This is a healthy and wise decision to make so that you can resume other parts of your grief work and not fall victim to a compromised immune system and the illness that follows.
So what can you do? Essentially, how can you temporarily take your attention off your great loss and direct it to a relaxed and regenerative state. Here are seven ideas to get you started. Then using your inherent creativity you can add some of your own reminders. The main point is: refuse to grieve 24/7.
1. Commit to change. Any worthwhile endeavor that is directed toward a goal must begin with constant self-talk with a purpose. Here we make a promise to our self that in order to preserve health, sanity, and regain energy we will take a number of periodic breaks. We deserve it and we have the power to carry through with a 100% commitment. Believe that unless you are determined to make some specific changes you cannot learn to live in the moment and adapt to the new circumstances of life.
2. Use a special object or symbol as a motivator. It could be a logo of your choosing, a trinket, a zipper hugger, a special coin, something that will be your own personal reminder to think a different thought. Choosing what the different thought will be is critical. Make it something that warms your heart or causes you to appreciate or feel gratitude for what you still have. Put the object in a spot where you pass by it two or three times a day and allow it to ring the bell that changes your focus to something that relaxes.
3. Post a meaningful quote in your notebook or organizer. Here is one of mine from over 50 years ago: "The determining factor in life is not ability, it's what you think you can do. You can stretch every aspect of your being if you are dedicated." You have absolute control over a thought you choose. Find your meaningful quote and place it in your organizer on a special card. Or take the card and use it as a book marker. As soon as you read your quote then act, do something; say something to reprogram one of your subconscious beliefs. Remember you are beginning a new life, the next chapter, so be open to new thoughts, ideas, and experiences.
4. Place a picture of a beautiful scene or a memory rousing event on the screen or back of the case of your i-Phone. Place another on the face of your computer so that when you turn it on up pops the meaning-making picture. Before you make your choice of a picture go through the pictures on your i-Phone and computer, or take some new ones, specifically to use as your reminders to grow and not waste the experience you are struggling through. The biggest waste is to stop loving. Increase loving the person who is no longer with you and all those you interact with, including yourself. Taking a break from sadness is self-love in action.
5. Put a self-care directive in your shirt pocket, wallet, or pocket book. Make up a reminder or self-motivator like, "Hey, take a break" or "Be kind to yourself: Take a timeout." If you are in a place where you can't make a quick change, take several deep diaphragmatic breaths and softly say to yourself, "Release, you are worthy and good." You'll be helping your blood pressure and reducing stress. Deep breathing is arguably the most powerful anti-dote for stress and can be done just about anywhere.
6. Place a "post it" note on your bathroom mirror or on the bed table. Notes to yourself are both healthy and therapeutic as is writing out your feelings. Think of something funny you would like to say to yourself or a saying that will lift your spirits, especially as you begin the day. Here are a couple I use: "I am strong" or "I am having a great day."(I say those are funny because I am in year 79, yet I believe what I say to myself.) You also may want to try: "I matter" or "Change your thoughts and you change your life" or "Giving, loving, serving are all great purposes." Repeat them at least a dozen times and in your mind see yourself doing what you are saying. Link your words to a visual of you doing or being.
7. Put a reminder on the dashboard or visor of your car. This reminder could be an object or a word that only has meaning for you, if you don't want others to know what you are doing. If your reminder is something that could be useful to others, or you don't care if they know it is one of your ways of dealing with grief, that's okay too. On my car dashboard, I had a special, small plaque made that reads: "Outtalk Negativity." You might want to put something that suggests this important understanding: "Take off your mask." That is, act as you are at this time. You don't always have to wear your pleasing mask that you are doing fine, when around others. We all wear masks, whether grieving or not, and need to shed them frequently.
Finally, let me reemphasize the need to find your own particular ways to allow yourself down time as you struggle with your great loss. This type of self-care would be recommended by every grief counselor on the planet. Make it a part of everyday, beginning today. Oh yes, all of this is work, hard grief work. Results won't come instantly. Just keep coaching yourself to hang in there.
Dr. LaGrand is a grief counselor and the author of eight books, the most recent, Healing Grief, Finding Peace: 101 Ways to Cope with the Death of Your Loved One. He is known world-wide for his research on the Extraordinary Experiences of the bereaved (after-death communication phenomena) and was the founding President of Hospice & Palliative Care of the St. Lawrence Valley, Inc. His monthly ezine-free website ishttp://www.extraordinarygriefexperiences.com.
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