Thursday, September 5, 2019

GOOD GRIEF, "Take Care of Yourself..."

Good Grief: Strategies for Building Resilience and Supporting Transformation
Take Care of Yourself Physically and Mentally

Rest and self-care are so important. When you take time to replenish your spirit, it allows you to serve others from the overflow. You cannot serve from an empty vessel.
                                         Eleanor Brownn, Author

     Some people increase physical and/or mental activity during such times to distract them from the reality and pain of this situation. Keeping busy occupies their mind and their time and provides a self-protective mechanism used for coping. Others decrease their activity and become more sedentary and withdrawn and retreat into isolation. Either choice is an extreme with its own negative effects. Balance is the key to survival here.

     Although you may have the tendency to deal with your grief and loss by withdrawing from the world, shutting yourself in darkness and curling up in bed trying desperately to block out everything, life still moves forward and you are still among the living. This, “doing nothing,” is a paralysis of mind, body, and spirit that is unhealthy and of no service to you or the loved ones who care about you. Embracing this numbness and paralysis is emergency self-care at first and acts as a self-protective mechanism of survival. But remember, this is only the beginning and there is much to do and learn on this journey through grief and loss.

     So, what you need to do…what I forced myself to do…was to keep moving and doing the routine tasks of living. These included cleaning the bathroom, doing the laundry, sweeping the floor, reading a book, taking a walk and other activities.

It does not matter what activity you choose — just move! Activity helps you get outside yourself and focus on a task, very helpful to use pent-up emotional energy. Doing this may even help you sleep better, too.

     Others may deal with grief and loss by being constantly busy as their way to block out everything — not allowing time to really think, feel, or process the loss. Here again, life still moves forward.  And although you are actively moving among the living, you are really “not living.” This, too, causes a halt to the processing of life events and is of no service to you or those who care about you. So, what you need to do is to slow down and allow time to think and feel.  Keeping a friend at hand or at least a phone call away for support is extremely helpful.

     I continued working for several months after my husband died. Was it helpful? Yes, at first. The continued routine helped to push some of the grieving to the back of my mind. However, as time moved on, I realized that I was going in circles and getting nowhere.  I was stuck in moments of grief that kept me repeating “woe is me.” I was exhausting myself mentally, physically, and spiritually trying to function in both worlds: my work routine world and my grief and loss world — neither of which was going well. I had to do something before I fell apart.

     Taking care of yourself is the most powerful way to begin to take care of others.
                 Bryant Mc Gill, Simple Reminders: Inspiration                                                for Living Your Best Life

     So, I took a deep breath and stepped back to decide how to find a balance between too-busy and too-idle. I did this by making healthy choices in self-care for myself. You can do this too.

     First, I just made simple choices. Making a big plan required too much thought and work. I knew that I needed to include both activity and rest in my physical and mental self-care plan.

I had such tension and pain in my neck and back that these created structural issues. So, I scheduled a visit to the chiropractor before we went to Florida. What a relief I got from my first visit and adjustment! Then I had another adjustment after I returned from our trip to Daytona Beach and ritual spreading of ashes in the ocean.

I asked myself, “Why did I deny myself this treatment, knowing full well that I would feel great afterward. Was I trying to punish myself by suffering in pain?”

Like me, you’ll probably deny it, but it does have some truth to it. Misery loves company, right? It was a start, and that is all it takes to make a change. You are worthy of self-care and feeling good.

     Later, I had a cranio-sacral treatment (a spinal energy realignment technique) with my practitioner, which really helped open up my body and relieved a lot of stress. I went for walks with friends, did grocery shopping, joined the gym’s “Silver Sneaker’s” program for seniors, biked with my daughter and felt better. There are many other activities that can be chosen depending on the individual’s interest.

Self-care is your friend — just choose it!

Two and a half years after the loss, I am working with a local chiropractor, Dr. Dan Wilson in Cornelius, NC, who developed a long-term plan of care that has led to significant improvement in my mobility, decreased pain and ease of participating in activities of daily living. I can now walk up and down stairs normally instead of one step at a time. I can sleep without back or hip pain. I can walk for 2 miles without distress…and so much more. No more sporadic quick-fix trips for me — I’m sticking to my plan!

Also, take time to sit quietly and think about your circumstances and how you feel. Talking to others may be helpful; sometimes talking to a professional may be needed. Another strategy is to keep a journal, writing down thoughts and feelings as you process through the loss. I address this in a separate section.

     Sleep is not on good terms with broken hearts. It will have nothing to do with them.
                                                     Christopher Pike, Author

     Getting adequate sleep and rest is another way to take care of yourself physically and mentally. Sleep was a challenge at first, so I took naps whenever I felt like it. Sometimes, I would like to have retreated into a coma and disappeared for a while. I had to laugh at myself. You know that’s not happening. There’s too much to do.

     It’s good for you to know this “coma” thought occurs. It’s normal. Just “don’t do it.”

     The mind continues to replay hundreds of events, memories, and all the “I wish” thoughts that torment your nights. So, you cry yourself to sleep, or you go sleepless, or at least not remembering if you fell asleep or not. This too improves over time.

What helped me is that I kept on a normal schedule and continued to use a sleep CD that I had already used for a long time. Only under this new set of stresses, I had to sometimes replay it two, three, or even four times. The normalcy of this was very comforting. However, I needed to change the usual CD I used while my husband was alive to another one of my favorites with soothing tones for Chakra balancing. The old one elicited memories of him when I played it each night and he was sleeping beside me. Making this change worked much better.

     I also visited my doctor, who offered me “something for sleep” if I needed it. A generous offer and sometimes helpful; however, I chose to forgo this option. It is worth consideration for temporary relief, but only under a doctor’s care. Sleep is often elusive when it is quiet and you are alone lying in bed — your mind actively replaying and reliving events while you judge yourself harshly. This creates even more pain and sorrow. How to deal with this is unique to the individual.

     My self-care was to stop worrying about “not getting enough sleep” and instead to find something to do while I was awake. When I started rehashing events, I wallowed in self-condemnation for a while. Then, I just said, Cheryl, stop beating yourself up. You weren’t perfect. Get over yourself. Think of something good, happy, positive and get a grip.

Well, if you keep telling yourself this, it works and you feel better. Maybe you still won’t sleep better for a while, but you will feel less stressed. Sleep will eventually happen. Give yourself time to adjust.


·       I nourish my mind and body.
·       I breathe deeply and fully and relax my body.
·       I get the sleep I need every night, and my body appreciates how I take care of it.


With her permission, I am serializing here nurse Cheryl Barrett's valuable book on transcending grief. I had the pleasure of being her coach and editor through my Write Your Book with Me enterprise. 

Douglas Winslow Cooper, PhD

Perhaps the easiest way to obtain a copy of her book, published by Outskirts Press, is through this Amazon link: 

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