At some point in our lives, most of us will experience the death of someone we love. What happens next is a personal journey, and usually one we’re ill prepared for dealing with. In this month’s feature blog I share my own story along with a number of ways to support those experiencing grief.
In this week’s blog:
A time for grief
A pathway to connect
Healing through wellbeing
Support tools & contacts
If you’ve been a follower of my blog for a while, you’ll know that I’ve lost four direct members of my family in this life time. Two sisters, one a twin, both of which didn’t make it past the womb, a brother who died in his 50’s, and my Mum, who died suddenly and far too young at just 68 years of age. I also lost all of my grandparents before I hit my mid 20’s. Does that make me an expert on family death and how to deal with it, heck no. I also want to acknowledge here that grief doesn’t just come from death as in dying, but also the end of a significant relationship that you were not ready to let go of, that grief is real and can be just as painful.
What I have learnt, I’m willing to share and if that helps just one person, it was worth my time putting this blog together. Below are the things that can support you during grief, and the rest of your life. As always, take what works, leave what doesn’t resonate, try nothing if it’s not the right time. If you want to share what’s helped you that would be amazing, it could work for someone else too.
A time for grief
There is no time limit or average time to ‘get over’ a death (or loss). Indeed ‘getting over’ is not necessarily a helpful term, I found that I didn’t want to move on and forget but I did want to find some peace, and I definitely wanted to find a way to connect.
Each loss I’ve had has been different. The loss of my sisters, and particularly my twin (only because of the twin connection), has affected me my whole life. I was relatively numb to the grief after losing my mum, however, what I do remember and with a deep emotional thwack, is the desperate need to find her. Of course I knew in reality she’d gone forever in body, but somehow it was too hard to accept, hard to believe.
Mum wasn’t buried, and I didn’t feel there was one specific place I could go to be with her, talk to her. That hurt the most. Even as I write this blog, some 10 years after her death, I can’t quite believe she’s gone and the tears are hot. This is my point. There’s no time limit and you should never feel as though it’s time you ‘got over it’. It still hurts, it will always hurt and I will always miss my mum, the woman who brought me into this world and loved and cared for me. I’ve learnt that grief changes over time. I’ve also learnt that you can influence this change. My plea to you is make time for grief. Sometimes we need to get on with our lives and that’s just the way it is, we can’t go around crying all of the time, but we can make time.
There’s different ways you can do this, here’s a few suggestions that you can take and use or tweak to suit you:
- Have a place you go to where you can be with that person in spirit. Somewhere that means something to you.
- Make time to be on your own to grieve in your own way.
- Have a ritual that allows you to connect in spirit. This might be going through old photographs or looking through things you were given by that person, whatever works for you.
- Engage with your emotion and how you are feeling, whatever that is, it’s okay.
- One of my favorite times to be with mum is through meditation and in my dreams, and that brings me nicely onto the next section…
A pathway to connect
Ultimately the best way I found to connect to all of my family is through prayer and meditation, just before I went to sleep. It doesn’t really matter if you’re religious or not, the prayer can be just to those who’ve past. When I first started doing this, I found that I often dreamt about Mum, although even in my dreams I acknowledged she was dead and would ask her how it was possible that she was there. At first it was really upsetting, and I’d wake up feeling sad. Then I realised that it was a lovely time to spend with mum, the most lucid if you like, and I made a conscious decision to embrace it and make the most of that time with her. It doesn’t happen very often now, but I don’t analyse that, it wouldn’t serve any useful purpose.
Here’s the meditation I do right after my prayers:
I imagine myself walking up a grassy hill on a sunny day, take your time to really feel that you’re there (smells, tastes, sensations etc.).
As you ascend the hill you can see your family members (and pets if you like – I do) all waiting for you to arrive.
When you get to the top of the hill, embrace each in whatever way suits you. Talk to them if you like, share your day or your thoughts or a special memory you have of them.
I then sit down for a while, and when I do all of my pets come and join me, one by one.
You can then either choose to visualise yourself saying farewell (for now) or you can just let yourself drift off to sleep where you are.
Healing through wellbeing
Soothing smells: There is no better essential oil for me than lavender when it comes to calming the mind and bringing about peace. It also a mild sedative so it’s great popped just under your pillow.
Acknowledge the loss and don’t bottle up your emotions. You may think you’ve cleverly nailed down that box of grief in your mind, but you haven’t dealt with it, so it’s still present. Sometimes, by connecting to the person you’ve lost in some way, this not only help with the sense of loss, but helps our emotions to run freely. You might do this by creating a memory box or scrapbook, or writing a poem or short story about them, whatever works for you.
Recognise when you need help, and ask for it this might be from a group, online information, a friend, a therapist or your GP. If you don’t get the help you want, keep trying other avenues until you get what you need, different things work for different people.
Self-Compassion is important, be patient and kind to yourself. This is your grief and nobody can tell you how long the process will take, or how that will look. Be honest about what you need, let others help, and make time for your own healing.
Crystal healing: The energy vibration of rose quartz is said to promote peace and healing of the heart. I use this stone on the heart chakra (on the breastbone in the centre of your chest), with clients for balancing and healing treatments. I also have a rose quartz necklace that I wear from Outrage.
Look after your physical and mental health. This is the cornerstone of therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy and wellness coaching.
Here’s some key areas to focus on. These are all recommended by the NHS in the UK and I use all of these myself, and with clients on my coaching programmes, so I know firsthand that they work.
- Nutrition: eat a healthy balanced diet, poor nutrition affects our functioning and mood. Get inspiration
- Connect with people so you don’t feel alone, loneliness can lead to mental health issues such as anxiety and low mood. If you do feel anxious regularly you may wish to take a look at our ‘relieve anxiety in 3 simple steps‘ short health programme.
- Get out into nature and soak up the fresh air, and vitamin D.
- Take physical exercise, even short spurts of HIIT or brisk walking will help to release endorphins, your natural ‘happy drug’.
- Be in the present moment, notice what brings you joy, and take time to enjoy it.
- If you are general someone who needs to be alone to recharge your batteries then meditation may be better than a hard workout. Meditate, even if just for 10 minutes a day, scientific evidence has shown the great benefits this has on your mood and resilience. I also found it helped unblock emotions that I’d locked down. try these guided meditations
- Yoga is a great way to relax, limber up and build strength. It’s also a slice of time just for you.
- Sleep is so important for our physical and mental functioning, but don’t worry if you’re struggling to get to or stay asleep, that’ll only make it worse. Yoga & meditation before bed can help. You may also wish to take a look at our ‘sleep better in 3 simple steps‘ short health programme.
- Breathing exercises in the moment can help you to bring about a sense of calm.
Support tools and contacts
I work part time for a small team called mHabitat, we co-design health tech. with users, for the benefit of those that use it and need it the most. We work nationally across health, social care, and third sector as well as with arms length bodies. One of the projects the team led was to launch a website called MindWell, the project continues as new resources are added all to support mental health, here are a few that support bereavement.
Support services in the UK:
Cruse Bereavement Care Helpline is a national helpline offering emotional support after the death of someone close. Call 0808 808 1677 (free phone).
Dying Matters aims to help people talk more openly about dying, death and bereavement, and to make plans for the end of life. Call 08000 21 44 66.
WAY is a national charity in the UK for men and women aged 50 or under when their partner died. It’s a peer-to-peer support group run by a network of volunteers who have been bereaved at a young age themselves, so they understand what other members maybe going through.
Veterans Bereavement Support Service provides a specialist bereavement support network for both those who serve and have served, and also their family in times of need. They provide a tailored service for families needing assistance with bereavement and support, including advice on funeral care, 365 days a year. Their comprehensive range of services support people, not just after they have lost someone special, but also before, so that the support is available and they can plan ahead. Call 0345 222 1525.
Craft your own wellbeing lifestyle
As well as blogging about wellbeing, I authored a book that brings together some of my favorite wellbeing learnings. In this short book I share lots of practical advice, tips and strategies for a wellbeing lifestyle.
The book cost only covers the cost of printing and is on sale at £6.49. You can grab a copy on Amazon here – if you buy it I’d love to hear what you think in the form of a book review on Amazon. Thank you.
Supporting you to be your best and happiest self