IN PREVIOUS POSTS in this series, we’ve discussed and journaled about the different types of grief, how grief manifests in different ways in our lives, the many emotions associated with grief, and how to recognize and deal specifically with numbness, loneliness, and guilt.
I’d like to re-emphasize here that though most books and articles on grief focus on the loss of a loved one — bereavement — grief, in a broader sense, is our emotional response to a loss of any kind. All of the articles in this series are about this broader definition of grief, and the journaling prompts offered are designed to assist with the emotional processing and healing that is part of any journey through grief — whatever its initial cause.
Today, I’d like to suggest other ways to help yourself, along with additional writing prompts that will help you figure out which of these ways may work best for you.
First, it bears repeating that grief is an extremely personal process and that everyone goes through it in their own way. There is no schedule or one-size-fits-all timetable for grieving. And there are no prescriptive practices that will work for everyone. That’s why I’ve offered so many different types of writing prompts and ways of approaching the grieving process.
Here are a few practices that may help you as you grieve:
- Avoid judging your feelings. I’ve written a lot about this in previous articles — how important it is to allow your feelings to exist and to be felt. Allow these feelings to come and go, and acknowledge their validity. Journaling about your feelings can help you acknowledge and clarify what you are feeling.
- Pay attention to your health. Getting enough sleep, eating well, and exercising each day can go a long way toward helping you maintain a sense of hope.
- Find ways to make meaning of your loss — this can happen through writing, but can also occur in other ways. For example, volunteering or joining an organization where your actions can make a difference.
- Honor your loss. If you are grieving the loss of a loved one, finding ways to remember them and carry on their legacy can give you renewed purpose and meaning. If you are grieving the loss of something else, find a way to honor that loss. Create a ritual or a small altar for that loss — whether that something is tangible or intangible.
- Focus on staying functional in your daily life. It’s natural to want to withdraw from normal activities and people, especially at the beginning of your grief. And that may be what you need to do for while, but don’t let your “time out” from daily life drag on for too long. When you find ways to participate fully in your daily work and relationships it can relieve the stress that focusing on your grief can cause.
- Share your wants and needs with other people. Allow them to help you in ways that feel good for everyone involved.
- Get group or individual counseling. No matter what kind of grief you’re going through, a professional therapist can guide you through the rough spots and help you feel more in control of your grieving process.
Your writing prompts:
- Of the practices listed above, which ones are most attractive to you and which ones do you feel the most resistance toward? Make a list of each.
- Of the ones that are most attractive to you, which are you already incorporating into your life? Can you add one more? If so, which one would you choose and why? How will you make time for it in your life? For example, if the idea of creating an altar to honor the person or object of your loss attracts you, how would you set it up? What would it look like, and where would you place it in your home? What objects would you include on your altar?
- For each practice you feel resistance toward, write about where and how that resistance feels in your body. Then, explore the underlying emotion(s) and causes. For example, does the idea of sharing your wants and needs with other people make your stomach tighten or increase the tension in your shoulders? What is the emotion underlying that physical response? And what is the cause of that response? Can you challenge yourself to try the practice to see if it will work for you? If not, that’s fine — don’t push yourself, but do ask yourself the question. And if you feel that pushing yourself a little outside your comfort zone and into a new activity may help, then I would encourage you to try it.
Are you already engaged in some of the above practices or have in the past? Which ones are helping (or have helped) you the most? Please feel free to share other ideas and writing prompts in the comments section.
Previous articles in this series:
- Journaling Through Grief – Introduction
- Journaling Through Grief, Part 2 – A Conversation with Grief
- Journaling Through Grief, Part 3 — 5 Ways to Express Grief Safely
- Journaling Through Grief, Part 4 – When You Feel Numb
- Journaling Through Grief, Part 5 – Managing Loneliness
- Journaling Through Grief, Part 6 – Dealing with Guilt