Self-care is one of the most important aspects of grieving. Unfortunately this is the last thing you may think about doing. If you are like me, you may end up putting your own self-care on hold because grief has made you physically exhausted. In fact, grief is what is draining your energy. Being physically drained puts you at risk of getting sick or being in an accident. When you are physically healthy, you are better able to deal with the emotions associated with grief. This is why it is important to practice self-care as much as possible so you stay healthy.
Take caring of yourself isn’t something you do just once in a while. Self-care practices have to occur on a daily basis. The more resilient you are when you are grieving the more you are able to handle its unpredictable ups and downs. The next sections describe some simple daily practices you can do even when you are grieving. These include exercise, healthy eating and the improving sleeping habits .
I am grieving and you want me to exercise? Are you crazy? This is probably the last thing you feel like doing. For some of you, exercising is already part of your daily routine. In fact, some of you may even gravitate to over-exercising to avoid dealing with your feelings. Others of you who usually exercise may stop altogether. Neither approach is good. Somehow you have to find a happy medium to keep some form of exercise in your life. This could mean walking around the block once a day. It could mean taking something less aerobic like a yoga class. Paul Denniston created Grief Yoga which combines many forms of yoga to help release grief. I took one of these classes and found it to be a wonderful way to both exercise and work through my grief.
Bottom line, any form exercise is truly vital for your physical and emotional health. If you incorporate all four forms of exercise into a program you can do consistently, that’s even better. If you can at least attempt to tackle balance and stretching exercises when you are grieving, you can find ways to help your body and your mind begin to heal. Remember, if you are unsure about a particular exercise it’s always good to first talk with your doctor.
One of the common responses to grief is related to changes in your appetite. In some cases, you may feel like eating everything in sight. For example, you may not normally eat sweets but after a loss find yourself heading for a big piece of chocolate cake. In other cases, you may not want to eat at all. For example, the very sight of food makes you feel nauseous. Changes in appetite are very common when you are grieving.
So how can you grieve and still find healthy ways to eat? The best approach is low-fat, high-fiber, carbohydrate-rich meals with plenty of fruits and vegetables. They can soothe you without draining your energy and give you the nutrients you need to boost your immune system. It is important to stay away from fatty foods, refined sugar and caffeinated products. These foods intensify the responses to grief like the inability to sleep or concentrate
Improving Sleeping Habits
Sleep can be a huge issue when you are grieving. For me it was insomnia or lack of sleep; you on the other hand may just want to put the covers over your head and sleep forever. Obviously either way is not good. When Joy died I was afraid to close my eyes so I wouldn’t imagine how she died. As a result, I found I wasn’t sleeping much at all in those first few weeks. Once I started sending Reiki to myself before I went to bed, I found I could at least get a few hours of sleep. Not sure why I didn’t start self-Reiki right after Joy’s death instead of waiting. Must have been the effects of dealing with the shock of her death. Everything went out the window when grief came calling. If you can’t sleep when you are grieving, one of the other things you can do for yourself is to rest. I know that sounds easier said than done. If you are like me, you can’t even sleep or think about sleeping. But resting doesn’t have to be done for long periods of time. Sometimes just taking a 5 to 10-minute cat nap can leave you feeling refreshed. If you can’t take a cat nap, just closing your eyes for a few minutes can help you to feel better.
As Mandy Hale says “It’s not selfish to love yourself, take care of yourself, and to make your happiness a priority. It’s necessary.”
Excerpt from Grief Reiki – An Integrated Approach to the Emotional, Physical and Spiritual Components of Grief and Loss, Chapter 9, Self-Care.
Sending you love, comfort and peace!