Losing someone you love is one of the most painful experiences you will go through in this life. Unfortunately, it’s also something we will all likely. Sometimes loss can feel impossible to bear, but it’s important to keep in mind that we become stronger when going through our darkest moments. The best way out of the grief is to walk through it.
Grief is a complex emotion. It is unpredictable, and it can manifest itself in surprising ways. It’s important to give yourself permission to feel and express your grief in your own way. It’s also essential to make sure you practice self-care when you are grieving.
Knowing Your Limits, Self-Care, and Helping Others When Grieving
The Importance of Self-Care
When people discuss self-care, they often talk about treating themselves, relaxing, or enjoying various pleasures. Some people may think about indulging in a bubble bath with a tub of ice cream. Others may think of exercise and eating nutritious and healthy meals as a form of self-care.
In the context of grief, however, the discussion of self-care needs to go deeper. Audre Lorde, the American writer, feminist, and civil rights activist, writes that:
Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”
In the case of grief, self-preservation is about understanding when to say no to others, knowing how to set boundaries, and recognizing when it’s important to take time for yourself.
Setting Boundaries and Saying No More Often
Setting boundaries is one of the most important things you can do for yourself throughout the grieving process. It isn’t a sign of weakness to say no to things, it is a sign of strength. Acknowledging that you don’t have the emotional capability to take on more than you should takes a great deal of courage and self-preservation. When you are grieving, you need to give yourself time to feel your feelings and process them.
It’s also important to not feel guilty if you don’t complete a project on time or must miss some work. Give yourself some grace during this period. Don’t worry about letting others down — whether they are friends, co-workers, or family. Anyone who understands will cut you some slack because they know you’re going through a difficult period.
When you’re taking time for yourself, it’s okay to decline social invitations or not go out with friends when you don’t feel up to it. On the other hand, do not feel guilty if you don’t want to be alone. Everyone grieves in different ways and while some people will need company, others grieve best on their own. The most important thing is that you figure out what works best for you and prioritize yourself during this challenging time.
You also don’t need to worry yourself with all the post-loss processes that need to be taken care of eventually. For example, when we lose someone dear to us, there are often finances that need to be dealt with. However, instead of trying to handle everything immediately, it may be better to wait to deal with your loved one’s finances until you have gone through the majority of the initial grief. This way, you will be in a better headspace and you may even be able to create a positive financial mindset.
Helping Others in the Grieving Process
Supporting the mental health of others during bereavement — particularly if it’s someone else who is grieving the same loss — can also be a form of self-care. Focusing on being of service to others can get you out of your head and your own emotions. It can be incredibly healing to support someone else through their grieving process, especially if it is someone you can share your own grief with.
Grieving with another person can be tremendously helpful as we have all learned during times of national tragedy. These events encourage us to lean on each other for support during a time of collective mourning.
It can also be healing to volunteer for causes that your loved one championed. For example, if the person you have lost was passionate about helping the homeless, you might want to offer to help your local homeless shelter. It is important, however, not to overextend yourself when you are helping others. You want to find a good balance between helping others and taking care of yourself.
The grieving process is a journey. Loss never really goes away, but after some time, you will find that healing is indeed possible, and you’ll be able to create inner space around the loss.