Grief is not a linear process. One day may feel better than others and the next day may feel like you can’t make it through the hour. This deep sorrow we experience is complicated—it’s difficult to navigate through ever-changing emotions.
While we all handle the grieving process differently, it’s important to take the time you need to work through the pain you are experiencing. Keeping your mental, physical and emotional health at the forefront of your self-care routine can make an impossible situation a little bit easier.
Continue reading for eight ways to practice self-care while grieving, and how it can help make the day-to-day grief after a loss more manageable.
1. Stay Active
Our energy levels have a direct effect on our mood. When you feel overwhelmed, lethargic or anxious, we recommend doing something to move your body. According to HelpGuide, exercise can sometimes treat mild to moderate depression as effectively as antidepressant medication.
One way to practice self-care while grieving is to do some type of physical activity. Whether you enjoy walking, running, biking, lifting weights or any other activity with friends, making the effort to take care of yourself physically can directly impact your thoughts and mood for the rest of the day.
2. Get Enough Sleep
Most of us probably know by now when we don’t get enough sleep over night, our mood and motivation can take a turn for the worst. Sleep has a huge effect on how you feel both emotionally and physically. Not getting enough can cause major health issues.
Think about your nightly routine—are you eating or drinking immediately before bed? If so, it’s especially important to stay away from caffeine and sugar, which tend to keep you awake.
Next, make sure your bedroom is the best possible place for you to get good REM sleep. Having minimal distractions (such as a television, laptop, cellphone, etc.) and room-darkening curtains can help ensure you’re getting a proper night’s rest.
Even though grief journaling might seem like a buzzword, the benefits speak for themselves. Research shows that keeping a journal while grieving can help people process what they are feeling and ultimately cope with their loss.
When you write down your thoughts and feelings, you’re actively making sense of them and, in return, controlling and owning those emotions. Journaling allows you to work through your emotions by being true and authentic with yourself.
One study found that when people wrote about their feelings, their brain activity matched those of participants who actively tried to control their feelings and emotions.
If you journal when you feel low, you can analyze the symptoms and triggers that put you in that negative headspace. We recommend writing about anything you’re feeling, even if it doesn’t make “sense.”
When you’re looking to lift your mood, write down everything you’re grateful for. Focusing on the positives in your day allows you to be in control of the factors that affect your mood.
4. Read Books on Grief
On the hard days, all we want to do is disappear. What better way to disappear than diving into a good book? Reading can be therapeutic for anyone going through the grieving process. Books help us escape reality and feel connected to other peoples’ stories.
Look for books that help you work through these painful emotions. This way, you’re working through your feelings and learning more about what they mean along the way.
Here are some of the most helpful books on grief.
5. Listen to Music or Podcasts
Music can be another escape from reality that connects us to our emotions simultaneously. Have you ever turned a song on that you love, and your mood instantly changes? Let’s channel that feeling.
Whether you want to reconnect with comforting music from the past, or progress forward with music you’ve never heard before, there is value in relaxing with music. If your songs of choice aren’t doing it for you, consider finding a podcast to listen to.
Nowadays, podcasts are just like listening to music because you can pop in your earbuds and listen from almost anywhere. No matter what you're into, there’s a podcast match just waiting for you—even ones about grief specifically.
6. Treat Yourself
If you are looking for a change of pace from your normal day-to-day routine, taking a self-care trip can make a huge difference in your life, especially if your hometown reminds you of your lost loved one.
Keep in mind, a self-care trip doesn’t have to be costly—simply drive to the next town over and see the sights or go camping nearby. The goal is to get away from your normal schedule and take the time to do something just for yourself.
If a trip isn’t in the cards for you, you can still treat yourself at home by giving yourself a spa night with facial masks.
Aside from the benefits of making your skin clearer and soft, one of the most powerful benefits of an at-home spa treatment is being in a safe space where you can connect with yourself and disconnect from the pain you are experiencing after a loss.
7. Confide in Friends and Family
Once you’re ready, nothing compares to talking to loved ones. Your family and friends care about your wellbeing and want to be there to support you during this difficult time.
When someone you care about is grieving, all your friends and family want to do is be there for you. But it’s important that you also connect with loved ones on your own timeline.
It’s okay to take your time before jumping into the details of your grief with others.
If you are not comfortable talking to those in your life about your grief, consider turning to a support group instead. Confiding in people going through similar experiences can be healthy and helpful. Here are some grief support groups in Northeast Ohio.
8. Celebrate Their Legacy
While it may seem obvious, don’t forget to celebrate your loved one’s legacy. When you feel ready to commemorate and honor the memories you shared with your lost one, you show power over your grief. You can keep their memory alive through storytelling, photos and experiences they loved. This step may take some time to achieve, but when you do, it’ll be an undeniable relief in this painful journey.
More Ways to Practice Self-Care During Grief
Grief is the common, yet unique experience we all go through after the loss of a loved one. For more ways to practice self-care while grieving, subscribe to our newsletter, The Turning Stone. You’ll receive all the grief resources you need—plus more—straight to your inbox each month.