Voices of Experience: Tips to Make Your Way through Grief

You are never really prepared for grief and you can't truly understand it unless you've been there. ~ Anonymous

Kay Oxford is a retired office manager and bookkeeper who lives in the mountains of the northwestern United States with her dog Arlie and Kitty the cat. Since the sudden and unexpected loss of her beloved husband George, who died of a heart attack in 2005, Kay has been active in online grief forums for more than a decade. She also facilitates the in-person grief support group she started recently in her community. Here she shares some of the suggestions she has found to be useful in navigating her own grief journey:
  • Take one day at a time. The Bible says each day has enough trouble of its own. I've found that to be true, so don't bite off more than you can chew. It can be challenging enough just to tackle today. I tell myself, I only have to get through today. Then I get up tomorrow and do it all over again. To think about the "rest of my life" invites anxiety. 
  • Visit your doctor. Tell about your loss, any troubles sleeping, suicidal thoughts, anxiety attacks. Your health care providers need to know these things in order to help you through it...this is all part of grief.
  • Try not to isolate too much.
  • There's a balance to reach between taking time to process our grief and avoiding it...it's good to find that balance for yourself. We can't keep so busy as to avoid our grief; it has a way of haunting us, finding us, and demanding we pay attention to it! Some people set aside time every day to grieve. I didn't have to, it searched and found me!
  • Self-care is extremely important, more so than ever. That person who would have cared for you is gone, now you're it...learn to be your own best friend, your own advocate; practice self-care. You'll need it more than ever. 
  • Recognize that your doctor isn't trained in grief, so find a professional grief counselor who is. We need help finding ourselves through this maze of grief, knowing where to start, etc. They have not only the knowledge, but the resources.
  • In time, consider a grief support group. If your friends have not been through it themselves, they may not understand what you're going through. It helps to find someone somewhere who DOES "get it". 
  • Be patient; give yourself time. There's no hurry or timetable about cleaning out belongings, etc. They can wait, you can take a year, ten years, or never deal with it. It's okay, it's what YOU are comfortable with that matters. 
  • Know that what we are comfortable with may change from time to time. That first couple of years I put his pictures up, took them down, up, down, depending on whether it made me feel better or worse. Finally, they were up to stay. 
  • Consider a pet. Not everyone is a pet fan, but I've found that my dog helps immensely. It's someone to love, someone to come home to, someone happy to see me, someone that gives me a purpose...I have to come home and feed him. Besides, they're known to relieve stress. Well maybe not in the puppy stage when they're chewing up everything, but there's older ones to adopt if you don't relish that stage. 
  • Make yourself get out now and then. You may not feel interest in anything; things that interested you before seem to feel flat now. That's normal. Push yourself out of your comfort zone just a wee bit now and then. Eating out alone, going to a movie alone or church alone, all of these things are hard to do at first. You may feel you flunked at it, cried throughout; that's okay! You did it, you tried, and eventually you get a little better at it. If I waited until I had someone to do things with I'd be stuck at home a lot. 
  • Keep coming here. We've been through it and we're all going through this together. 
  • Look for joy in every day. It will be hard to find at first, but in practicing this, it will change your focus so you can embrace what IS rather than merely focusing on what ISN'T. It teaches you to live in the present and appreciate fully. You have lost your big joy in life, and all other small joys may seem insignificant in comparison, but rather than compare what used to be to what is, learn the ability to appreciate each and every small thing that comes your way...a rainbow, a phone call from a friend, unexpected money, a stranger smiling at you, whatever the small joy, embrace it. It's an art that takes practice and is life changing if you continue it. 
  • Eventually consider volunteering. It helps us when we're outward focused, it's a win/win. 
© 2017 by Kay C. Oxford

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