I find myself sitting in a coffeeshop in Philly overwhelmed by how many friends and strangers have reached out to me about losing someone they cared about in their lives recently. I have been working on this post for a while, quietly coming back to it time and time again over the past year, and never ready to post or record it. I am ready now because I hope it helps someone who is feeling the way I do. I also wanted to shine more light on the subject because…
In our society, grief isn’t talked about as much as, well, everything else.
We avoid the topic like the plague, even though the one thing that links all of us on this Earth is death. Impermanence and mortality are subjects that are now a part of my fabric. I embrace these topics. I want to have salons with like minded humans going through transitions, and look into their eyes and know we are connected.
I know deep down that there are so many others who need this subject to be discussed more. We are not alone. You are not alone, even though right now if you are reading this, you may feel the opposite. I get it, and I hope this offers a little bit of insight into at least what I have found to be helpful for me this past year. It might not apply to you, or maybe it will. I would also love to hear what works or doesn’t work for you. Here we go… Deep breaths!
Traveling- Seeing something bigger than yourself puts things into perspective. It takes you out of your bubble and allows you to breathe for a bit. Coming back home however, will be hard as you realize your loved one is still gone. As long as you know that, traveling is a wonderful way to make some space for yourself.
Talking About The Person That Has Passed- People try to avoid their name, their memory. They are uncomfortable with grieving and death. they may also feel that bringing up the subject will cause you pain. For me this wasn’t the case. I needed and still need to talk about Nina. I want to talk about her all the time. I want to have her memories wash over me so that she remains right by my side and at the forefront of my mind. For those in denial, or not facing their grief, not wanting to remember, or speak about the loved one who has passed could be a sign of not fully accepting their death and can be detrimental over time. Speak their name and remember them. Bonus points if you are the friend or loved one who actually makes eye contact while doing it. 🙂
Friends Who Have Grieved- Having someone who has possibly gone through something similar really does help, allowing you to open up more. It can sometimes be hard to fully be vulnerable with a friend or family member who just doesn’t have that shared experience of loss. Don’t be afraid to reach out to someone if you need to talk. This was VERY hard for me, so I understand if it can seem intimidating.
Walking- Just simply walking outdoors for 5 minutes helps me get out of my own head. It is simply, my lifeline. It has been since Covid began. It allows your mind to be present in nature and have some fresh air clears the demons away.
Embrace the Tears- I am fully for crying in public to be the new normal. Laughter is an expression of emotions, so are tears. If everyone cried more, we would be a much healthier nation. It is extremely healthy to cry, it allows your feelings to bubble to the surface so you can let them go and heal. Please don’t tell someone not to cry. We were told that as children, and look where it usually gets us, being an adult and NOT BEING COMFORTABLE CRYING. In the beginning I was embarrassed by my tears. Now, I welcome them. When I cry I know I am healing, and bringing my sister back to life because I am feeling all the emotions.
– Being in nature. It just helps so much. Sitting outside. Going on a hike. Gardening. Try Forest Bathing. Look it up. It is amazing.
– Meditation- It doesn’t have to look like the standard meditation of sitting quietly. I teach meditation to others, and fully believe that active meditation can be just as helpful as sitting meditation. Walking is a form of this. If you find yourself still restless, then it is time to ramp up your practice and search for some different outlets. I suggest Insight Timer App which is free and has a ton of helpful guides, sleep music, and a timer!
– Helping Others. This is a big one. After the death of a loved one we can feel like we have lost our meaning. “Why am I here? What is my purpose? I feel lost.” I still feel this way on some dark days. I try to remind myself that the meaning is just being alive and helping others. Find a group, mentor someone, donate, get involved in your community. Not only will it make you feel better, but you will also be helping someone else who may need it.
Grief Groups- I believe my sister Neen is waiting for me and I will see her again. That being said, there are a lot of grief groups that are focused on religion. It just isn’t for me. I am not an overly religious person. I am a spiritual person which is not the same. I do believe however that finding a group of people with that shared experience can be a positive thing.
Just be careful when choosing as there can be some groups that will make you feel worse. A lot of negative, depressing or talk that has a toxic effect and will keep you spinning your wheels. This is not a dig on religious groups btw. Grief is unique and nobody grieves the same way. Find comfort where you can. My absolute favorite group that I have found is on Facebook run by now friend Nicola Yardley called Coping with Grief. It truly has been so helpful in remembering my sister, and also taking care of myself.
Therapy. Everyone’s thoughts are different but mine are YES TO THERAPY. I found my therapist before Nina died, and I don’t know what I would do without her. Not all therapists will be the right fit for you, so don’t get turned off if the first one doesn’t quite make you feel comfortable. Try another until you find the right one.
Therapy is essential in having a third party to talk to. For those that are reading this thinking- “Well I have my sister to talk to, or my best friend, or my partner.” Believe me- 1. At some point it won’t be enough. 2. They are biased. 3. You won’t be able to open up to them as much. 4. After a while you will feel like you are burdening them (and you might be) negative patterns that cycle over, and over without healing can cause strain on a relationship. Trust me, find a therapist and feel loads better.
Art Therapy- Music and art help LOADS. Also crafting. Coloring has been so therapeutic if you don’t know where to start or don’t want to take a class. Painting, drawing. Check Meetup for online live sketch classes!
Hanging with Kids- This for me has also been essential. My little from Big Brothers Big Sisters has kept me grounded and also not jaded or angry. In grief you can become so sad and angry. Hanging with him, my niece and nephews, it makes me feel alive and happy again. I also took a job teaching mindfulness to kids in schools who really need it. It makes me feel hopeful and inspired after I leave there.
Grief Recovery Method- I tried this certified national program, and will be covering it in another podcast episode because it is too long to talk about. The short answer is- When you are ready to heal, this is a good program for those who like homework and structure. It helped me.
Doing Something Your Loved One Liked To Do– Eating their favorite foods, their favorite drink. Taking a class in something they delved in. Watching their favorite movie. This has helped me a lot. Will it be painfully sweet? Yes. Will you cry? Probably. Will it make you feel closer to them? Absolutely.
Writing Your Loved One a Letter- This may not be for everyone, because it was unique to Nina and I. She lived in Vegas for a time of her life and we wrote each other so many letters. Hundreds of them. We kept writing even when she returned home. It was our best way of communicating. A week before she died I woke up at 3am and wrote her the longest of the letters. Telling her everything I ever wanted to tell her.
Things I was sorry for. Times that made me so happy. How proud I was of her. How beautiful she is/was. Memories that meant the most to me. Thanking her for being there for me in every way. All of it. Anything I wanted to say. She got to read that, and I can’t tell you how much I am thankful that I was able to tell her those things.
Now that she isn’t here. I haven’t stopped writing to her. “Dear Neen” letters are everywhere. On my laptop, in my various journals, pieces of paper around the house, on napkins at restaurants. It can’t explain to you the release I got when I realized I could STILL write to her.
I was sitting in a cafe in Croatia, and became so overcome with sadness thinking that she would never write to me again. I began crying… in public… again. (It’s the norm now, and apparently what the cool kids are doing lol) It was then and there I realized that I could still write to her. I began my letter the way I always did, and the moment my pen hit that restaurant’s placemat… I was overwhelmed by the relief it gave me. I wrote and wrote and wrote. I still do and it is one of the biggest sources of comfort.
Try it. I have personally found it to be such a healing practice. Even if you never wrote to one another, that doesn’t mean you can’t start. You end up writing so much more that is inside yourself that speaking, thinking cannot help with. What is something you longed to say to your loved one that maybe you didn’t get to? Write to them.
Books– There have been some books that REALLY helped me this year. The Wild Edge of Sorrow is one. If I could buy this for every person in the world, I would. It is a balm to my soul. Also Comfortable with Uncertainty by Pema Chodrin. If you know or have kids of your own The Invisible String is a wonderful children’s book on dealing with the loss of a loved one and helping kids understand death. I also enjoyed Life is in the Transitions which helped me quite a bit in the first months of grief.
Doing Nothing- Allowing yourself to do nothing is great for grief. Letting go of expectations that you put on yourself. Overworking, meeting with friends. Sometimes just be in solitude and doing nothing has greatly helped me grieve and release pain. Know when you have stayed there too long, use your intuition to come back out, and say yes to things again.
Selfcare in All Forms- Massage, reflexology, swimming, sauna, yoga, tea, sleep. Putting yourself FIRST is now your priority. Your loved one would want you to take the best care of yourself. Do the things that make your body and mind feel good. It isn’t selfish. Once again you cannot pour from an empty cup.
I would be remiss to not mention my Sunday evening Stress Relief classes. I started them for myself and then turned them into a pay what you can class. I would love for you to join me every Sunday at 8pm EST 🙂
What Doesn’t Help Me-
These few things don’t work for me. I want to be clear in saying. These are all just my opinions. What works for me may not work for all. As always- I am not a doctor or therapist. I am just a grieving person hoping to help someone else who is feeling the way I am. This is also therapy for me as well. Consult a doctor if you find yourself in a bad state.
Excess alcohol. It is ok to indulge, but a lot of time you find yourself making excuses for that extra glass of wine. For me, it effects my sleep, is a depressant, and has me craving to drown myself into another bottle. My sister isn’t at the bottom of that bottle, and neither are any answers you are seeking. So while indulging once in a while is ok, just be careful of the slippery slope of distracting ourselves from our grief. Alcohol numbs.
Staying Up Late- Nope, I need a regular bedtime. Also the demons come out at night so the earlier I go to sleep the better so my head doesn’t spin and spin.
Overeating- Same as drinking. It makes me feel worse.
Meeting With Comforting Yet Toxic People– Just because someone is in your life, doesn’t mean that they are great for your well being. Just because something is comforting because it is familiar, it doesn’t make it good for you. Rule of thumb- If you leave your hangout or conversation feeling down or depleted, it might be time for a break. Which is OK. Don’t feel bad about taking what is best for you at this time.
Scrolling- Otherwise known as doom scrolling. Try to put the phone down, close your eyes, or take that walk to get out of your head.
Caffeine- Ramped up my anxiety terribly. I would suggest dialing it back if your mind is racing or sleep is not coming easily.
I hope this helps some of you out there. It has helped me just to write it. Whoever you are, wherever you are. I wish you comfort and peace in this time. Be gentle with yourself. There are no stages of grief. Each loss is unique and therefore each grieving process is different for each person.
Once again, I would love to hear anything that has helped you in your time of loss. This article isn’t just for those who have lost someone recently. I believe we never really stop grieving. This article is for everyone who has lost someone in their lives. No matter how long it has been.
Much love and light,
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