Are there some things that are making your grief harder to bear? External factors can make our lives even more difficult.
Grief is hard enough in itself. The memories that come unbidden; the ache of loss and loneliness; the unanswered questions. Thoughts that filter through our minds; emotions that arrived unexpectedly; dreams that disturb. Reminders of our loved ones are all around us. Life itself is a reminder.
You can’t predict what might happen.
I was looking at our back garden first thing in the morning, watching the birds, and noticed a neighbour standing at her back door, phone in hand. And I thought of Catherine and our regular morning calls, and how she would sit on the step at the doorway at the back of her little house, with a cup of coffee and a cigarette in hand, and we’d talk over the phone.
A wave washed over me. It was a mixture of sadness – missing Catherine – but also one of happiness – of good memories of long chats. It was a spontaneous reminder. I look out every morning and watch the birds. Just this morning I saw something else. You can no more avoid than you can predict what is going to have an impact on you.
On the other hand, many people who are travelling down the road of grief, particularly those who have been on this road awhile, start to recognise factors that are making grief harder to bear. Armed with this knowledge, we can make small changes to help ourselves.
We all have our own sadness ‘triggers’. Take TV for example. Programmes or films with graphic depictions of accidents, injuries, illness or violence don’t do me any good at all. I avoid that type of content. “Pointless” is a harmless quiz show which is much safer watching for me personally. I enjoy sci fi too – something unreal and as far removed from everyday life as it can be. There is enough real sorrow in the world; I don’t need to watch or read about it in fiction. Your preferences might be completely different to mine. There is no wrong or right way!
We also all have our own joy-givers – although in early and extreme grief, few might be in evidence. Eventually though, we start to discover – or rediscover – activities and/or people to be around that help us feel better. It’s family for some us; friends for others. For some it is participation in a faith-based activity or listening to music. For others it’s being creative or getting out of the house. For some it’s joining a choir or taking a class. For some it’s walking the dog or swimming. It could be eating; it could be cooking.
Here’s something I read on another blog
The more grieving people engage with life, the more opportunity they will have to process their emotions, connect, receive support from others, and experience positive feelings. … We’re talking about actively choosing small and worthwhile activities and deliberately planning to do them. … Some outlets – like supportive friends, journaling, advocacy, art – help you directly process your grief-related emotions and experiences. While others are simply healing in that they help you connect with others, feel a sense of mastery or fulfillment, allow you to feel calm and at peace, increase your physical wellbeing, or simply help you to feel human again.
Engaging with life and allowing ourselves to feel better, even if it is momentary, are part of the journey of grief.
In my own situation, I spend a lot of time on ‘grief’ – both my own, and largely because of my Living with Loss project plus work with The Compassionate Friends. And I find it essential to have some other interests. My biggie at the moment is preparing to walk the Camino (read about it here). Closer to home, I try out craft activities. And for my inner health, I am exploring new authors, such as the writings of Franciscan Richard Rohr.
I invite you to spend a few minutes thinking about how this applies to you.
- What external factors are making your grief even more difficult to bear? Is there anything that you can avoid or change?
- What are you doing to ‘engage with life’ and feel better for at least a moment here or there?
It’s not rocket science; it’s just common sense: As far as possible, let’s do more of what makes us feel better and less of what makes us feel worse.