Faith · grief · Health · Uncategorized

A Guide to Managing Grief

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Scroll to the bottom for a free printable of a guide to managing grief that you can print for yourself or share with someone who is grieving.

The whole world is grieving right now. We are grieving health, stability, finances, freedom plans, our social lives, and for some people, their loved ones. The current state of the world can cause extreme anxiety.

Your grief is real.

March and April were going to be big months for my family. We are experiencing the cancellation of my oldest’s much anticipated daddy daughter dance (that my brother was taking her to), Mom Prom (just a big gathering in town of awesome moms), my birthday in Boston, our family vacation to Florida (which was supposed to be partly to celebrate my oldest’s birthday), soccer, piano, and the marathon that I have been training for for two months. I have also lost some of my jobs while this is going on, and adding in the responsibility of homeschooling the kids. All while mentally processing this pandemic and possible recession, without my person to help shoulder the emotional burden.

My grief is real.

My kids’ grief is real.

An event like this can bring grief to the surface so fast. Social isolation can be detrimental for those who are in a tough spot, and especially for those who get energized by being around people.

But, there’s good news. As dark as our world feels right now, grief can be managed. I am not saying that your emotions are fears aren’t valid, but there are ways you can process your situation and help cope with this difficult event. You can successfully be managing grief and deal with your situation in a healthy way, while acknowledging your emotions and fears.

The subject of grief or managing grief is something I never even had to consider before last year. I learned a lot really fast. I learned about myself, what is good for me, and how to help myself heal. There are things that helped me grieve well, and my hope is I can help you where you are, or understand where someone is! Even though initially this post was written in light of grieving a person, I feel like the process is pertinent to anyone grieving anything in their lives.

Feel it.

For those grieving a loved one, in the beginning, you feel like you are in soup. Paralyzed. Confused. Life is a fog and it is hard to even have a simple thought. Your emotions are valid. The fact is that whatever you are grieving has caused an intense emotional response. And emotions are not bad. Do your best to not let them rule you, but understand that they are a God-given gift for our bodies to comprehend a situation.

Your loss won’t get better, but you’ll learn to deal with it better. Eventually it won’t be as much of a shock to your system every time you think about it. Understand that every day will be different. Some days will be fine, and some days will be horrible. Give yourself permission to be where you are mentally, and know that it is OK. Try not to suppress your feelings with distractions or numbing agents (alcohol, drugs), but instead press into the pain and feel it. And then let the healing begin.

Run to God.

I have lived life having an idea of who God was, and I have lived knowing who He is (read more here). I can tell you first hand, the relief God offers is a real thing. There is a God who can carry your burdens, give you peace, calm your anxiety, and give you life. God is the one who can help us best with managing grief, and He tells us all the time in the Bible to lean on Him. Opening my Bible is a way to instantly calm my fears. We are not meant to live this life on our own. When we trust that He is in control and He has a plan, the pressure is off of us to control our lives. Easier said than done, I know. But He loves and cares for you and will help you if you let Him!

Exercise!

I can’t talk about exercise enough. Movement has been huge in my healing. I have always worked out, but I have seen extreme value and benefit from being consistently active through my grief (read more here). It makes me feel physically well and clears my mind. To feel your lungs burn and take a big breath reminds you that you are here and can do hard things. There have been moments where I felt SO heavy and a run alleviated a lot of the pressure. Not the sadness, but the heaviness. Use this as a tool and an active (literally) way to managing grief. And if you are in the place where you have lost your appetite, it can help spark it. You can try setting exercise goals that will give you a sense of accomplishment, no matter how small. You are capable of more than you think!

Journal.

Writing has been so beneficial for me. It helps me sort out my thoughts and get a better reality of any big and scary thoughts. It is healing for me to be able to reflect and see where I am mentally, and see where I’ve come. It allows me to see how God has helped me and worked in me and my life. Generally I wake up before the kids and read my Bible and write out my prayers, and it helps to start my day with clarity (read about my routine here). And the fact that I can go back and read my journal from the day Marcus died and before I found out is so valuable to me. I can see how God was preparing me and how He has provided for me so clearly.

Chase Time Alone.

I have three young kids, so time to myself is hard to come by. If I don’t create time, it won’t happen. Say yes to letting someone watch the kids so you can read a book or get your nails done. Go on that vacation and get out of your normal routine. It’s not selfish, it’s necessary. You are in survival mode and you need a second to catch your breath. Alone time can give you the perspective and peace you need to heal. It is hard to focus on managing your grief when you don’t have the time and space to do so. If you can’t escape, create an escape. Draw a relaxing bath, sit on your lawn with a book, or lock yourself in a closet if you have to.

Control Your Influence.

Surround yourself with positive and encouraging people. My community has been HUGE for me. I have an amazing village who have let me be who I am, and not filter myself or my thoughts. They let me share my fears and struggles, and have met them with a hug rather than trying to “fix” it for me. They love on me, help me with my kids and my house, or are generous with gifts and meals. Find those people. If social media is a difficult place, limit your exposure. Know what things help you and what causes a negative reaction.

There may be times where it feels like you just can not be around anyone. I have found that just being in the presence of another person without expectation is healing. Try and surround yourself with life and love and it will make a difference. Conversely, get yourself away from those who are toxic or bitter. Saying no to people who don’t lift you up is not an insult, it is an emotional safety measure. Protect yourself, your mental state, and preserve healing.

Get in Nature.

Get to the beach or to the mountains. Or, go outside to your backyard and lay in the grass and watch the clouds. Be in a place where your soul can refresh and breathe easily. Watch spectacular sunsets and be reminded how beautiful this life can be and how crazy spectacular this earth is. Reflect on how much bigger our God and Creation is than we are. Even if you can’t really see it through your tears, the beauty of this world is captivating and inspiring.

Ask for Help.

Be honest about where you are mentally. When you need a break, tell someone. It doesn’t make you any stronger to muscle through the hard days when you are grieving. Sometimes you need someone to come alongside you that can hold you up. Accepting help does not make you weak, it allows others to be a part of your grief story. It allows you rest from the difficult situation you were cast into. Read more about accepting help here.

Music.

I listen to music 95% of my awake time. It changes with my mood, or can influence my mood. It can pick me up out of a low place, give me fire if I need to get pumped up, or slow my heart to reflect on the Lord. Music has a way of guiding your thoughts, especially when they are very convoluted. If you don’t know what to think, crank on some Jesus jams! Let music soothe your soul. Create a playlist for your favorite worship songs as an emergency medication when it all feels too much. (You can follow my Spotify here).

Trust Your Healing.

Unless someone has been exactly where they are, they should have no opinion. For me, unless you have buried your husband of nine years at the age of 29 and watched his three children under the age of 5 bury their father, I don’t need your advice. I need your love and support. People should trust you are doing your best in your situation. Because no matter what it is, it is really hard. And it is going to take a really long time to find a sense of normalcy. You are where you need to be, and you need to do what feels good for you. Do not compare your grief story to anyone else’s. Managing grief is complicated and not linear. This is YOUR story and your pain.

Accept.

Understand that your life will be very different for a while. And forever. You simply cannot keep the same schedule when you first lose your loved one. Give yourself grace. Let go of things that you can. Make room for things you need (counseling, exercise, alone time). It is a very hard adjustment and will take time.

Are there ways that have helped you grieve that I haven’t listed? Please tell me in the comments! Grief is a real thing, and the more we speak of it, the more we can help each other.

I have created a free printable of a guide to managing grief that you can print for yourself, or share with someone who is grieving.

And remember, you don’t have to be grieving the loss of a loved one to grieve. You can grieve many things in life; a failed relationship, loss of a job, or even a crushed dream. Be gentle with each other. We are all doing our best and battling something.

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