How you can help yourself
Grieving can be hard work, but the year/s ahead don't need to be a time of constant sadness or distress. There's always something you can do to help yourself.
Here are some suggestions:
- Remember you are not alone – loss is part of being human. Find someone you can talk to, someone who'll really listen. Seek out professional support if you feel your family and friends are not listening to you, or you feel you're burdening them.
- Try a support group or a grief group. Talking to others with a similar experience can ease the loneliness of grief. Check at your local Cancer Society if there's a group running locally.
- Get plenty of rest. Grieving uses a lot of emotional energy, and you'll probably feel very drained. The important thing is to try to balance rest with some activity. Being busy helps rest your emotions and creates a distraction. Getting some things done in your day can help you to feel better.
- Set yourself small, achievable goals and give yourself a pat on the back when you reach them.
- Keep decision-making to a minimum. Try not to make any major changes for a while. People may want to hurry you to sort out the belongings of the person who has died, or make a decision about where you live long term. Don't be rushed into these things – you're already dealing with a lot of changes in your life. Sometimes when we rush into doing these tasks too soon we make decisions which later we regret.
- Ask others for help. Sometimes it's best if you're specific about ways others can help you. Do you need someone to mow your lawns, or do you just need a shoulder to cry on? Let others know if you need to talk about the person you are missing and that it would be helpful if they listened. Let the person know that even if you cry that you are okay.
- It's normal to feel angry. Find ways to be angry safely – scream in your car with the windows up, hit a pillow or scream in the shower. You may feel silly, but action often helps.
- Try to eat well. If you don't feel like eating, eat healthy snacks often. Try to avoid fast food, skipping meals or alcohol.
- Pamper yourself – hot baths, massages, a special magazine, listening to music – anything that helps.
- Learn ways to distract yourself on the days when you feel you just can't face life. Reading a good book, playing cards with a friend, watching a movie: anything that takes you away from yourself and your troubles for a little while.
- Try keeping a journal. Write whenever you feel like it. Looking back over past entries helps to remind you that you're getting somewhere and putting your thoughts on paper is a good way of getting them straight.
- Get some exercise – a good walk can turn your mood around. Even giving the house a good vacuum or mowing the lawn can help if you're feeling tense.
- Have something to look forward to every day. It may be something like having coffee with a friend, watching your favourite TV programme, eating your favourite meal.
- Look after your memories. Have some photos and other mementos around. You may want to think about making a memory book or memory box. This can be a collection of things that remind you of the person who died or things that were important to them, and may include things like photos, cards, their handwriting, their favourite music, certificates they were awarded, some of their favourite things, recipes, things they made, letters, postcards, poems, tickets from holidays and shows or some personal possessions.
- Try to find spiritual peace in whatever way is best for you. For some people this will mean going to church, talking to a priest or minister or meditating. For others it will be a walk on the beach or in the bush, or listening to music – whatever reminds you of a different perspective on life, a larger way of seeing your situation.
- Remember other difficult times you have had in the past. What helped you then may help you now.