A Self-Care Guide for the Bereaved

When a death occurs, priorities shift. It’s easy to become overwhelmed with your emotions and the impeding tasks that follow the loss of a loved one. During this painful time, taking care of yourself may be the last thing on your mind. You may feel as if there are too many things to do, too many people to care for, and too little time to complete it all. Even after the initial flurry of activities following the death of your loved one, and into the subsequent years, you may still feel the heaviness and weight of grief albeit less frequently but just as draining upon your emotional and physical self. However, taking care of yourself during a time of grief is critical to truly healing and overcoming the obstacles associated with losing a loved one. Keep reading to learn about 3 steps you can take toward better self-care today.

self care for the bereaved

1. Take care of your body

The body and mind are very closely related. This is why, while grief may traditionally be known as an emotional pain, there is also an element of physical pain or unbalance that is experienced following the death of a loved one. Therefore, taking steps to improve your physical health can be beneficial not only for general wellness, but also in terms of working through your grief. Getting a full night’s sleep, eating healthy foods, and moderate exercise are all great steps toward physical wellness. In some cases, a visit to your doctor for a checkup may be good idea. It all depends on you and your body’s unique reaction to grief.

2. Be kind to yourself

While grieving, it’s important to treat yourself like your own best friend. It’s so easy to get caught up in everything that needs to be done, and you may even blame yourself if things aren’t being completed on time or don’t go as planned. Instead of discouraging yourself, remember that you are only human. Take some time to do things you enjoy. Give yourself breaks and learn to say no to events or obligations you simply don’t have time for. Learn how to pamper yourself, and find something to do that makes you happy. Maybe it’s reading a good book or watching your favorite movie. Perhaps taking a nice bath with aroma therapy soaps or mediation can help. Whatever the case may be, find what works for you. It’s important to mention that many people turn to being busy as a way to cope with their grief. However, all that does is push your grief to the side and distract you from the pain you need to work through. By taking breaks and avoiding the “busy trap”, you can actually learn to work through your grief instead of ignoring it, all while practicing better self-care along the way!

3. Reflect and connect

While slightly contradictory, one of the best ways to practice self-care involves turning your attention to others. First, while it may be tempting to push the painful feelings of loss to the side and try to go about a normal day, it’s important that you accept these feelings associated with loss. Reflecting on the life of your loved one is a great thing that can bring about healing and acceptance. Some common reflection exercises include writing down ten things you miss about them, or your favorite memories with them. Maybe it’s simply talking about your loved one with others, or creating some type of memorial for them. Whatever the case may be, allow yourself to enter into whatever it is you may be feeling. Finally, use this opportunity to connect with others, and to connect with Christ. Grief is not a journey that needs to be done alone. Reaching out to a trusted friend, family-member, church leader, or local support group are great ways to reconnect and provide yourself with a support system to assist you through your grief journey. Of course, constant prayer and communication with God is the best way to take care of yourself and your grief. God is a source of never-ending and never-failing love. He alone can truly heal you.

Interested in joining a grief support group? Visit our website for more information.

Post written by Katie Karpinski

 

Planning a Vacation While Grieving

For some, the idea of planning a trip may be incredibly overwhelming following the death of a loved one. However, taking a vacation, regardless of how grandiose or modest it may be, can be extremely beneficial for those struggling with grief. Traveling to new places provides a fresh perspective, and seeing the world on a larger scale can help fight feelings of isolation one may feel while grieving. It shows you that there is a world outside of your grief—one that is still full of new opportunities and joys! This is easier said than done, so keep reading to learn more about how you can make your vacations and travels a little less stressful and a little more enjoyable.

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Set realistic expectations

It’s easy to get carried away when planning a vacation. Brochures and commercials are filled with perfect images of smiling people and sunny weather. While vacations are certainly intended to be fun and exciting, after losing a loved one it’s important that you set realistic expectations. Don’t expect too much from yourself. Grief can drain a lot of your energy, so make sure you don’t plan too many energy-dependent activities. In most cases, a more relaxing vacation is most appropriate after a recent loss, such as a spa day, camping trip, or a quiet weekend at a bed and breakfast.

Be flexible

Grieving is a dynamic and unpredictable journey. No matter where you are on your personal journey, your emotions, mood, and energy can all change dramatically without warning. That’s why, when planning a vacation, it’s important to be patient and flexible with yourself. Don’t plan anything that can’t be easily cancelled or rescheduled, and it’s always a good idea to have a backup plan. In some cases, it may be good idea to plan a few different vacations, then see which fits best as the date gets closer. Having options takes some of the pressure off vacationing, and provides a more relaxed perspective on the whole process.

Communicate

Communication is undoubtedly one of the most important elements of journeying through grief, regardless of whether or not you choose to travel. However, if you do decide to vacation, communication becomes even more important. For those traveling with family, it’s important to be open and honest with each other. Everyone grieves differently. Certain activities or memories that may not be painful to you may be painful to someone else and vice versa. Therefore, talk about what you have planned for the trip and make sure everyone is comfortable. It may be helpful to plan activities specific to each family member to make sure everyone’s voice is heard. It’s always a good idea to communicate with God as well. Share your feelings, fears, and joys. He will be accompanying you on whatever journey you choose to go on.

The first vacation following the death of a loved will be the most difficult as the absence of the deceased person will be felt at its highest level. This pain will lessen with time, and just knowing this and anticipating the challenge will ease the current pain you feel and hopefully make it more tolerable. The pain is actually the love you feel for the absent person.  The stronger the love, the stronger the pain.  And everywhere love goes, grief goes too. So know that you will feel the absence even in another place, and be prepared to greet it and welcome it as part of the healing process.

Post written by Katie Karpinski

Summer and the Grief Journey

The summer months can be difficult for those who are grieving. While the cool air of fall and winter lend themselves to quiet evenings in, spring and summer do just the opposite. The warm weather encourages social outings, outdoor activities, and special vacations. For those who are grieving, this heightened expectation of interaction can be rather intimidating. However, there are ways to cope with the summer months, and even leverage the warm weather (and maybe even a vacation or two!) to help you progress along your grief journey. Keep reading to learn more.

Summer and the Grief Journey

  1. Go outside

It’s amazing what a little vitamin D can do for the body and the soul. It’s been proven that just a few minutes of sunlight a day can drastically impact a person’s energy, outlook, and general health. Vitamin D has also been proven to lower stress levels. So while it may be tempting to stay indoors, try to soak up some sun for at least ten minutes a day, even if that means just sitting on your front stoop or walking around your backyard.

  1. Travel

For some, the idea of planning a trip may be incredibly overwhelming following the death of a loved one. However, taking a vacation, regardless of how grandiose or modest it may be, can be extremely beneficial for those struggling with grief. Traveling to new places provides a fresh perspective, and seeing the world on a larger scale can help fight feelings of isolation one may feel while grieving. It shows you that there is a world outside of your grief—one that is still full of new opportunities and joys!

  1. Enjoy yourself

One of the hardest things many people struggle with while grieving is learning how to be joyful again. Some people may feel guilty for being happy or enjoying themselves following the death of a loved one. While these feelings may be hard to overcome, simply ask yourself “If our positions were reversed, wouldn’t I want my loved one to enjoy life again?” So let the warmer weather naturally uplift your mood and simply allow yourself to enjoy life. Take part in your favorite summer activities. If there are emotional memories attached to those activities, then try to explore and find new things that you can enjoy. Enjoying yourself also means you should take care of yourself. Take time to do the activities you enjoy, and turn away from those you don’t. Grief is an exhausting journey, so learn what your limits are and how much you can handle on a given day.

  1. Honor your loved one

Many people believe that the best way to conquer grief is to push memories and thoughts of their loved one to the wayside, but this simply isn’t true. Healthy grieving involves remembering and honoring your loved one, the life they lived, and the memories you shared together. Whether you’re traveling this summer or staying close to home, try to find a way to honor your loved one. Maybe it’s visiting their favorite vacation spot, or traveling to place they always wanted to visit. It may be as simple as preparing their favorite summer meal, or doing their favorite activity. Another simple way to honor your loved one is to thank God for the memories you shared and spend some time in quiet reflection in His presence. You’ll find that Christ will always bring wisdom and comfort.

If you’re in need of some extra support this summer, please join us for one of our Grief Support groups. Learn more at https://clecem.org/Information/Bereavement.aspx.

 

Post written by Katie Karpinski

 

Handling Special Occasions: A Simple 3-Step Guide for the Bereaved

Grieving is a difficult process. It’s one of the hardest experiences we endure throughout our lifetime. While losing a loved one may be hard to comprehend even on a typical day, remembering this loss on days of special importance can take an even larger toll. Since events such as holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, and other special occasions are usually spent with those closest to us, after losing a loved one these days may be hard to bear, as they bring with them memories of our departed loved ones and serve as a reminder of their passing. Much like the seasons, these days will come each year. The key is not to run away or avoid them, but to embrace them for what they are. It may be hard at first, but with time you can come to appreciate these special days and the memories you shared with your loved one. To help handle the tough times, just remember to feel, react, and reconnect. Keep reading to learn more…

hanlding special occasions

  1. Feel

The most important part of grieving, whether it’s on a notable day or not, is to allow yourself to experience your emotions fully. Often, you may feel pressured to put on a brave face and act like everything is okay—even when it isn’t. This is especially common on holidays, as you may try to maintain some sense of normalcy. Sometimes, you may feel like expressing sadness is a sign of weakness, and prefer that others view you as your “usual self.” This isn’t just limited to feelings of sadness, either. It’s common to experience a plethora of emotions surrounding the death of a loved one. It doesn’t matter if it’s been a few days or a few years—there will be days when you feel confused, hurt, sad, and even angry. Don’t try to cover up these emotions. Instead, allow yourself to fully express how you feel.

  1. React

After expressing your emotions, the next step is to respond accordingly. If you’re too flustered or overwhelmed to have your usual 4th of July BBQ, then suggest that someone else host it this year. If the anniversary of your loved one’s death is coming up and you’re experiencing extreme loneliness or sadness, spend the day remembering them. Maybe make their favorite meal, or watch their favorite movie. Whatever the case may be, being in tune with your emotions can help you prepare for these special occasions, and help you plan ahead. Instead of planning the day according to other’s expectations, do what you feel most comfortable with and what will bring you the most peace. On certain days, it may be a good idea to treat yourself to something special, perhaps a relaxing massage or an extra piece of chocolate cake. An important part of the grieving process is being kind to yourself—something that many of us forget!

  1. Reconnect

Grieving can be a lonely process. Since the emotions you feel are so specific to you and your situation, you may feel like no one on earth can understand what you’re going through. Sometimes, this can cause you to push people away in an effort to handle your grief on your own. It’s true that others may not be able to empathize with your unique grief, but it’s important to stay connected with those closest to you. While holidays and special occasions may be hard to handle, they are still days to celebrate with family and friends. Making an effort to reconnect with those around you can help diminish those feelings of loneliness or sorrow, and remind you that life can still be filled with joy and celebration. Even more important than reconnecting with family and friends, however, is reconnecting with God. He is the only one who will know exactly what you’re feeling, and the only one who will never leave you. During the hardest days of grieving, turn to the Lord for strength and comfort, and never lose sight of the eternal hope He offers each of us.

Post written by Katie Karpinski

Handling Mother’s Day: Comfort and Prayers for the Bereaved

 

handling mothers day prayers and comfort for the bereaved.jpgAs we approach Mother’s Day, many of us will be reminded of our mothers and the place they hold in our hearts. Whether our mother is still with us or has passed from this world, Mother’s Day is a special time to celebrate these women and the immense impact they have on our lives. It goes without saying that those who have lost their mother may experience added grief on this day. However, there are other groups of people who also experience additional pain or grief during this time: those who don’t have (or never had) a relationship with their mother, those who are unable to have children, couples who have suffered from miscarriage or stillborn children and all other special circumstances.

This Mother’s Day, be aware of your own emotions as well as those of others. If you find that Mother’s Day mass is too hard or painful to attend, spend the day worshiping from home. If you know someone is struggling with any of the situations listed above, or an equally difficult situation, make an effort to let them know you’re thinking about and praying for them. Wherever, however, and with whomever you celebrate this Mother’s Day, remember that Christ is with you and that His plan is far greater than the highs and the lows of our lives here on earth.

Take a look at the prayer below and share with others.

Dear God,
Thank you for the gift of motherhood. Thank you for the blessing it is to be called “Mom.” Thank you for the good plans you have in store for those who still wait to be a Mom. Thank you for the numerous spiritual children you have given to so many “spiritual moms” and mentors. We pray that you would fill this day with favor and grace as we honor Moms all around our nation.
We ask for comfort for those who are grieving loss and heartache, especially on this day. We ask for strength for those who wait for children to come back home. We ask for healing for those who have been hurt by relationships that were intended to be loving and nurturing. We ask for faith for those who will someday be Moms, who find themselves on a journey that seems so hard. We ask for great encouragement and grace to cover those who have made a brave and loving choice for adoption. We ask for incredible provision and care over every single parent mom who works so hard on behalf of her children. We ask that you would remind many of those who, though they do not have “physical” children, have the gift of being amazing hope-bringers to many spiritual children they’ve been blessed to nurture through these years.
God, thank you, for the gift of life. Thank you that your heart is for us, and that you are with us, in all our unique journeys and pathways. Thank you that you are Sovereign over every part of our lives.  Thank you that your ways are perfect and you make our footsteps secure.
Today we pray for refreshing, for joy, for grace, for wisdom, for great peace…for all moms, for moms to be, and for women who nurture and lead.
In Jesus’ Name,
Amen. (source) 
Post written by Katie Karpinski