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Supporting Yourself Through Grief



May 2020 marked 23 years since I had my own experience of sudden grief when I lost my sister in a motorbike accident. My sister was celebrating her 18th birthday that night and her loss deeply affected me for years. With only 16 months between us, she was like my twin…we did everything together and her loss left a gaping hole in my life for a long time. My experience of grief is that it changes over time..as a mother now I wonder what kind of Aunt she would be to my children, would we be as close as we were in our teens, would she be living nearby etc? My point is that grief never leaves…it just evolves over time and becomes more manageable & less intense. I remember in the early years that my grief came in intense waves and was often unexpected.  If you are grieving, it is important to take some steps to take care of yourself during this emotionally demanding time so that you do not become exhausted. For those caring for children, remember that you can only care for others if you are taking care of yourself. We cannot pour from an empty cup. Take some time every day to take some space for yourself and perhaps listen to some favourite music. If music stirs feelings of sadness, use the time to express these feelings and try writing a letter to your loved one who has died. The important thing is not the content of the letter but to allow feelings to be released. Writing our feelings on paper is a great way to express and release emotions and has been shown to be as good as talking to someone about how we are feeling. A memory box is another good way to collect memories of those we love and is a useful physical place to store any letters, photos etc we would like to look through. Remember to eat well and try not to rely on alcohol to get through a bereavement. Expect to feel more tired than normal when you are grieving- grief is emotionally draining. Getting to bed early at night will help you get better quality sleep and will help you cope with the sadness you feel when grieving. Even a short walk every day will make a difference to how you feel by releasing feel-good endorphins when you exercise. Although it can be tempting to stay at home and isolate yourself when grieving, try to connect with friends and family. Maintaining social contact is very important when grieving and gives you the opportunity to talk about how you are doing. Remember that people will expect you to be feeling sad as it reflects how much you loved the person who died.  If you're feeling overwhelmed, forget about making 'to-do' lists at this time and instead at the end of the day, make your list of 'what's been done'. Keep a journal by your bed and note how you're feeling each night. Allow yourself to feel the feelings of grief and you will be surprised how in a matter of weeks and months, you will be able to look back on your journal and see how far you have come.

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