6 Steps for Getting Through the First Year of Grief
Written by Julie Raque, this article gives you simple and very practical tips on how to lessen the burden of grief. Julie, a young widow with children, explains some of the things she did to help her recreate a quality life for her and her children. She explains how to navigate through grief and get the so-called "monkeys off your back while you create the new you."
by Julie D. Raque
Lose the monkeys!
Everybody carries monkeys on their back, everyday. When you're going through the grief cycle, you now have a very heavy, grief monkey added to your back. It's time to lose some of the smaller ones. For me, some of the smaller ones were feeling like I had to return phone calls immediately. Or check and return emails promptly. Or send a thank you card for the latest sympathy card. Or keeping the house super clean. Or yard work. Or fixing a deluxe dinner for the three of us. The list goes on and on. I finally decided that I couldn't keep up with all of it—at least, not yet. All in good time. What are some of the monkeys you're carrying? Which ones can you set aside for now and tend to later?
Sleep/rest when at all possible.
One of the symptoms of grief is sleeping too much or not enough. If you're the type of person whose eyelids are begging you to go to sleep but you can't seem to shut your mind off, please see your doctor and let him/her know what's going on. They can prescribe mild, non-addicting medication that will help you turn your mind off so that you can get some much needed rest at night. And don't forget exercise and journaling! Both of these activities are great for a good night's sleep. If you're like I was, you want to sleep all the time. If it weren't for my two children being small when my husband died, my head never would have left the pillows. Please know that there's nothing wrong with you if you want to sleep all the time. It's a very normal part of the grief cycle. Indulging in a nap during the day is perfectly ok. Your body needs rest; just don't let it consume your daily life. At one point, I actually thought I was grieving wrong because I wanted to sleep all the time. Can you imagine that monkey on my back? On top of trying to cope with the grief symptoms, here I was feeling burdened thinking I was doing it wrong! It wasn't until I realized that one of the grief symptoms was too little or too much sleep was that monkey lifted from my shoulders. Once it was lifted, guess what? I slept through the night and woke up with the desire to get out of bed!
Simplify your life.
This is an important step. Remember, your body is physically consumed with the grief cycle, which takes a lot of energy, not leaving you with enough energy to handle chaos or clutter. Therefore, simplifying your life will make getting through the day a lot easier. Once the sleep monkey left my shoulders, I began to have the desire to simplify my and my children's lives. I had a long talk with my employer and as a result, dropped down to part-time hours. I worked three days a week and having two days off (keeping the kids in childcare) allowed me to have time to do whatever was needed. Time to myself; clean the house; have lunch and movie with a friend. You name it, I did it! And I didn't feel guilty! Two days to myself doing whatever was necessary or desired, allowed me to regain some control of my life which started the process of rebuilding my and my children's lives.
Put your grief on a shelf and go out!
I had been focusing on being a parent from dawn to dusk. All of my time was concentrated on where are my children? What are they doing? What should we be doing? Are they ok? And when they were asleep, I feeling guilty for surviving my husband, another phase of the grief cycle. Finally, a friend of mine told me, "You need to put your grief on a shelf, and say out loud, ‘I love you, but I need to get out and have some time away from the grief. I know when I come back you'll be here.' And go out and enjoy yourself." So I tried it. On one of my days off, I took myself to lunch and went to a bookstore and enjoyed my time there. When I came home, I physically felt a little bit better and realized that taking "some time off" from grief didn't mean I stopped loving my late-husband. It was at that moment that the grief monkey began to ease itself from my shoulders. Little by little, I put my grief on a shelf more and more. Each time, making it easier to cope with the grief and to rebuild our lives.
The "one year" with rule.
Remember, you're consumed with grief while trying to get through your normal daily routine. This is not the time to sell your house and move. It's not the time to change jobs. It's not the time for any major decisions. If you have any desire to make a major decision, the first thing you should do is STOP. Write down your thoughts on paper. Why this particular major decision? What are its benefits? What would it take for you to accomplish this change? Then put this piece of paper in a safe-keeping place. It will be there when you're totally ready for it.
Lean on God!
This is my favorite part! Course, in the beginning, I wouldn't say that I consciously did lean on Him. It wasn't until one day when I felt so overwhelmed with life that I simply sat down and cried and cried. When there were no more tears, I looked up and said, "Ok God, You win! I can't do this by myself and I'm not even sure I can do it with help. But I don't have any choice. I have two children relying on me so I'm relying on You! I'm hard-headed and stubborn. So You're going to have to hit me over the head and let me know what You want me to do and where You're leading me so I can follow!" Shortly after that prayer, more of the monkeys were lifted from my shoulders. I actually started to see the positive things in life again, large and small. While I still had the burdens I had before, they weren't bogging me down as much. God was carrying them for me!If you don't have a faith, I encourage you to seek one and pray for God to help you develop your faith. If you already have a faith, I encourage you to practice it more. He will get you through the grief cycle and He will lead you onto the next chapter in your life, I promise!
About the author:
Julie has been a widowed/single parent for over twelve years. She's used this experience to write and publish her book, From Surviving to Thriving (young) Widowhood with Kids and to be come a Life Development Coach and Professional Speaker. She focuses on working with moms/parents on building (or rebuilding) a quality life for themselves and their families. She coaches and speaks to parents from all over and guides them through the challenges that are holding them back from living their life.
You can view or purchase her book and learn more about Julie by visiting http://www.matrixcoachingservices.com/ or at http://www.newleaf-resources.com/