When I was living the worst of grief, there were several things that really helped me through. All of us are unique, and so I don’t assume every suggestion will help. Feel free to scan the list, and read only those portions that pertain to you.
- Be very careful with the use of medication and alcohol. Grief doesn’t allow us to think most clearly, and so things we would normally never do, could become a problem. One area I had to be particularly careful of was help in getting to sleep. Three to four times a week, I’d have a glass of wine to help me relax so I could more easily fall asleep. I chose not to use alcohol nightly because I was afraid it could become a habit I’d later have to deal with. I have heard of others becoming addicted to sleeping medication during this time. Talk with your doctor, but please don’t quietly self-medicate.
- Choose what fills your mind. I had the radio tuned to my favorite Christian station almost 24 hours a day, playing softly in the background. The words and soothing music kept me focused on truth, and helped me refocus more easily away from thoughts that could otherwise have plagued me. Also, on many occasion, the Lord orchestrated a particular song to be played at just the right moment, embracing me with his love.
- Train your mind and “heart” to turn to Christ and his promises when panic about the future assails. When fear and panic about the future would begin to plague my mind (usually at night or first thing in the morning), I would remind myself that I didn’t need to think about it right then. I would literally turn my thoughts and heart to focus on Jesus alone. Forcing the thoughts of the future to take second place to facing Jesus Christ. It took time to train my brain to remain focused, and avoid the panic. Tomorrow, I will share some verses that may help.
- Learn your body’s indicators of being over-stressed. When I began to notice feelings of being unsettled and anxious, I eventually learned these were often indicators that I was spending too much time in activity in order to avoid grief. Learn your indicators. If you aren’t certain, pray and ask the Holy Spirit to show you your personal indicators of a need to stop running and rest.
- Set aside time to rest. Resting is so much harder while grieving, because it gives our minds time to think. Thinking causes pain, so we avoid resting. Yet, our bodies need rest. They need down time to heal from the trauma caused by the grief. Also, so many of us have had a space of time prior to our loved one’s death where we were busy caring for them. Our bodies, minds, and souls need time to rest and restore.
- Set aside time to grieve. This may seem obvious, but it isn’t. We don’t want to feel pain, so we avoid grieving. However, I am learning now, almost 9 years later – we will grieve. If we avoid taking time to grieve now, the emotions will come out one way or another – and they may not come out in ways constructive to us or others if we refuse their release. I’m not saying we can always choose the place or time we release emotions, that isn’t possible. But, I have found it helpful to ask God to orchestrate down time when I could grieve before him. This became especially important when I began feeling as though I was becoming unsettled and anxious because of over-busyness. Those God-orchestrated moments were special moments between us where I would wail and voice my pain, the tears washing and cleansing me on the inside. A sense of release and relief always followed.
- Don’t rush the grieving process. I have read it isn’t wise to make any major life decisions for at least a year. Our brains aren’t able to think clearly enough. Even though the numbness, for me, lasted about 6 months, the second year was the hardest. Everyone’s timetable for grieving is different – so don’t assume another person’s timetable for yourself. However, I’d add, if you are several years into grief, and aren’t any closer to healing than the day of your loved one’s death – please consider professional counseling. Getting stuck in grief isn’t what God want’s for your life!
- Don’t rush getting rid of your loved one’s belongings until you are ready (unless extenuating circumstances require it). This shouldn’t be decided by friends or family. When I was ready (about 6-8 months into grief), it helped me to purposely choose organizations that would appreciate my husband’s things. I took photos of his “collections” which made it easier to release them. I also chose to keep several mementos, and gave away items to special friends and family members for them to remember him by, making this stage memorable and less difficult. However, if it has been years since your loved one’s death, and you are still unable to get rid of their belongings, this may indicate you are stuck in grief and may need professional counseling to help you heal.
- Make use of local resources. Hospice often has local grief groups. I’ve mentioned GriefShare. Also, a book that greatly helped me was “A Sacred Sorrow“, by Michael Card. It taught me the gift of being able to “lament” or grieve openly before God, and his loving response to those who grieve.
- Finally, cling to Jesus and his people. If you aren’t in a loving, supportive church home, find one. My church family’s love and support during this time helped more than I can say. Stay in his Word – even if you can only read a verse or two a day – the Psalms are wonderful. A good devotion for this period of time for me was “Streams In The Desert“, as the daily readings were collected by Mrs. Charles Cowman, a woman acquainted with grief.
I have received no compensation of any kind for my recommendations. I am not a licensed counselor, so my recommendations are from experience alone, and not intended to be professional in any way.
I would love to know what has helped you work through grief. Also, if you would like to share any prayer requests, or wish to talk, the form below allows you to contact me confidentially.
With love and prayers,