Caring for yourself on days you miss your loved one
Special occasions, like birthdays, anniversaries and Valentine’s Day, can be difficult when the person you’re used to celebrating with is no longer around. We spoke to Jane Murray, an Adult Bereavement Support Lead in our West Midlands Hospice, on how to care for yourself while you grieve.
Spend time with others
On special occasions, those around you may not want to intrude on your grief. Find the courage to make that call/text. “Are you free for coffee?” is a gentle reminder to them that you are in need of company. Although it is an effort to be proactive, it is preferable to spending too much time alone.
Death ends a life but it doesn’t end a relationship. If you’re used to sharing your special day with the person who has died, you could continue to do this. Many people continue to talk to the person who has died. This may sound strange, but it can bring comfort. Others find it helpful to write down what they want to say, in a journal or a letter.
Lower expectations for yourself
Don’t expect yourself to run at full capacity on special days that remind you of your loved one. You may find your ability to concentrate and focus is diminished – writing a ‘to do’ list can help.
Listen to your body
If you need to cry, cry. If you need to sleep, sleep. If you need to talk to someone, then seek out someone who will listen; a family member, friend or bereavement support service.
Keep a journal
Writing down your thoughts and feelings can help you to make sense of what has happened and work through your grief.
Many people who are bereaved find keeping themselves busy is helpful. However, keeping yourself too busy and not allowing yourself time to ‘feel your grief’ is a distraction from your grief and not helpful to it.
Do the familiar things you used to
If you feel up to it, engage in activities and hobbies to which you feel drawn. It could be visiting a place you haven't been to in a while, walks in nature, reading, crafts etc.
Treat yourself to a hairdressing appointment, a manicure, a massage or even a restful soak in the bath – nurture yourself.
Look after your health
Physical exercise can improve your mood and enhance the way you feel. Maintaining a healthy diet and resuming your usual sleeping pattern is essential for functioning as well as you can. If you are having difficulty with either, visit your doctor.
Be aware of others' reactions
Many people will not know how to react appropriately to your grief. Some will be more comfortable than others in responding to you. Be aware that people have different ideas, not only about death but also about how bereaved individuals should behave. People may say things to you that can seem insensitive with the best of intentions, not meaning to cause you hurt.
If you need counselling, do get it
Get all the support you need. There are many bereavement support groups as well as specialist counsellors or spiritual advisors who specialise in bereavement support. Don't hesitate to contact a medical and or mental health specialist if you have feelings of hopelessness or suicidal thoughts.