“Be merciful to me, Lord, for I am in distress; my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and body with grief. My life is consumed by anguish and my years by groaning; my strength fails because of my affliction and my bones grow weak.” Psalm 31:9-10
Distress, anguish, sorrow. How did you feel when you read this scripture? Can you relate to David’s grief?
Take a minute and read through David’s words again, and this time pay attention to each word and how it makes you feel.
If someone asked you to describe what grief feels like, what would you say?
Grief can be so crippling. Grief can make you feel hopeless. Grief can make you feel like you will never be happy again. But if you are not paying close attention to your grief, it can consume you, even with all of your efforts to stay positive and hopeful.
Let’s look again at the Psalm. How are David's emotions affecting him physically? Consider how your emotions — however you are experiencing them — are affecting you. For example, if you once felt like a strong person who could manage life well, do you feel like you’ve lost that strength? Have you noticed changes in your energy level? How about your ability to enjoy activities that once brought you joy? Is your motivation gone? Are you able to concentrate or do you feel more scattered and distracted?
We all experience life through our emotions. Life affects us emotionally. So an important part of self-care is caring for our emotional health. Grief and trauma are a part of our emotional landscape and very much like a garden, it must be tended.
Compassion is a healing response to grief. It is important to seek compassion but also to be compassionate with yourself. Set aside time to do “grief care” as a part of your self-care.
Self-care is one of the foundations of any healing journey. You need good self-care in order to heal. I encourage anyone who has experienced trauma and loss to keep a “self-care” list. Choose an item or items to do from the list at least once a week, if not more!
I’d like to share a few things that are on my “self-care” list.
1) A relaxing, hot, bubble bath without interruptions. 2) A manicure or pedicure. Something as simple as pretty toe/fingernails can give you a boost! 3) Get a massage. It’s a great way to get stress out of your muscles. 4) Exercise: swim, go to the gym for a workout (or class, etc). Anything that can help you manage, in a healthy way, your stress, anger, pain, or whatever you’re feeling. 5) Get creative - drawing, painting, photography, dancing. Studies have shown art therapy works wonders. Even something as simple as the adult colouring books can significantly reduce stress. 6) Keep a Gratitude Journal - honestly this really does work. Every day write down 3-5 things for which you are grateful. This truly allows you the opportunity to see — in black and white –– that there are still things to be grateful for even in a painful journey. 7) Yoga, meditation, stretching your body/muscles, anything that helps you to release the stress stored in your body and to calm your mind. 8) Music - put on “feel good” music during the day. I love listening to praise music. I end up singing out loud and it changes my whole mood. Music can also change the atmosphere in your home. 9) A Joy Journal - very much like a gratitude journal except write your joy moments instead. 10) Spend time with your children/grandchildren, spend time with a friend, or simply spend time with people: join a book club, attend a craft fair, go to a movie, enjoy a concert: whatever brings you joy.
How many more things can you think of to add to my list?
Comforting activities, joyful activities, calming activities are necessary for mental, emotional, physical, and even spiritual health. Please, please don’t take these things for granted. As women, we tend to be so hard on ourselves, but what we need is compassion and grace for ourselves from ourselves, and from others.
In the book Healing Through the Dark Emotions by Miriam Greenspan she says “In grief’s alchemy the first phase is not about moving on but about being broken, a searing experience that cannot be pacified by all the compassionate counsel in the world. Healing through grief doesn't start when we give up feeling bad, it begins with the agony of loss. The merciful numbing of shock must wear off so the reality of death (or loss) take hold. Grief must sink in. In the alchemy of grief, going down always precedes coming up. Understandable but misguided attempts to speed up the process tend to derail it. Generally, a grief deferred is a grief prolonged. There are no shortcuts in the alchemy of the dark emotions.”
Sadly, grief is an often neglected emotion. Grief gets short shifted or tossed aside and not fully embraced, processed, and allowed time to heal. Grief is an emotion that asks us to depart from the normalcy of life, asks us to be still and to take time to feel and understand it. Grief is about letting go and allowing yourself to descend into the grief so that you can one day rise again in joy: stronger, wiser, and whole.
One may lie down weeping at nightfall, but at dawn there are shouts of joy. Psalm 30:6
Grief offers us a gift: the ability to see deeply into the way things are. Grief is one of the greatest teachers of life. Embrace the gift your grief offers you and lean into it so you can grow with it. Yes, it hurts, but the gains, I promise, are priceless.
If you find yourself grieving with no support, or need the tools to work through your grief, please contact us!
We would love to help you.