There can be little doubt that a loved one’s death can upend our lives in significant ways. In addition to grieving for and deeply missing someone that we love, we can also experience difficulties in our working lives and in our interpersonal relationships. Conditions related to anxiety or depression are common in individuals who have lost a loved one.
So how can we take care of ourselves at such difficult times? Fortunately, there are ways to manage our emotions and emerge from the experience a stronger person. It is by no means an easy process, but healing after the loss of a loved one is possible. Here are just seven great ways to care for yourself following a loved one’s passing.
1. Find Creative Forms of Personal Expression
Playing the guitar or learning to paint are certainly interesting activities in and of themselves. But creative work is also a powerful tool for coming to terms with difficult emotions. There is a reason that Beethoven’s symphonies seem so cathartic: Creative work can help us come to terms with even the most challenging parts of life.
2. Confide in Others
For many of us, “burdening” others with discussions of our emotions can seem like a bad idea. But the truth is that a good friend will want to hear about how we’re feeling in the wake of a loved one’s passing. If you’d rather not open up to friends about your emotions, try speaking to a therapist. Processing grief can help us move forward and begin to feel better.
3. Take Time for Enjoyable Activities
After the passing of a loved one, it is easy to forget about the things that we enjoy in life. This is particularly true of activities that we used to share with a loved one. At this time, however, it is vital to find real joy in day-to-day existence. Be sure to make time for activities that have brought you joy in the past and that will help you to develop a new approach to life.
4. Acknowledge Your Feelings to Yourself
It is difficult sometimes to admit our emotions to other people. But sometimes it is an even more difficult struggle to recognize our emotions when we have them. However, we can also practice something that psychiatrists and psychologists call “Radical Acceptance” when we’re grieving.
This form of processing emotions allows us to admit the way we feel to ourselves without judging the emotions or judging ourselves for feeling those emotions. In many ways, this form of thinking about our feelings from an objective standpoint can allow us to unmoor ourselves from the past and begin moving towards the future.
5. Get a New Pet
It’s very easy to feel lonely after the death of a loved one. This is a normal response to a traumatic event. Sometimes, however, getting a new pet can really help us to feel better. Having a new animal friend that shows you unconditional love can really help; moreover, taking care of a pet can refocus your mind on issues related to the present moment.
6. Discover a New Exercise Routine
It’s almost a cliche these days to offer exercise advice with regard to mental health. But exercise has been scientifically proven to boost our moods and help us to process difficult feelings. A good exercise routine can also help us to refocus our energies away from the kind of negative thinking patterns that are a common part of the grieving process. Exercise is by no means a wonder-cure for mental health struggles, but it can be a significant factor in recovery from trauma.
7. Look Towards the Future
After a loved one’s passing, it is certainly very easy and even normal to grow despondent about the future. But sometimes having something to look forward to can do wonders for our mental health. Whether it’s the thought of a vacation or the idea of going back to school to learn a new skill, try to find something that excites you about the future. While grieving, it is often difficult to find hope in life. But sometimes positive paths forward are there if you look for them.