Things that might help
We know that nothing will take away the pain of grief.
Below, people share the things that helped them build resilience in the midst of their grief. Which of these examples can you identify with lately?
I find that I um would go out doors a lot in the early days. Um and I don’t know if that’s because I wanted to be away from home. There’s of course some great trails around here that I would go on. Um that’s one of the things that definitely helped me. And ’cause there’s a tendency to want to not get out of bed.
You know, there’s a tendency to be really um, uh, just kinda get in the blanket fort and you know just not want to escape that. I think that a lot of people are like that. So getting outdoors was really helpful.
We didn’t sleep. We watched.
It’s funny, you know, now in retrospect, like I remember Jimmy and I watching really high stakes, intense like national, international crisis shows and movies. Cause I think it was the only thing, it sort of sounds bizarre, but it was the only thing that could like make us feel a little bit better or take us out of it because it had this way of being like, no, you are this tiny little speck on the earth that’s experiencing this pain, but national security is at stake.
It became about getting back in my body in a way that I hadn’t, that looked like working out and walking, and getting stronger. I wanted, I wanted to feel physically stronger. And, you know, there’s kind of this kick that happens after you’ve been through something like this, which is, like, I’m not scared of anything. Like, I’ve lived through this. I gave birth to my dead baby, like, you can try me.
You know, and I think that kind of would drive my husband crazy sometimes ’cause that would translate into, like, it’s 2 am, I can’t sleep. And I would go for a walk, and he wasn’t too happy about that.
For myself, it’s the more I talk about it, the easier it is to understand, the easier, maybe, easy is not a good word. I guess the more understanding.
It shouldn’t, anyways, control your life. You still have to go on. You still have to live. You still have to nurture people in your life, your family members, you know, other members of your family, and you have to have that ability to be healthy.
Within that period of grief, it’s, with me, it immobilized me. I couldn’t think. I couldn't eat. I couldn’t do anything, and whatever religious base or spiritual base that you stand on, I think those are healthy places to be, to understand that maybe there’s just a transference, and this, the idea that it’s permanent, the loss is permanent, I think that really affected me more so than anything. You know, and then rationalizing, I suppose, and that’s what I do, I suppose, you know, with things that are bothering me, rationalizing that it’s not permanent, that I do believe in a heaven, and that’s where I believe my brother, and mother, and dad are, and I’ll meet them there.
We talk about him a lot. I try to tell stories about Dan. I try to, um, always find a way to bring him in.
There’s ways really every day to bring up his name, and to, um ... You know, something happens and it reminds me of something that happened before, or it reminds me of a story I heard about his childhood. You know, Ella’s talking about something that happened in fifth grade, and I might have an anecdote that, uh, that I remember from- from Dan.
Um, we also have a lot of photographs, a lot of photographs, the pictures of us together, the selfies, um, and that sort of thing that allow access to stories about Dan.
Drink water. It’s so important. And so I keep, I drink 16 ounces of water when I first wake up, before I had my cup of coffee. I put lemon in it the night before and it’s ready to go.
It was night and day between losing our twins, the miscarriages and losing Loey.
Um ... losing Loey ... the support that we had at the hospital was phenomenal. But also the fact that we were able to hold her and see her, um, it was very tangible. And so we were able to bathe her, we were able to change her diaper. You know, those kind of healing rituals that you do. And within those three days, that’s the memory I have of her. Like I have the memory of being pregnant with her, and then I have the memory of spending time with her and our photos. And everything that we have is those three days. And especially for my husband, he got to hold her and be with her.
Whereas, with our twins I was pregnant but it wasn’t tangible for him. Um, and because it was tangible, I think that also helped with the healing.
Um, with our twins, okay, it wasn’t tangible, but we could have made something tangible. We could have created something that was tangible. Um, you know even if they gave us a teddy bear that we were able to take home with us, that's tangible. That's something that you're holding on to that would have been really great for healing.
With the death of my husband, I had to be a little selfish and I had to put myself first. ’Cause if I can’t come to terms with my own thoughts and my own grief and my own melt ... meltdowns, I couldn’t handle their meltdowns. I wouldn’t know how to comfort them.
So I took care of me, and I got up and I went grocery shopping, and I would go grocery shopping about three times a week just to make myself get out of the house.
’Cause, you know, I send them off to school, I could stay in my pajamas all day. But that’s not gonna help me. So I got up and do things. I would go to the coffee shop by myself, I would go to the library. I would do things to make myself get out of the house.
... because I lost so many friends and acquaintances during this process, I had to go to my faith. My faith really got me through. And I went to iPods, or my cellphone, and I listened to a lot of videos, and a lot of... just how to get through life when trials come your way, and I had to listen to other people and their experiences and what they did to get through.
I have used a lot of resources, a lot of books. So I found a lot of books on widows so I immersed myself in understanding this new journey as a widow. I was trying to understand the feelings and emotions that I was having. So I used resources, I used books. I also connected with a lot of Facebook widow groups. And that just allows you the opportunity to have someone to vent with. Have someone to talk things over.
When I’m going through it, I listen to music. I think about my mom. Gospel. My favorite band: Earth, Wind & Fire. Songs that my mom used to listen to, songs that my brother used to listen to, things like that.
Instead of just being sad. If you put that on, you put those on, and it will put you in a better mood, it will.
They say music is healing to the soul, it really is. Certain songs you listen to, or certain songs... You know, wow, that’s really, the music, the lyrics, it really is soothing to the soul, especially when you're going through something. You know, it’s really good.
I had this emotional release of painting, and it was energy, it was emotion, it was anger, it was everything. I could do that in this studio very easily, and walk out of here exhausted, knowing that I felt better about it. I let these things go. I let them go on a piece of paper, or canvas, or board, and they don’t necessarily have to stay there. I could cover them up. I could repaint them. I could include them. I could manipulate them any which way I needed to.
It was like a cleansing, and that got me through a lot of things, as it has since I’ve been a young boy.
Reading was good for me as well, I read a lot. And I’m Facebook moderator for the reading group that the Compassionate Friends, the online uh reading group. Uh so that helped me a lot, although I found I couldn’t really read grief books in the early days. I had to read sort of as a distraction.
When I have rough days about my mom or my brother, I try to look at the good things that we shared. With my mom, playing cards every night, that was one of her things. “Come on, we got to play 10 hands of cards.” I think about those things to try to help me.
One way that I connect with my mom is to, um, share a meal with her, in a way. So I have some small dishes and I’ll s- serve her as well some of what I’m eating and just set it out and maybe light a candle and we just eat together. And sometimes I talk out loud to her and sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I just think or just sit and watch the world go by. That's one of my favorite ways.
I am very blessed to really have a very strong core of female friends. I have my support group, um, that developed while I was going through breast cancer, with other women. It’s a face to face group of girls, and we get together once a month. And- and do things. They were there for me.
And then I have my other three little friends They wouldn’t let me fall back. They would not let me hide and stop doing what I enjoy. And stop living my life. And, without them, I think life would be a lot harder. It would be bearable, but I wouldn’t have that friend, or friends, that I can call. Or not even have them to call. They just sense it. They just know. And that is a blessing. I don’t think a lot of people have. . .
Those are the kind of friends you need in your life. You need friends who won’t let you shut yourself out. Who will keep on knocking on that door, and will not take no for an answer. They won’t let you fall. They won’t let you give up.
When grief hits, there’s little that mirrors the enormity of it. So I remember just going down to the beach sometime because, you know, the ocean can contain it. And I think if I lived in the desert I would go out to the desert because, you know, the desert is big enough to contain it. But even just going for a walk and looking at the sky, you know, it’s like that’s big enough to contain it. Where the rest of what you can see is not big enough for that. So finding beauty in- in those things.
I would watch YouTube, watch funny videos on Instagram, and talk and play with my mom.
I definitely have a happy place out in my garage, where I’ll go and tinker on something, try to fix something or advance one of the many projects I have going. It’s definitely a pet peeve of Beatrice’s, where she’s saying, “Work on one thing at a time,” but my brain doesn’t exactly work that way. I like tinkering on multiple fronts, and that always keeps me busy.
I’m an English teacher, so writing really helps. Writing has always sort of helped, but it’s not something I consistently do. I’m part of a grief writing group. And, so that helps too, is to have an audience that gets it. So I don’t have to explain too much. And, I think there’s an acknowledgment, you know, that’s one of the routines of the group is not so much advice as it is just acknowledging that, that’s real. Um, and how hard it is, or however it hits that, at that time or at that moment. So that definitely helps.
I would get up very early in the morning though, and take long walks. Like up to, you know I'd be walking with the dog, alone or with the dog, and that kind of was, very um, I would say very uh, healing for me, to be alone walking in the neighborhood, uh, by myself, just walking the dog. Um, I needed that kind of movement, but um, that probably led to a loss of some sleep. (chuckles) You know, but I would get up like, early as 4 o’clock in the morning.
Yoga has been really helpful. Movement is essential when you’re grieving. I find that if the, the first few months that I didn’t do anything, I was just holding on. I was very tense. As soon as I was able to walk, and fresh air, sunshine, um, having little lunch dates with friends, um, going to yoga classes ... you know, it’s like that one percent thing to do, like, even if it’s only one thing that you do all day, just doing something has really helped me.
So even if I’m resting for the majority of the day, but I have a lunch date, or I’m gonna take the dogs for a walk or I’m gonna go to yoga class, that was really therapeutic, because when you do that one percent, it becomes five percent, it becomes 10%, and things get a little bit easier.
But movement, yoga, meditation, um, eating healthy. Oh my gosh. Of course when you’re grieving, I’m like, sugar and carbs. As soon as I did that switch when I was ready and I was able to go back to my smoothies and drink water, I felt a lot better as well.
I dance a lot with my daughter. It makes her happy, and it makes me happy ’cause she’s happy. You know, being goofy. So ... those emotions, they take over and I allow them to take over. Um, and I allow them to define what we’re doing at that moment because I can be sad another time.
I do my artwork. I used the pastels so I express my feelings through art.
I work as a circus performer. I make my own circuses, and I perform in other people’s circuses. I call it queer circus. So, for me that means a particular way of bringing my whole self as a human to my circus art form.
Giving myself creative tasks to solve that just force my whole brain to go onto that idea, that w- was really helpful for me. Is still really helpful for me.
So I write and produce whole shows. And that . . . doing that was a huge part of getting out of that depth of, out of the canyon of grief.
And if I’m in a place where grief is coming at me and I don’t have the space or time to just leave and go do something artistic, then breathing is really helpful.
So just finding ways to make my body a little bit bigger so that I am able to stand with the grief rather than being squished by it.
Taking good care of my kids is a form of self care. Giving them what they need and a lot of what they want, makes me feel really good. It makes me feel like I’m doing right by them and right by Dan, taking good care of them.
Just kindness. Being kind to other people. In a weird way, your heart gets bigger when it’s been broken, where you might think it’s the other way around. Um, so finding ways to give.
Now Anise and her dad, there were things that Anise and her dad did that they never told me about. Okay. And so like they would go some mornings to a restaurant and get a biscuit, breakfast biscuit. So I found out maybe like two years ago that her and her dad used to always do that, right? I didn’t know that, right?
So I now take her maybe once a month to go get a breakfast biscuit. And it makes her just so happy that I’m doing that again, you know? They used to go to get ice cream, and so I take her to go get ice cream. And so we do those kind of things to make her life just be happy again, you know?
I felt like, OK, I need to, I need to change things up and do things differently. And I think, you know, having that spur me on to do things differently and to at least try things and some of the things didn’t work, some of the things did work.
I now have a few new skills I took up, I read an article that said knitting would help. So I took up knitting, which was interesting because I spent about six months screaming at the knitting needles ’cause they wouldn’t do what they were supposed to do. I think I broke a bunch. I think I burned some like, quite a few balls of yarn because I was mad that they didn't organize themselves into, you know, nicely shaped scarves. So, but now I can knit. So, (laughs) and everybody gets, you know, lumpy scarves for Christmas.
But I think some of it was just out there at the point where I finally said, okay, I can’t continue like this because I’m in too much pain, opened me up to, okay, what can I do? What else can I try? Let me try something out of the box. And so knitting or doing the weightlifting were things that I hadn’t thought would be of interest to me beforehand.