I believe I am at the phase in my widowhood where I am growing comfortable with taking more and more concrete steps to move forward in my life. I’m proud of myself for doing so, because I could very easily be in bed still, wallowing in my depression. I’m gaining a little confidence again, I’m taking chances again, and I’m accepting my grief. One would think that accepting grief would be to hide in a cave and allow it to just happen to you for months or years, but it’s actually quite the opposite. To accept and allow one’s grief, we must be in a place of control. It’s a spiritual place, a place of grounding.
How did I get to this point? I’m going to share with you how I am taking control of my grief and taking my steps forward in life.
1. Cry. As I’ve said before, I absolutely hate to cry. Or perhaps I should say “hated”, because while I still don’t particularly like it, I have grown to accept its importance in the processes of healing. I once read that the body needs to let out tears in order to reduce stress and cope with trauma. I have observed that to be very true as I have been on this journey after such traumatic loss. It’s so important to let yourself cry, and not only that, but let yourself cry in front of anyone and anything. That means you need not hide in a room, but keep moving, and allow “the feels” to come when they come. That may sound counterintuitive given that I was just stating how, to accept grief, we must be in control, but it is in our allowance of “the feels” that we actually have that control. At that point, we need to allow our chemistry to do what is necessary for emotional healing. I’ve cried in grocery stores, in the car (A LOT), at restaurants, while chatting with friends, and while bowling. It’s natural and necessary, and trust me, people don’t mind as much as you think they do. Most people, especially the ones who know your story, will be quite accepting of your random “feels”. So, cry. You need it, really.
2. Exercise. I know this isn’t anything new. Most of us are told to exercise no matter what problem we face. But it is very beneficial nonetheless, and it’s a great way to build confidence again. You can start off slow. For instance, I began exercising by walking my dogs three times a day, then I started going to the gym with my sister for short trips, then I signed up for martial arts classes and that’s my main source of exercise now. I do highly recommend eventually signing up for some sort of exercise program. My reason for recommending group exercise classes is the fact that you get to meet supportive people who can help you learn and get your mind off wallowing for a bit, and you can have a set schedule for when you need to exercise. It’s a lot easier to put off going to the gym when your only drive is yourself. Connecting with others and following a schedule will get you motivated. For me, martial arts is the perfect fit for my needs. I needed a lot more confidence and a way to battle my fears of being without Chris. Learning how to protect myself by doing Krav Maga, Muay Thai, and Jiu-Jitsu has made a huge difference. Not to mention, the people I train with are incredible and very supportive. I couldn’t have asked for anything better.
3. Write. I do a lot of this (obviously). You don’t need to start a blog or make your words public in any way. That’s what I’ve chosen to do, but it can be just as beneficial to write in a private diary. For me, it’s my blog, and it’s a journal I use to write private letters to Chris. I find time to visit Chris’ grave and I read my letters to him. It’s very cathartic and I like to think he can hear me and be with me when I read to him. No matter how you do it, writing is an incredible outlet. I am actually very happy I started my blog. While it makes me quite vulnerable, it helps me cope with how I feel and gives me some joy knowing my words may reach someone who really needs to read them, just as I have searched for and read the words of other widows. When you feel it, write it.
4. Pray. This is a very important one for me. If you don’t believe in God, my suggestion would be meditation. For me, prayer has served to be the most important part in my grief journey. I won’t say much more than that because it isn’t necessary. Prayer or meditation to you is what it is to you. I’m so thankful to God that I can openly communicate with Him through my spirit. It’s grounding and calming. The same can go for communicating with your loved one too. I like to talk with Chris. It keeps him alive within me.
5. Pamper. I take a lot of hot showers and give myself spa treatments. I also use essential oils for aromatherapy or supplementation. Making your body feel good is also a way to make your spirit feel good.
6. Shop. Okay, within reason, but I have found that a little retail therapy can actually do some great emotional healing. That must be why they call it “retail therapy”…
7. Drink. If you don’t drink, indulge in extra dessert here and there. Heck, if you do drink, do both. A little healthy indulgence in a safe environment is never a bad thing. I’m sure our loved ones rather enjoy watching us get silly every once in a while. Ignore the irrational guilt. That may come as you allow yourself to let loose, but it’s important to remember that the person you lost loved you very much and would never want you to deny yourself happiness out of guilt.
8. Create. I have found painting to be an enjoyable outlet. Drawing, painting, photography, story writing, pottery, etc. are all good things to take up when working through grief. Creativity allows for release and alternative expression. So, find something creative that you can enjoy. You can even combine this with #7 and let all sorts of magic happen. Own something uniquely you.
9. Therapy. Don’t be ashamed. I’m actually a big time advocate of mental health care. I think it is a vital field and we should stop allowing there to be stigma attached to it. I have a referral to see a psychologist and I will soon make my appointment. People who have studied your needs professionally can be such a big help and a gateway to resources you didn’t even know you needed. I will most likely be sharing what I learn from my psychologist in future posts.
10. Love. This is last, but certainly one of the most important things I have been practicing. As I said in my last post, someone wise once told me that true freedom comes to us by serving the other. By serving others, we serve God, we serve our loved one, and we serve ourself. It’s a magical thing. It’s a healing thing. No matter how you choose to do it, and I’ll leave that up to you, find opportunities everyday to spread love.
I have a long road ahead of me. Grieving the loss of a spouse is not a fleeting journey. It’s, perhaps, a lifelong one. Therefore, it’s very important to find healthy outlets, things that work best in aiding your practice of personal control of your grief.
Stay strong. You are strong. (I say to myself and I say to you.)