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Last year, I wrote an article in a moment when I was grieving my grandfather.
He died 30 years ago—when I was three.
The thought of him throughout the years has brought both a feeling of deep love, a deep sense of the knowing of how much I loved him, along with immense sadness and pain. Just the thought of him for most of my life could make me cry.
A couple of months ago, I felt myself missing him again, feeling that same hollow ache of sadness, of longing, of loss. And I realized that it was around the same time of year that I’d written that article the year before. And then I realized what date it was. And I realized that it was around the day that he’d died.
In that moment, I understood that my subconscious, and my body, knew this date, knew I lost him around this time, even if this awareness was not actively in my conscious mind—even if I wasn’t actively walking around thinking about it.
This made me feel such tenderness, such compassion, for this part of me, for this part of my mind and heart that carry this—that love him, miss him, long for him, that feel pain from losing him.
Grief is a universal experience. We can grieve people, places, things. The ends of relationships, deaths of pets, even parts of ourselves or experiences we’ve never experienced. While the process is not the same for everyone or for each thing or person or place we grieve, we all understand that the experience of grief is painful and difficult.
It’s important when we’re grieving, or feeling any painful emotions, to take care of ourselves, to be there for ourselves.
A few days ago when I was working our social media pages, I asked Elephant readers this question:
“How do you take care of yourself when you’re grieving?”
The responses were so moving.
Here are 30 ways to take care of ourselves when we’re grieving—from Elephant readers:
1. “Talk about how you feel to someone who have been through the same circumstances. Listen to some music, take time to meditate, pray, indulge in a nice warm lavender infused bath. Try to be busy so you don’t think about all the things that are going wrong, drink some tea before sleeping. hug your friends, hugging releases Endorphins which releases stress and create a feeling of well-being. make sure to hug for about 20 seconds. cry when you are alone, color some pictures. watch a movie and listen to podcasts that help with grieving” ~ Hawra
2. “I read about grieving..so I know the real reasons of this grief…sometimes we don’t know why we are grieving for example after a toxic relationship so understanding why we grief may put your feelings into perspective helping you to accept them and to let them pass peacefully without unneeded remorse or relapse” ~ Alzahrae
3. “I’m not sure yet. Everything is so hard to process. So far I have just tried to see the little things I know my mama would love and enjoy. I’ve shared my most favorite memories and remembered things I had almost forgotten. I talk to her. It’s just a miserable feeling when you want to tell someone something and you cant anymore.” ~ Ashley
4. “Talk about my son with my safe people..talk to him when i feel his energy around me..mostly when i am out for a walk..listen to music which helps to let my emotions out..read, listen to podcasts on grief and other people’s stories..every day is different..so hard..but giving time to my grief everyday and acknowledging the feelings as correct for me is so important” ~ Anna
5. “Lots of sleep. Talking to my friends, family and therapist. Reading books on grief and loss when I had the energy and could pay attention.” ~ Melissa
6. “Remind myself that he wants me to take care of myself. Eat healthy, drinks lots of water, go for walks, answer the phone when people who care, call to check in on me.” ~ Sandra
7. “I do whatever I have to. Eat, sleep , spend time with my animals. I do not work or keep myself busy as you need to feel too. Yea the feeling part sucks but that’s life. How wonderful it is to have loved enough to grieve the loss and that alone is something that gets me thru.” ~ Joni
8. “Cry. Cook. Lay under a heavy blanket. Watch my favorite movie.” ~ Lindsey
9. “One breath at a time. One moment at a time. One day a time. And when you break down, you start over. It never goes away… just gets manageable.” ~ Kristin
10. “I like to spend most night and days in a hot shower crying. It’s where I find I can let it all go, without judgement” ~ Darby
11. “I work. I need to keep my hands busy and process my thoughts while I do stuff. Somehow it helps me. I picture my Dad and brother watching me work and giving me suggestions…I wonder what they would have thought of the task accomplished, big or small, and that makes me feel a lot better than before I began the work.” ~ Jemimah
12. “Fresh air and sunshine. Try to eat well…if you can’t eat much eat healthy bites. Reach out to friends. Also give yourself time don’t put off the grieving process. Do it now not years later.” ~ Leslie
13. “First of all, the awareness that grief is a long, non-linear process, has helped me to set realistic expectations for myself. It’s a rollercoaster of emotion and physical processing. I’m very gentle and accommodating to what I need, giving myself permission to cancel plans, rest, eat more than usual or…go out, work more and enjoy bursts of energy and happiness when they are present. Acceptance, compassion and support. Reaching out to others for support when I’m feeling weak, as well.” ~ Jill
14. “I write and write some more. I do yoga and pray. Lately I have been doing Breath work. I walk in nature. I travel alone. I tell myself that it is out of my control, I must change my expectations, I must look for the lesson and remember the lessons learned from previous pain. I find Gratitude and I understand that the pain will lessen in time.” ~ Leslie
15. “Music, more music, and some more music” ~ Kholekile
16. “It’s so very hard. Just be gentle and embrace yourself and the moment – if you feel like crying, cry….” ~ Lainey
17. “Time, rest, prayer, meditation, good food, Nature, work, associating with loving people.” ~ Mary
18. “I sit on the bathroom floor and cry and scream until i cant anymore. Alone. Then i pick myself up, like everyone else here, and get on with my day. And nobody is any the wiser.” ~ Elisha
19. “Be extremely gentle. Rest. Walk with it. Don’t fight it.” ~ Emilie
20. “Journaling! When I’m in a bad place mentally my words flow out of my hands so freely. Gets it out of my head and onto paper then I go back when feeling better and read my thoughts so see how far I’ve come” ~ Barbara
21. “By allowing myself to grieve.. and clearing my schedule to allow for that. Because the reality is, there is no real answer or one way. But giving yourself space and having grace for yourself during this time is the most important thing.” ~ Giusi
22. “Pray, talk to friends listen to music stay active!” ~ Todd
23. “Solitude, time in nature sitting with the trees or water” ~ Nia
24. “Create a sacred space and time to feel all my emotions. Listen to my body and nourish it with whatever it needs when it needs it.” ~ Nichole
25. “Dogs (pets) help. Walking. The Sea. Friends you feel most comfortable with. Cry. Eat. Sleep. It takes time to ease the pain. Then gradually you realise you’re finding a new routine and things begin to feel lighter. Talk about those you’ve lost, be open about it. Have professional help too as trauma can sometimes kick in. EMDR therapy helped me a lot. It felt like the end of any purpose I used to have but I’ve created a new world with new beginnings and there’s lots to explore in a world without the ones we’ve lost. We have to carry the baton in this world as they now don’t have that opportunity and would definitely want us to be happy and to make the most of life. Im 6 years in and it still throws me but I see how far I’ve progressed and how much better I feel. Sending love and reassurance to those who need it” ~ Hayley
26. “I marvel at how much love I have inside of me and am grateful to have experienced something so wonderful that I miss it so deeply.” ~ Mannah
27. “Surround yourself with beautiful things, your favorite flowers, music, pet, person, I read a lot after I lost my loved ones, I still find it hard to look at their photos, grief don’t leave us it just changes a bit” ~ Lisa
28. “By letting the emotions flow through me. Avoiding my feelings and pretending to be okay has made things even more worse for me everytime.” ~ Rubyisha
29. “For me it helped to freeze individual portions of food (that you like) because I did not want to cook.. or to even eat really. Just being able to easily heat in the microwave and eat was a lifesaver otherwise I wouldn’t eat.” ~ Elizabeth
30. “This comment sound like it is assuming that there is an end to grief . There is not. It changes, it ebbs and flows but it never, ever stops. You just grow around it and learn to go on with a hole in your heart. The way you need to deal with grief at any given time is always different; it is always changing. This is a hard question to answer.” ~ Mohammad