Grief and Loss: Taking Care of Yourself During a Terrible Time

Written by yvonnethornton on August 26th, 2013

Our responses to grief are not just emotional but also physical, social, cognitive, and spiritual. Studies show that individual response to traumatic events such as death of a loved one or divorce vary greatly, with different severities and longevities. But it’s not easy for anyone. In the meantime, there are some things you can do to help yourself get through a difficult time.

Emotional Help

Expressing your feelings has wonderful therapeutic benefits. You may not feel like talking at all, but talk to someone anyway – a trusted friend, a counselor, or a support group. And find ways to express your feelings openly just for yourself, such as writing or drawing. Give yourself a break from your daily routine. If you can, take some time off work to slow down and take care of yourself. When you feel up to it, treat yourself to something you enjoy, like some music or a massage.

Physical Help

Grief can affect your appetite and desire to go about your daily activities, including exercise. But neglecting your health will have even more dire consequences now than normal. Getting sick right now will only exacerbate your trying emotions and prolong your unhappiness. Even if you don’t feel like it, eat healthy foods every day. Place an emphasis on fresh fruits and vegetables, drink a lot of water, and avoid alcohol, which is a depressant. You may not feel up to a strenuous daily workout, but at least go for a walk each day. The combination of exercise, fresh air, and sunshine can help boost your mood.

Social Help

You will probably feel disconnected from your friends, family, and normal routine – that’s okay. But don’t let these feelings become overwhelming. Accept offers of help and support. Be open about what you need. If that means being alone sometimes, that’s perfectly natural. But don’t sink into a habit of being alone too much. Keep in mind that even if your friends seem to be withdrawing, they most likely want to help – they just don’t know how. So call them up and invite them over, or meet them for brunch. They will be glad you reached out, and you probably will be too.

Spiritual and Cognitive Help

Struggling with anger and difficult spiritual questions is normal in a time of loss. Finding someone to talk to about this can be helpful, but understand that sometimes working through these feelings takes time. And don’t be surprised if you find yourself forgetful or easily distractible. This is a normal reaction to intense stress and should ease up as you begin to heal.

– Yvonne S. Thornton, M. D., M. P. H.


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