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Six Steps To Surviving Grief

Six Steps To Surviving Grief

When I started writing this a month ago, my keypad was so wet the “F” key stopped working. So I decided for the sake of my Dell, I’d revisit it at a later date.

It’s not easy to write about grief, especially when you’re deep in the belly of its awfulness. When you keep your grief holed up inside, it twists you out of shape and makes you a real pain to be around. But writing, talking, or clay making (whatever your chosen method of catharsis) does help.

Grief steamrolled its way into my life four months ago. My 96-year-old grandfather and the greatest man who’s ever lived decided to do the eternally “one”– leaving me disappointed (for him) that he missed a card from Betty Windsor, but mostly devastated.

Of course, at 96 I reckoned his game would be up soon. But still, much like a naïve child, I thought my hero would live forever. Having become accustomed now to not dialing his UK landline on a Sunday night, it’s time to share with others my six-step guide to surviving grief.

Step 1: Allow yourself to break

Allowing yourself to break is probably the hardest thing you will do because for most of us, it’s just not cool when we think others think we’re not coping.

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This contained culture of ours celebrates the rational, the unflinching, the tearless, leaving the rest of us (the other 99%) somehow ashamed of our emotions and way less likely to have a public meltdown.

At my grandfather’s funeral, I watched veterans stifle their sadness into old handkerchiefs because they didn’t want to be a bother.

Lucky for me, I was born into a harem of criers, with my sister and her chin wobble at the helm. So I knew in that moment, facing a befitting mahogany casket with my grandfather’s liberated soul soaring high above my head, it was safe to break.

Step 2: Choose chocolate over wine

A common reaction of most adults upon hearing bad news is to reach for a bottle. I’m no exception.

In the week following my grandfather’s death, I’d describe my resting state as “oiled.” I found that a nighttime glass (or three) of my good friend Shiraz temporarily smoothed the edge off grief, only for it to reform in the morning with a roughness that would floor me. Let’s face it — no one finds peace at the bottom of a glass.

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Where I did find peace was in chocolate.

I’m not saying “go forth and gorge your grief on 12 bars of Cadbury’s.” Show some restraint. But a nibble here and there in moments of vulnerability will do far less harm than a hangover.

Step 3: Tune out other’s shi%

This is also a tricky one, particularly if you’re naturally inclined to be a sounding board.

I pride myself on being available for people in times of strife — I’ve made a part-time career out of it. But when everything inside of you is struggling to make sense, you need to be your own patient.

Be honest with the serial complainers in your life. Tell them you’re just not strong enough (right now) to listen to their shi%. And, besides, that’s what hairdressers are paid for.

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Step 4: Buy stuff

In the last four months, I’ve impulse purchased a sofa, desk, chair, clothes, designer bags, weekends away, flights, an extravagant scratching post for a cat, and a 43 track album called So Country 2016.

Did I need any of this stuff? No.

Did it make me feel better at the time? Yes. Well, except the album — that must have been a particularly bad day.

Step 5: Exercise till you spew

I’m a massive advocate of exercise, partly because there’s an obese person in me just dying to get out, but generally because you can’t deny its positive impact on mood. So when my gym advertised a free personal training session with no need to commit, I decided to give it a go.

It helps that my instructor is a cross between Chris Hemsworth and John Snow, but there’s something therapeutic about pushing my body so hard that my lunch makes a comeback. I can tackle my demons with greater clarity, and my bum is beginning to look great in skinny jeans.

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Step 6: Let loved ones in

It’s a simple mandate, yet bewilderingly difficult to execute. Why? Because grief is something you don’t like to share, like dirty secrets or a large pizza when you’re hungry.

My wonderfully patient fiancé chipped away at my forcefield every day for a month. She’d hold my hand while I’d cry at any mention of old people and death on TV. She’d let me snipe and snap at her for no good reason. She’d consistently give me the largest serving of dessert. She’d pick me up from work and drive me to quiet places where I could avoid the crowds. And it was these subtle and tender actions that have helped me slowly heal.

If there’s one thing that these six steps have taught me and will hopefully teach you, it’s that when you lose someone you love, grief will take up residence in your life — and that’s OK. It’s there to be felt in all its horrible splendor.

Featured photo credit: Ed Gregory via stokpic.com

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Last Updated on January 21, 2020

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

Creating a vision for your life might seem like a frivolous, fantastical waste of time, but it’s not: creating a compelling vision of the life you want is actually one of the most effective strategies for achieving the life of your dreams. Perhaps the best way to look at the concept of a life vision is as a compass to help guide you to take the best actions and make the right choices that help propel you toward your best life.

your vision of where or who you want to be is the greatest asset you have

    Why You Need a Vision

    Experts and life success stories support the idea that with a vision in mind, you are more likely to succeed far beyond what you could otherwise achieve without a clear vision. Think of crafting your life vision as mapping a path to your personal and professional dreams. Life satisfaction and personal happiness are within reach. The harsh reality is that if you don’t develop your own vision, you’ll allow other people and circumstances to direct the course of your life.

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    How to Create Your Life Vision

    Don’t expect a clear and well-defined vision overnight—envisioning your life and determining the course you will follow requires time, and reflection. You need to cultivate vision and perspective, and you also need to apply logic and planning for the practical application of your vision. Your best vision blossoms from your dreams, hopes, and aspirations. It will resonate with your values and ideals, and will generate energy and enthusiasm to help strengthen your commitment to explore the possibilities of your life.

    What Do You Want?

    The question sounds deceptively simple, but it’s often the most difficult to answer. Allowing yourself to explore your deepest desires can be very frightening. You may also not think you have the time to consider something as fanciful as what you want out of life, but it’s important to remind yourself that a life of fulfillment does not usually happen by chance, but by design.

    It’s helpful to ask some thought-provoking questions to help you discover the possibilities of what you want out of life. Consider every aspect of your life, personal and professional, tangible and intangible. Contemplate all the important areas, family and friends, career and success, health and quality of life, spiritual connection and personal growth, and don’t forget about fun and enjoyment.

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    Some tips to guide you:

    • Remember to ask why you want certain things
    • Think about what you want, not on what you don’t want.
    • Give yourself permission to dream.
    • Be creative. Consider ideas that you never thought possible.
    • Focus on your wishes, not what others expect of you.

    Some questions to start your exploration:

    • What really matters to you in life? Not what should matter, what does matter.
    • What would you like to have more of in your life?
    • Set aside money for a moment; what do you want in your career?
    • What are your secret passions and dreams?
    • What would bring more joy and happiness into your life?
    • What do you want your relationships to be like?
    • What qualities would you like to develop?
    • What are your values? What issues do you care about?
    • What are your talents? What’s special about you?
    • What would you most like to accomplish?
    • What would legacy would you like to leave behind?

    It may be helpful to write your thoughts down in a journal or creative vision board if you’re the creative type. Add your own questions, and ask others what they want out of life. Relax and make this exercise fun. You may want to set your answers aside for a while and come back to them later to see if any have changed or if you have anything to add.

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    What Would Your Best Life Look Like?

    Describe your ideal life in detail. Allow yourself to dream and imagine, and create a vivid picture. If you can’t visualize a picture, focus on how your best life would feel. If you find it difficult to envision your life 20 or 30 years from now, start with five years—even a few years into the future will give you a place to start. What you see may surprise you. Set aside preconceived notions. This is your chance to dream and fantasize.

    A few prompts to get you started:

    • What will you have accomplished already?
    • How will you feel about yourself?
    • What kind of people are in your life? How do you feel about them?
    • What does your ideal day look like?
    • Where are you? Where do you live? Think specifics, what city, state, or country, type of community, house or an apartment, style and atmosphere.
    • What would you be doing?
    • Are you with another person, a group of people, or are you by yourself?
    • How are you dressed?
    • What’s your state of mind? Happy or sad? Contented or frustrated?
    • What does your physical body look like? How do you feel about that?
    • Does your best life make you smile and make your heart sing? If it doesn’t, dig deeper, dream bigger.

    It’s important to focus on the result, or at least a way-point in your life. Don’t think about the process for getting there yet—that’s the next stepGive yourself permission to revisit this vision every day, even if only for a few minutes. Keep your vision alive and in the front of your mind.

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    Plan Backwards

    It may sound counter-intuitive to plan backwards rather than forwards, but when you’re planning your life from the end result, it’s often more useful to consider the last step and work your way back to the first. This is actually a valuable and practical strategy for making your vision a reality.

    • What’s the last thing that would’ve had to happen to achieve your best life?
    • What’s the most important choice you would’ve had to make?
    • What would you have needed to learn along the way?
    • What important actions would you have had to take?
    • What beliefs would you have needed to change?
    • What habits or behaviors would you have had to cultivate?
    • What type of support would you have had to enlist?
    • How long will it have taken you to realize your best life?
    • What steps or milestones would you have needed to reach along the way?

    Now it’s time to think about your first step, and the next step after that. Ponder the gap between where you are now and where you want to be in the future. It may seem impossible, but it’s quite achievable if you take it step-by-step.

    It’s important to revisit this vision from time to time. Don’t be surprised if your answers to the questions, your technicolor vision, and the resulting plans change. That can actually be a very good thing; as you change in unforeseeable ways, the best life you envision will change as well. For now, it’s important to use the process, create your vision, and take the first step towards making that vision a reality.

    Featured photo credit: Matt Noble via unsplash.com

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