Working through grief and loss can be seen as a series of tasks -- or as a series of experiments in self compassion. Of course, our experiences in grief and loss are as individual as fingerprints. We discover our tasks differently and navigate them in our way, in our time. The process and the outcomes will have unique meanings for each of us.
In keeping with part one of this post, here are some of the tasks I've encountered in my work in palliative care bereavement and in my own journeys in grief...
Elusive concentration --- It's hard to operate at work and at home when it feels like our minds are in a fog. Make a commitment to honour the times when you remember something and treat forgetfulness with kindness. Consider responding to others in ways that acknowledge your situation and their compassion. One client found it empowering to say, "Reminders work really well for me these days...thank you." when she felt embarrassed by missing scheduled meetings at work. Another response might be "Thanks for understanding. I don't quite feel like myself today." Use these responses judiciously.
Resources that work and creative shaping --- Materials on grief and loss are diverse. It can be difficult to choose which ones will support our personal, cultural, or faith views and ultimately encourage us on our grief or loss journey. If a resource or book is not speaking to you, choose another one. Gentle experimentation is in order to make it 'land right' for you. Listening to audiobooks or viewing online video clips can be helpful when reading long chapters seems overwhelming. Many people find attending support groups freeing and constructive. Introducing creativity, when you're ready for it, can have surprisingly powerful results. In my own quest for resources, I discovered that the combination of lit candles and white noise from the dishwasher was very comforting -- who knew? I added it to my small-actions-I-can-take-if-needed resource list.
Shifting routines --- We often think we have to keep the same routines in place or quickly create new ones to better manage our grief or loss. A more useful approach might be discerning which routines serve and which no longer serve. Tweaking and adjusting a daily routine, especially in fresh grief, can bring real comfort. Questions on routines also tend to come up around anniversary dates. Remembering that we can refine, change, add, or substitute different ideas over time to honour our loved ones during anniversaries can help reduce any pressure we might feel to 'get it right' this time.
When I lived in France, if someone encountered a difficulty that required personal strength to see it through others would say, "Bon courage" (meaning literally, good courage) or simply, "Courage." I always liked this expression. More than a translation of "good luck," it implies that we have the internal resources to bring to a challenging situation. I think this expression applies to our tasks in grief and loss and I keep it mind often.
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