Grief, mourning, and self care

I am going through a personal loss in my life right now, on the verge of losing one of my heroes and someone who profoundly affected my life.  As I sit and reflect on this, I am trying to understand grief and mourning as I am new to these, or so I thought.

Questions I am contemplating are: What’s going to happen next?  How will I cope?  How will my loved ones cope?  Will this trigger depression or anxiety? What can I do to healthily work through my triggers?  How will I support my loved ones?  My children have never experienced a severe loss at an age where they could truly understand and now two of my kids are at an age where I believe they will.

I find myself determined to be a healthy example of grief and mourning.  We have always taught our children that life and death are inevitable and it’s OK to be sad, it’s OK to miss someone, but that they are looking down on us, want our happiness, and to be remembered and spoken about.  However, this was over our pet guinea pig and our pet rabbit, and when we lost my father-in-law to cancer, only one of them was at an age where they could sort of understand.

So what is “Grief” and what is “Mourning”?  We use the words as if they have the same meaning, but grief is the internal feeling of loss and mourning is the external.  Mourning can be shared between others, there is a process sometimes, like a celebration of life, a funeral, some sort of service for our internal grief to be externalized.  Mourning is to release overwhelming emotions.  The internal battles are far more challenging in my opinion.  Parents can be falling apart inside with grief, but their mourning needs to be controlled for their children, to an extent.  If we have an “I can’t get out of this bed feeling”, we can’t allow ourselves to stay in bed.  We have the most precious gifts we need to get up for and support and show our strength.  It doesn’t make us any stronger than the next, but a responsibility we chose as we decided to enter parenthood.  We don’t get sick days, we don’t get time off.  I am not complaining, as my children are my greatest accomplishment and gift, I am just wondering what I can offer my children through my wisdom, experience and love to help them and get them through this in finding their inner peace.

Some different examples we don’t even realize we grieve are not just death of a loved one, but maybe you are grieving the loss of  a friendship or relationship, the loss of an education, job,and for some even the loss of an addiction or an election.

For my triggers, as a lot of us have them, a death or other hardships can trigger depression, anxiety, sadness and pain.  I believe everyone should have a distress tolerance checklist.  One in 5 Canadians experience a mental health or addiction problem and whether you realize it or not, you are or will be affected in some way, yourself or a loved one.  It isn’t doing us any favors to avoid opening up a dialogue.  This being said, I want to offer some ideas in distress tolerance and self-soothing.

Have an Emergency Distress/Self-soothing care kit.  Create a portable box, bag, whatever works for you and fill it with comforting things.  A drawing from your child,  a picture of your loved ones,  essential oils (lavender is great for anxiety).  Maybe you need some soft fabric as your senses need that touch to feel better.  It could be a memento from a trip or experience you’ve had.  It could be a list of your favourite songs to listen to that are upbeat, a playlist you download in your Ipod or phone.  It’s really up to you.  It is easier to make this kit when you are in a better frame of mind so you can take the time to create it full of kind and thoughtful ways to care for yourself.

Believe in yourself, be grateful and show gratitude to others.  Maybe you will have days where that feels impossible, but know that you have gotten through hardship before and that you are strong enough to do it again.  I have found that believing in myself and showing kindness to myself and others has created an inner peace and confidence that allows me to know that it will truly be OK when I could not do that years ago.  Don’t allow others to tell you how to feel, how to grieve, or what you have to do.  Each one of us is composed of different thoughts, feelings, and emotions and that is was makes us unique.  The only thing I could ever ask of someone else is to have an open-mind.  When you have an open-mind and are willing to try things that may not make sense, or seem like they couldn’t possibly work, you will find peace in things and yourself you never thought possible.  There is a saying of willing vs willful.  Willingness is using that open-mind to allow yourself to experience everything you can to self-care, self-improve and create experiences for yourself that will help you succeed.  Being willful is to me the close-minded side, that you decide only you know what is best, that nothing can succeed unless you feel it can, and you allow yourself to stop co-operating with your life, with others, with good intentions, thoughts and feelings that may empower you to find yourself.  I have found the most peace in things I could have never imagined.  At one point though, I have been that willful woman.  I saw that wilfulness fails and was left with two options.  Become willing, or self destruct.  I can assure you, the freedom of willingness was one of the most powerful decisions I have ever made.

So today, as I am grieving my inevitable loss, I leave these thoughts with an inner peace.  I realize in sharing this with you, that I will be OK .  That I will work through what’s ahead because I have patience, kindness, understanding and love from myself and others to guide me.  I hope that if you read this and can relate in any way that you are kind to yourself or others.

Quote of the day:

“Grief is like the ocean; it comes on waves ebbing and flowing.  Sometimes the water is calm, and sometimes it is overwhelming.  All we can do is learn to swim.” – Vicki Harrison

Self care tip of the day:

Create your self-soothing distress tolerance kit, in that you are being kind to yourself, even if you never use it.  Whatever hardships may happen, whatever decisions you make, good and bad, that you deserve kindness, love, and understanding from yourself first.