Self-care during grief can help you suffer less in mind, body, and spirit. Just doing one of these self-care practices can start the ball rolling, so don't feel like you need to do all nine at once. The list is in no particular order, so scan through and pick one or two that feels "doable." In a few days, try one more. Don't worry if you backslide from time to time, just do your best!
1. Be Kind To Yourself
Grief is painful, and though it may seem far-fetched, there is one person capable of offering you comfort 24 hours a day and seven days a week. That person is you. While self-compassion is not a cultural norm, it should be.
Self-compassion has tremendous healing power, and it even makes us nicer to be around for others. Treat yourself as you would treat a beloved friend—in word, thought, and deed. Give yourself space to feel the pain of grief, and also give yourself permission to take a break when you need it.
Try This Self-Care Practice from my online grief program, Awaken: Place one hand on your heart, and the other hand on your cheek. Say to yourself, “This is hard, and I am doing my best.” This is a radical act of self-care and kindness!
2. Get A Check-Up
When you are grieving, your risk for illness increases due to stress. And while grief is a natural reaction to loss, and not an illness itself, this is a good time to check in with a healthcare professional. This check-up will give you the opportunity to attend to any pre-existing health conditions that the stress of grief could negatively impact.
3. Get The Right Amount Of Sleep
If you are experiencing grief-related insomnia, follow these tips for good sleep hygiene for grief. If you are sleeping more than you did before your loss, know that this, too, is normal, and it may be exactly what you need.
If too much sleep is impacting you negatively, in addition to practicing good sleep hygiene, increase your exposure to sunlight, particularly upon waking.
4. Eat Healthy, Drink Water
What is your stress food? Mine is Triscuits and butter with a side of ice cream. I get it. When your world falls apart, it is natural to turn toward salty, fatty, and sweet foods. Grief feels like fear, and fear loves fuel.
Instead of forcing yourself to be a food angel, and trust me I am not, eat some broccoli, a banana, or whatever healthy food your body loves in addition to your comfort food. Let go of the shaming, and do your best to get some nutrients into your system.
Drink plenty of water, as it will help your physical and mental state. And do your best to avoid alcohol, as it can disrupt your sleep schedule and depress your mood.
For more on this, listen to my interview with Maria Mora on the subject of Feeding Our Grief in episode 10 of the Mindfulness & Grief Podcast.
5. Breathe Mindfully
Breathing fully and with intention accomplishes two things. First, it turns off the stress response known as fight-flight-freeze. Second, it focuses your mind on the present moment, which can stimulate your mental well-being.
Try This Self-Care Practice from my online grief program, Awaken: Take several one to five minute breaks throughout the day. Close your eyes and take three long breaths—focus on creating a nice, long exhale. Spend the next few minutes focusing on your natural breath.
6. Move Your Body
The right kind of physical movement will help your body release the tension and pain that comes with grief. Whether you take a leisurely stroll outside, practice yoga for grief, or go back to the gym, exercise will contribute to better sleep, mental stability, and an overall sense of well-being. Bonus points if you breathe and drink water while you exercise!
Try This Self-Care Practice: Create a yoga practice for grief.
7. Connect With Others
One of the most important things you can do for your physical and mental well-being is to connect with other human beings (and animals!) who care about you.
Sometimes when we are grieving we feel like our support system has fallen apart, so consider joining a peer support group or schedule an appointment with a compassionate grief counselor or therapist who is comfortable talking about grief. Go for a walk with a trusted friend, or schedule lunch with a family member with whom you can share mutual support.
Want a new group of awesome grief friends? Check out the Grief Course + Roadmaps + Live Events package in Awaken. We are a kind, loving, and supportive group ready to welcome you into our community!
8. Express & Create
You do not need to be a professional writer or artist to benefit from creative expression. Putting your thoughts and feelings into words and pictures can help you make sense of seemingly senseless feelings.
Write daily in your grief journal, or make a collage to express your grief with magazines and glue sticks. Crafting activities, such as knitting and drawing in adult coloring books, can help you focus and activate the creative side of your brain, which can increase your resilience and contribute to a better sense of well-being.
Try This Self-Care Practice: Choose a Grief Journal, get a copy of my guided journal — From Grief to Peace — or try these grief journal prompts. You can also sign up for a free AfterTalk.com account, where you can write online letters to your loved one.
There are many forms of meditation to help with grief. This includes contemplative prayer, mindfulness and mantra-based meditations, focus and breath practices, guided visualization, walking meditation, and yoga (meditation in motion).
Meditation helps you take control of your mind and stay in the present, which contributes to your mental well-being. Practice regularly. The frequency with which you practice is more important than the length of your individual sessions. Start with two to five minutes a day. If you can, work up to 10 to 20 minutes a day.
What self-care for grief tools do you use?
This self-care list is by no means exhaustive. What do you do to take care of your grieving body? Mind? Spirit?
There is no right or wrong, as long as it refills your cup and helps you feel more peace and more control over the challenging journey of life after loss.