Repost: Ways to Support Grieving Families

A child has died. You’re at a loss. You don’t know what to say to the grieving parents. You don’t know what to do, but you feel that you must do something to support them. 698 more words

via Reaching Through The Dark: 5 Ways To Support Grieving Families — Still Standing

 

 

 

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5 ways to do self-care when you’re grieving

Self-care is a power hashtag. Women of all ages and stages of life, in particular, are proclaiming the importance of making time for themselves amidst the busyness of life. Self-care encompasses anything that helps us unwind or makes us feel good, even for a moment, from little things such as sipping a hot cup of coffee and reading a book to spa weekends and aerobic workouts. The point is to not forget about you while you’re busy spinning numerous plates, and particularly when life is going wrong or is throwing up more challenges than usual. Taking a moment to care for ourselves is one way to help us find hope and restoration when we are up against it.

Instagram is one place that people share the ‘self-care’ moments. A quick search calls up nearly 500,000 posts, the majority of which are are exercise, beauty or food related. It can be easy to compare how we ‘invest in ourselves’. The gorgeous picture of a beautifully designed latte froth or candles by the bath can all feel a little unrealistic, and also that having this moment somehow makes everything okay, the audience are reassured, we’ve admitted a struggle but don’t worry it’s not too messy…

But we all know that Instagram gives only one view. In fact, one of the simplest forms of self-care is to switch off your devices and avoid the temptation to compare altogether.

Self-care is not just a nice thing to do, it’s not just a nice photo, it’s an essential part of survival. Taking time for yourself will lift a mood, improve self-esteem and dilute stress to name a few benefits. I find it makes me calmer, less irritable and clears my mind.

Being kind to yourself when you are grieving

Because grief is so personal, how you find your peace is also different for each person. In the early stages of grief, people want you to feel better. Good friends will support you with food, company, or practical tasks to ease the pressure. In my grief, I didn’t know what I needed and felt guilty for any act of self-care. When you’re grieving, self-care in the traditional sense is very hard to do. I had been a busy working mum who made time for regular exercise, reading books and lunches with friends, but found I couldn’t do any of these. It was another layer of grief to lose my ‘self’ too.

It was two years before I could do anything remotely relaxing. I tried a gentle exercise class with meditation but my anxiety went through the roof as I lay there feeling my heartbeat slowing. As the group were guided into peace and relaxation, I felt a panic attack developing. Suddenly I was being transported to Abi’s hospital bed and experiencing how it must have felt for her to die. I was forced to close my eyes yet I felt tears coming. Meditation was like dying to me. Despite being fit, exercise had a similar effect and triggered panic attacks, so I avoided anything that raised my heart rate.

I finally went for a facial, but again, I had to fight the urge to run. It’s crazy as it seems such an innocent, ‘lovely’ thing to do. I wanted to talk about trivial stuff as she applied the lotions, to help distract my mind from the expectation of relaxing, but the therapist insisted on turning the lights down and being as quiet as possible (which would be great normally but not when that reminded me of a dimly-lit intensive care ward).

I couldn’t read a book for years after Abi died. I read, oh yes, I read a lot, but it was all about grief, death, therapy related. I read a lot about faith as I sought answers to my questions. There was no head room for escapism in popular fiction.

In those early years, I had to find a way to care for myself without the painful reminders and anxieties. It wasn’t easy. I had to think outside the box. Here are five ways I found time for myself:

Journalling – It’s no surprise that writing became my main way of relaxing. I mixed it up between blogging on the computer and writing in journals. Writing using ink and paper is actually very therapeutic as it works on different parts of your brain, enabling you to process and release emotion. It was this that inspired my grief journal. I always feel calmer after a writing session.

Walking – Being outside getting fresh air is a popular stress reliever. In my grief haze, I’d look intently at the details of everything: the patterns on the pavement, the shapes of the trees, the clouds and skies. Walking allowed my mind to wander and helped me process my thoughts. However, on difficult days the walks needed to be somewhere different, so I could be anonymous, as the fear and stress of having conversations with people I’d bump into was too much.

Resting – Not wanting to see anyone is a common aspect of grief. Just having a space at home to be peaceful but without going out was helpful. My bedroom often is a place I like to lie down in the day, as I can look out of the window, watch the birds and clouds, rest and reflect. With a busy home, finding solitude is near impossible but I grabbed moments when I could.

Showering – Baths are nice but often too much hassle with a busy family, and again they gave me too much time to think, but showers I have found to be therapeutic. There’s something about the water pouring over you and down that washes you clean yet cloaks you in warmth and comfort. It’s a safe, quiet place to cry and pray.

Photography – Being behind the lens gives me a fresh perspective on what I’m seeing. By focusing on the detail of a moment, I can almost step inside it, and forget the overwhelm and fog around me. This is why Instagram is my preferred social media app, as it’s a way of sharing images without the information overload of the other networks.

These self-care moments helped walk me through the bad and not so bad days. Exercise, facials, meditation, could all wait until I was ready. Four years after Abi died I started to read fiction again. Five years on and I felt able to exercise. I have enjoyed a massage at a spa. My creative mind has returned and I have written books, and been able to genuinely enjoy crafts I once loved such as knitting and baking.

It may sound like I’ve returned to myself and that I’ve recovered the person that I lost, but that’s not entirely true. I still struggle and have wobbles. I still use food as a comforter. I have some dark periods where everything feels hopeless, but knowing ways I can help myself, gently, without guilt or fear, goes a long way to getting me through them.

What about you? What are the ways you look after yourself through difficult times?

Sunday Sermon Notes – 11th March 2018

This year at my church we’ve been invited to bring our Bibles and notebooks to help us reflect on what we are studying. The notes I’ve made have been really interesting for me, and there is always something I can relate to, draw comfort from or feel encouraged by… and it’s not always the ‘easy’ side of Christianity either, there are some real challenges that have got me thinking. Sharing my notes in a blog post is a useful way for me to reflect on them later in the day.

Sermon 11th March 2018

Today is Mother’s Day. We listened to this passage from Exodus 2: 1-10 (CEV).

A man from the Levi tribe married a woman from the same tribe, 2 and she later had a baby boy. He was a beautiful child, and she kept him inside for three months. 3 But when she could no longer keep him hidden, she made a basket out of reeds and covered it with tar. She put him in the basket and placed it in the tall grass along the edge of the Nile River. 4 The baby’s older sister stood off at a distance to see what would happen to him.

5 About that time one of the king’s daughters came down to take a bath in the river, while her servant women walked along the river bank. She saw the basket in the tall grass and sent one of the young women to pull it out of the water. 6 When the king’s daughter opened the basket, she saw the baby and felt sorry for him because he was crying. She said, “This must be one of the Hebrew babies.”
7 At once the baby’s older sister came up and asked, “Do you want me to get a Hebrew woman to take care of the baby for you?”
8 “Yes,” the king’s daughter answered.
So the girl brought the baby’s mother, 9 and the king’s daughter told her, “Take care of this child, and I will pay you.”
The baby’s mother carried him home and took care of him. 10 And when he was old enough, she took him to the king’s daughter, who adopted him. She named him Moses because she said, “I pulled him out of the water.”

Malc, our vicar, spoke about the emotions and struggles of a mother who felt she had no choice but to put her baby out onto the water, to let him go in the hope that somehow he would be okay. The Nile was a river of death, where the bodies of the Hebrew children had been discarded on Pharaoh’s orders. This mother, feeling the danger coming closer, made a reed basket and set her baby out on the water, releasing him to she didn’t know what but knowing that it was better than staying.

Most parents will have experienced times when they’ve had to ‘let their child go’, to put their own fears and needs aside to allow their child to get that next level of independence. Even as soon as just after birth, the first time you leave your baby with anyone other than you is one of the most significant introductions to this type of parental love. We know our children can’t and shouldn’t be tied to us and spend our lives trying to strike a balance between holding them close enough to protect, strengthen, love and support them, yet far enough to help them become their own person and live their own life.

What resonated with me most, however, about the image of Moses’s mother, was the death of Abi. I’ve read this passage countless times, I know this story so well, yet verse three stood out to me today.

3 But when she could no longer keep him hidden, she made a basket out of reeds and covered it with tar. She put him in the basket and placed it in the tall grass along the edge of the Nile River.

I identified with the mother placing her precious baby in a basket and giving that unwilling gentle nudge, not even a push, as she lets him go. We put Abi’s body into a woven casket made of willow, we followed the casket to the church, and then to the crematorium, and then I looked on helpless as I let her go. This is not about the ‘letting go of my grief’, this is about the physical act of leading my child to a new place, alone.

There is significance about the letting go, because as a grieving mother there is no letting go. In the grieving mother’s mind you want to stand by that casket forever – you don’t care about life or death, that people might feel awkward if you made a scene, that they would try to convince you it’s not a good idea – you just don’t want to ‘push’ that casket away. But we do. I did. It was the final way of giving her back to God, of trusting Him to care for her. I may have let Abi physically go but she is always part of me. I’ve no doubt Moses’s mother would have felt similar grief.

Moses was saved, picked out of the water by royalty, welcomed into a prosperous kingdom, and even reunited with his own mother.

That’s where my comfort lies.