Grief: "keen mental suffering or distress over affliction or loss; sharp sorrow; painful regret / a cause or occasion of keen distress or sorrow"
It has been a challenging 2022 so far. A lot of grief and sadness, a lot of uncertainty and worry for those we love. These are not our stories to tell, but as many of you may experience from time to time is a sense of helplessness for those we love, near and far. This has caused us to be a lot more deliberate and present in our daily lives as we try to control the things we can. Live mindfully and gratefully each day. Professionally I have tried to inject a positive attitude into all that I do. I often have worked in difficult environments where a prognosis is not good and my advice to family and clients is to take it a day at a time, live presently, always work towards something and focusing on quality of life. This is good general advice for us all. It can be a struggle though. A daily deliberate decision.
Grief is not so much about the passing of a loved one. It is the emotion felt after a loss. This is something that took me time to understand fully. You can feel loss, even if someone is not passed on, you can feel the loss of a friendship if it ends, you can feel the loss of control over your body in a time of illness, or loss of the ability to do something you once loved. All these can lead to grieving.
I don't want to spend too much time writing about the process of grief, I think for those experiencing it it differs person to person and having personalized help is more important. I want to focus on some tools you can use to cope. When you have experienced loss, one of the difficult processes is dealing with memories and anniversaries. I found some great advice online and listening to podcasts in preparation of this article.
Be prepared. Anniversary reactions are normal. Knowing that you're likely to experience anniversary reactions can help you understand them and even turn them into opportunities for healing.
Plan activities for the day/time. Schedule a gathering or a visit with friends or loved ones during times when you're likely to feel alone or be reminded of your loved one's death.
Consider what about the relationship you where grateful for. Focus on the good things about your relationship with your loved one and the time you had together, rather than the loss. Write a letter to your loved one or a note about some of your good memories. You can add to this note anytime.
Start a new tradition. Make a donation to a charitable organization in your loved one's name on birthdays or holidays, or plant a tree in honor of your loved one.
Connect with others. Draw friends and loved ones close to you, including people who were special to your loved one. Find someone who'll encourage you to talk about your loss. Stay connected to your usual support systems, such as spiritual leaders and social groups. Consider joining a bereavement support group.
Allow yourself to feel a range of emotions. It's OK to be sad and feel a sense of loss, but also allow yourself to experience joy and happiness. As you celebrate special times, you might find yourself both laughing and crying.
Our time away was very reflective and we are so grateful we can do this together as a family. Gratitude. It is the single most driving force of happiness. Deliberate gratitude, something we have needed to engage in at a time when we have felt profound sadness. I want to share something I read that has helped me. You don't need to try do everything, but every little bit helps, so do something!
10 Ways to Practice Daily Gratitude (mindful.org)
As Jon Kabat-Zinn says, “The little things? The little moments? They aren’t little.” Saying thank you, holding the door for someone, these little moments can change the tone of your whole day.
One of the most powerful ways to rewire your brain for more joy and less stress is to focus on gratitude. Here are 10 simple ways to become more grateful:
Keep a gratitude journal. Try establish a daily practice of noting your gifts, grace and benefits, good things you enjoy. Recalling moments of gratitude associated with ordinary events, your personal attributes, or valued people in your life gives you the potential to interweave a sustainable theme of gratefulness into your life.
Remember the Bad. To be grateful in your current state, it is sometimes helpful to remember the hard times that you once experienced. This can be helpful to see how far you have come, you set up an explicit contrast in your mind, and this contrast is fertile ground for gratefulness.
Share Your Gratitude with Others. Research has found that expressing gratitude can strengthen relationships. So the next time your partner, friend or family member does something you appreciate, be sure to let them know.
Come to Your Senses. Through our senses—the ability to touch, see, smell, taste, and hear—we gain an appreciation of what it means to be human and of what an incredible miracle it is to be alive. Seen through the lens of gratitude, the human body is not only a miraculous construction, but also a gift.
Use Visual Reminders. Because the two primary obstacles to gratefulness are forgetfulness and a lack of mindful awareness, visual reminders can serve as cues to trigger thoughts of gratitude. Often times, the best visual reminders are other people.
Make a Vow to Practice Gratitude. Research shows that making an oath to perform a behavior increases the likelihood that the action will be executed. Therefore, write your own gratitude vow, which could be as simple as “I vow to count my blessings each day,” and post it somewhere where you will be reminded of it every day.
Watch Your Language. Grateful people have a particular linguistic style that uses the language of gifts, givers, blessings, blessed, fortune, fortunate, and abundance. In gratitude, you should not focus on how inherently good you are, but rather on the inherently good things that others have done.
Go Through the Motions. Grateful motions include smiling, saying thank you, and writing letters of gratitude. By “going through grateful motions,” you’ll trigger the emotion of gratitude more often.
Think Outside the Box. If you want to make the most out of opportunities to flex your gratitude muscles, you must look creatively for new situations and circumstances in which to feel grateful. Please share the creative ways you’ve found to help you practice gratitude.
What are the effects of practicing gratitude?
It brings about joy. the practice of gratitude has become universally accepted as the most effective path to joy and lasting happiness. There are thousands of books and podcasts on this. It transcends religion and culture, it is universal.
It boosts your mental health. Those who write letters of gratitude reported significantly better mental health four weeks and 12 weeks after their writing exercise ended. While not conclusive, this finding suggests that practicing gratitude may help train the brain to be more sensitive to the experience of gratitude down the line, and this could contribute to improved mental health over time.
It helps you accept change. When we are comfortable with the way things already are, it can be difficult to accept when things change—let alone feel grateful for that difference. But when we make it a habit to notice the good change brings, we can become more flexible and accepting.
It can relieve stress. The regions associated with gratitude are part of the neural networks that light up when we socialize and experience pleasure. These regions are also heavily connected to the parts of the brain that control basic emotion regulation, such as heart rate, and are associated with stress relief and thus pain reduction. Feeling grateful and recognizing help from others creates a more relaxed body state and allows the subsequent benefits of lowered stress to wash over us.
I have relied heavily on the knowledge and writings of others, simply trying to bring to you what meant the most to me. I do encourage you to look at the links below for more information as well as Google and YouTube some excellent sources of information and tools to help you in challenging times.