What to Do When You’re Grieving

Now that Johnny’s memorial service is over, and things have quieted down a bit, many of you have reached out to see how we’re doing. Almost everyone expresses they are worried about saying the wrong thing or don’t know what to say. A simple, “I’m thinking of you,” or “How are you doing today?” or “I love you” is great, by the way. Just knowing that you care is comforting, and we so appreciate your concern. We are making it through, day by day, due to your love and the comfort of our Christian faith that Johnny is in the presence of God, and we will see him again someday.

We are still struggling with grief, which makes this Christmas season very difficult. Before this year, Christmas was always a joyous time. I’ve received so many notes from others who are also struggling with sadness and grief, and it’s been enlightening to discover how many people don’t feel so jolly this time of year. My awareness and sensitivity level have gone up dramatically with this realization. So, in the spirit of sharing, I’ve received some great advice that has helped me:

1.       Remember I have so much to be grateful for! I have two other amazing children and a devoted, wonderful husband. I have a huge amount of support and friends who love me. I’m grateful for the 19 years I had to enjoy our son beyond his mental illness. We acknowledge his struggles, but they don’t define his spirit. Think of things you are grateful for on purpose.

2.       Focus on positive things I can control! So much in life is out of your control, no matter what you do or try. Should have/could have/would have thinking creates negative thinking and guilt, so choose to focus on positive memories and experiences. Ask if something I’m doing is helping or harming me. I didn’t read the police report, because that would harm me. I’m choosing to spend two hours reading sympathy cards, because that helps me. I’m going to stop watching old videos and go to bed, because that’s not helping me right now. Give away anything that creates negative memories. What can you do that makes you happy?

3.       Attempt “normal” things! It sounded counter-intuitive to me, but it helps to focus on other things for a bit. The last thing I wanted to do was put up the stockings and Christmas ornaments, but my kids wanted it, and it helped us create a new, shared experience. Work a bit, go to a holiday party or a Christmas show, or meet friends. Give yourself permission to leave early if you need to. All these activities lifted my spirits. What activities can distract you in a positive way?

4.       Allow yourself to grieve! When a sound, a situation, or an item triggers sadness, let the wave wash over you and feel it. There is no timeline for this process. It’s never going to be okay, but I’m going to be fine. How can you acknowledge your emotions as valid?

Perhaps you lost someone special to you also, and this time of year makes you sad. I’d appreciate it if you’d share your ideas below on how to get through the holidays. I know anyone reading this post (myself included) will benefit.

Wishing you love and peace and a very Merry Christmas!

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