“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. -Matthew 5:4
By Kathy Ferguson, RN, Parish Nurse
Grief is something with which I have had a close relationship since May. It is something that has changed my life. It is something that has paralyzed me and something that made me realize that I have strength that I didn’t know existed within me. It is not the same for everyone. It is overwhelming. It is angry. It is sad. It is happy—to remember. It makes you feel like you can’t go on, but you do. It is exhausting. It is yelling. It is crying. It is nothing. It is everything.
When I first learned about grief as a nursing student, we were taught about the five stages of grief that Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross described in her book, On Death and Dying: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Initially, it was believed that individuals go through these stages in the order listed. However, as additional research was done, it was determined that grieving is an individual experience that is affected by the personal environment of the person experiencing grief.
I have found the following tips from Dr. Sameet Kumar, the author of Grieving Mindfully (a book I am currently reading) to be especially helpful for me:
• Prepare for ups and downs
Most of us have “good” days and “bad” days—this is normal. The variety of emotions that I have experienced has been surprising to me. I have felt sad, guilty, loving, happy, angry, peaceful, anxious, distracted, and confused all within the course of one day.
• Get organized
There is usually a mountain of paperwork which requires the help of other individuals to complete. This can be overwhelming. I find that making a list is a necessity. My brain just cannot currently process things like it did before.
• Eat mindfully
Be aware of what you are eating. It is easy to skip meals or overeat as you are grieving. One day I ate half of a plate of cookies that someone brought me and didn’t even realize I was eating them. I also had days when I ate nothing. I found that eating healthy foods improved my strength and helped me think better.
• Exercise regularly
Exercise really does help you deal with stress. I took a week off from exercise and then resumed walking and later added other exercises I was previously doing. Some days I just couldn’t gather the energy to exercise. I forgave myself for missing a day (or two) and was able to resume my exercise routine.
• Honor your grief with ritual
Rituals can help you feel like you have some control over this uncontrollable situation. A ritual is something that is performed regularly as part of your routine. Some examples are taking a morning walk, having a cup of coffee on your porch, or praying.
• Reach out
Most people do not know what to say to people who are grieving. This may be a time when you need to take the initiative to call others. You could ask them to go for a walk, have a cup of tea, go with you to the grocery store, or just sit with you. Reach out to one of the pastors and just talk. I know I have not really felt like reaching out, but I have great friends and family who have reached out to me and gently encouraged me to be social again.
• Set goals for your grief
I found that having one thing to accomplish every day helped me feel useful. In the beginning it was overwhelming to even think about doing one thing. At first my typical goal for the day was something as simple as taking a shower. I was then able to move forward to things such as mowing the lawn, going to the grocery store, meeting a friend for lunch, going for a walk, or going to work. Dr. Kumar also suggests trying to “visualize the kind of life you want to be living, the kind of people you want to be around, and what kinds of healthy activities you want to be doing.”
I would like to thank the people of Bethel for your support as I continue to grieve the loss of Mike. Your kindness, understanding, and words of comfort have meant the world to me.