Of course, no matter how well we go through the grieving process it is still going to hurt. But there are some tools, aids, and, you could even say, some gifts that can help you in the grieving process.
The first one is one that many people don’t think about, and that is the gift of laughter. Laughter is something that releases amazing positive chemicals in our brain. It helps the wiring of the brain, and is a great relief to every part of our central nervous system, and helps us to cope with life in a way that few things can.
In our weekend workshops at New Life, we use humor to make people laugh all the time. I remember a woman who had debilitating rheumatoid arthritis tell me that she had stopped laughing, but when she came to one of our workshops, she had never laughed so hard and was pain free for four days following the workshop.
I’ve talked with people who’ve told me that when they have suffered a death in the family, telling funny stories about the loved one who died has been so helpful. When everybody is roaring in laughter, we’re joining together united in the experience. Laughter can be liberating, bonding, restorative and healing.
Another tool is sleep. When you are going through the grieving process it is so difficult to sleep, but so important. You need to try to get the same amount of sleep as you were before the loss. On a temporary basis, it may require a sleeping pill to help you get through. But just be sure that it is only a temporary aid because you don’t want to get hooked on a sleeping pill.
Also, there is research that shows that at night in the deep REM sleep we are actually downloading our short-term memory into the long-term memory bank that is down in the base of the brain. But if you take a sleeping pill, the short term doesn’t get dumped into the long term bank.
It’s important that we rest and sleep. And there is nothing more restful than meditation. A lot of times in the Christian community meditation gets a bad rap.
Some associate it with weird new age eastern stuff, but meditating on Christ’s word can really help us grow in wisdom and strength, but can also help us find rest.
Another obvious, but amazing tool in grieving is to be healthy. When grieving, it helps to really focus on getting junk food out of the way and to do the things that you know are healthy. I don’t think anybody needs to tell you what’s healthy. I think all of us know what we can do to be healthier. It’s just whether or not you choose to do it.
The fourth tool is relaxation and is something you need to do every single day. Be intentional about setting aside time daily to do something that you find relaxing. Whether it is reading, cooking, gardening, walking, or anything else that you can do to take your mind away to a calm place. You can meditate, and often times, meditation will actually help re-wire the brain and help you to adjust to it. There have been so many studies done of the supernatural effects of meditation. But they really aren’t supernatural. They are predictable because of the way the brain works.
There was a time in my life when I went through a tremendous time of depression. I finally figured out what I needed to do to get out of it. I started going to a nearby golf course with two golf clubs, a putter and a four iron. And I walked that golf course many times with just that putter and four iron. Just being out there in nature in the midst of beauty and the fresh air restored my soul, literally. You’ve got to find these things where you can enjoy yourself and be yourself and experience relaxation.
The fifth tool is to have fun. Allowing yourself to have fun is very restorative. And it is very important that you realize that if you go out and have some fun that you’re not disrespecting the one you lost, or being disloyal to them. There is something so comforting about doing something that you’ve enjoyed doing for a long time, or trying something new that you’ve always wanted to try. So even though maybe you don’t feel like it, particularly at first, be intentional about getting out there and having some fun.
The sixth tool is essential and that is a support group. I think all of us can benefit from being in some sort of a support group, a home group, or a bible study where we are connecting and revealing ourselves to other people. A support group that is specifically designed for people who are grieving is invaluable as we share our feelings with people who have been through exactly the same thing that we are going through. So look up what’s available for you. Support groups are powerful.
The seventh tool is journaling. Go out and buy a journal or decide that you’re going to use one of those wonderful journals you have in a drawer somewhere. Actually begin using one and record your thoughts and feelings. You’ll be glad that you did. As you look back at your journaling, you’ll see how far you’ve come.
Next, two cautions: no self-medication. Don’t succumb to the temptation of thinking that you know yourself and what you can handle. Without realizing, you can end up addicted to some medication that you should have never taken to begin with. There is nothing easier than to get addicted to a prescribed medication. Just because a doctor can prescribe it, doesn’t mean that you should take it, particularly when it comes to pain killers.
Finally, no fleeing in avoidance. Don’t allow yourself to run away or isolate trying to deal with the grief alone.
To recap, the tools are laughter, sleep, healthy eating, relaxation, fun, support group, journaling, no self-medication and no isolation. No matter what kind of loss you are grieving, I hope that you’ll try these tools.
By Steve Arterburn