(Taken from my blog, May 2011)
Thirteen weeks after the death of my partner I was asked ‘how do you cope with the physical pain of loss that you feel in your stomach?’
Here are some of my tips, using my HANZAK principles, which I have been told can help cope with change, loss or difficulties in many other ways too.
Recall a previous time when you mourned the loss of something or life was challenging. Have you had periods of happiness since then and before your latest loss? If so, you know it IS possible and happier times will come again.
Be gentle on yourself and be patient. You may find your moods swing and flip like a roller coaster ride. At least when you have a dip you know that you WILL come back up again. When you are up, enjoy it and don’t spoil it by worrying about the next inevitable down. As time passes the peaks and troughs won’t be as extreme and a more even keel will gradually appear. Start to recognise and prepare for the pattern of triggers that bring you down – mine is tiredness and doing too much. Pace yourself. Be prepared to be more sensitive and vulnerable in those periods and ‘ride the storm’ before lashing out. I just made a mountain out of a molehill these last 24 hours and caused myself and a few others unnecessary worry. Sorry! In the space of a few hours I have gone from hysterical to happy!
I also struggled initially with parting from my other loved ones – would I see them again? We cannot live in a constant state of panic and ‘what ifs’. My Mum always says ‘worry when things happen’. I have made this easier though by always having a date in place for the next time I will see them. It helps with a goodbye if you know when the next hello will be.
Bottling up how you feel is more likely to store up problems which will rear their heads at a later date. Express yourself! If this means finding an open space to literally howl, swear, sob then so be it. I think you may have noticed that I find writing helps! Often by describing my troughs by the time I have written it, my mood has lifted!
Think of the pain as a toxin you want to let out.
Talk to someone, starting with yourself. Admit how you feel. Anger, pity, whatever it is. There is no need to chastise yourself with criticism that you shouldn’t feel a certain way. Acknowledge that is where you are at that moment and you are more likely to be able to move on.
You are in charge and in control of your thoughts, behaviours and actions. The cause of your loss may or may not be your fault and out of your control but how you respond IS.
As my late partner would say ‘it’s happened. Deal with it’.
I continue to torture myself with immersing myself in situations or thought processes which remind me of him. For example, playing music which has poignant memories, playing out ‘we should have been doing this together’ games in my head.
I have to change my attitude to one of gratitude of happy times and what we did share rather than adding to my remorse for what will now not be possible. Earlier today I was tearful at anything! Now I have just walked along a shopping street and wherever I look are reminders – a car like his, Oakley sunglasses, Starbucks, the list is endless. I smiled at them now.
As with any situation in life others will prefer to be with you if you smile and are positive rather than being a misery.
Do you want to waste the present by clouding it with the past and therefore maybe negatively affecting your future?
You can choose to wallow at times (which I believe is necessary too) but if you have the chance to spend time with others, then put on a smile and go! Even if it is a fake one initially, give it time then it is likely to become genuine.
These must be met – social, emotional, practical, etc. I break these down into the following:-
How do you make yourself feel special? Treat yourself well. If you had been injured physically wouldn’t you do this? It’s okay to have a duvet day or few hours every now and then. Indulge and view it as recharging your batteries. After surgery you would do this and as it feels like your heart and insides have been ripped out then rest is needed. Later that day or the next the chances are that you will get fed up and/or your mood will lift.
If this is a new situation for you find out about who else has been through it and consult them. Look on the internet for support groups or relevant information for ideas on ‘getting through’. Sometimes just knowing you are not alone and reading of how others have managed can help.
Staying in bed or having a love affair with the sofa and tv remote control are not long term solutions! Break up the day by even just a walk around the block. A walk in the elements of wind and rain can be soothing. And it doesn’t matter if you are tear stained or wind blown!
I love a bike ride and wide, open spaces.
Extremes of this are easy. Pig out or starve! For the first few weeks I had to force feed myself. Everything tasted the same. Cardboard. My appetite did come back but I find shopping and dining for one is not fun – yet. The freezer still has food we bought/cooked together. It makes me happy and sad at the same time. Friends invited me around for meals or brought one with them. I also invited myself to their homes too! Accept all offers to go out.
This is the one I find hardest and the one I know has a profound effect on the following day!
Having been used to sharing a bed the loneliness is worst here. Not having someone to chat about the day and plans for the next is hard. And just the cuddles, giggles and snores are now missing. The silence is deafening. The coldness is bitter. Initially I had strong sleeping pills from the doctor but she warned they were addictive so I only used them a week or so. I have tried milder ones but reacted badly.
I redecorated the bedroom with all the new things we had planned to use. It is now a beautiful room and has created a new anchor rather than the paramedics working on Clive.
I avoid turning off the light! I have a candle-lit bath plus music. A bin outside the door to ‘leave’ worries in and a journal to write things I have been grateful for plus happy memories.
I have pillows down the bed to physically fill the void and a cuddly dog given to me by my 9 year old neighbour plus other fluffy animals!
I still struggle. If I feel I am getting upset I now text a friend and/or chat. That helps so much. If I am away from home I now prefer a single bed. The empty space seems less obvious then.
Next to try is a relaxation CD. I am waiting for delivery of this onehttp://www.hantshypno.co.uk/mp3.html
For more sleep ideas see here from the Mental Health Foundation.
Just because you are recovering from the shock and reality of a loss does not mean you should be denied fun! I was brought up to ‘if you are not well enough for school, you are not well enough for anything else!’
A good lesson but it does make you feel guilty about appearing to have fun in the midst of mourning. Clive used to say that guilt is an emotion we choose to accept. You should only feel real guilt if you have done anything maliciously wrong.
There are no rules about mourning apart from those limiting beliefs we put on ourselves. If we were recovering from physical ill health would we reprimand ourselves for smiling or worse, laughing, when we felt good? So why do we tend to do this when the hurt is mental?
We have enough pain. Why add to it? Several times I could easily have declined and stayed in but having made the effort was glad I did.
So say yes to all invitations!
Sensory pleasures need to be indulged in. Create your own list of things that make you feel good. When you feel your mood begin to drop and the pain rise use your ‘feel good first-aid tool kit’ to boost you out of it.
Create pleasurable environments around you. Make your spaces ones which fill you with pleasure not pain. What is in your car to make you feel good? At your desk? The pictures on your phone?
Treat yourself with love, as you would a best friend. You deserve it. You need to love yourself before anyone else can effectively.
We all need days at home when we don’t fuss with our appearance but making an effort other times really does boost you. Going out in your scruffs will make you feel worthless – dress up and your posture and thoughts will lift. Concerned friends can treat you to pampering! Thanks for my nails Dinah xxxx
The last 13 weeks would have been even more unbearable without the support of others around me. Family, friends and neighbours have been outstanding in their unconditional love, support and offers of help and company. Accept it graciously and appreciate it warmly. They want to help and it makes them feel useful and therefore good. It is selfish to deny them!
Share yourself about though and remember that they have their owns lives to get on with. If anything, encourage them to spend time with their loved ones because, like you, there is no knowing if there will be another chance. We all should learn to appreciate and value those around us more. What is it about a special relationship that you haven’t done in a long while. If you have lost one, perhaps this is the time to attend to others?
Physically being with people cannot be beaten but also I find text, email and social media invaluable. There is always someone ‘there’ so don’t suffer in silence. You will soon find out who are true friends and new friends will come into your life.
Get up, get out and be with positive people!
Start with yourself! You have lost someone that you loved. A part of you always will do, even if just memories of happy times. Cherish them. Possessions and items can go but no-one can take those wonderful memories from you.
But spend time making new memories and friendships.
Be kind to others and treat them as you wish to be treated.
Choose the people that empathise and respect your loss, that will be honest with you and be there for you.
Just as a physical scar heals and fades a mental one will. It just won’t be as painful.
Hope that this helps – it has been a good reminder for myself!
If you think it is useful please pass on to someone who might also find comfort from it.
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