Staying Healthy in Bereavement

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Bereavement is losing someone dear to you in death. Losing someone close to you is an inevitable part of life – that doesn’t make it any easier when it happens, even if the death is expected.

Every loss is different, and bereavement can affect everyone in different ways. There are some feelings that are common after the death of someone close. You might experience:
• Shock
• Disbelief
• Anxiety
• Helplessness
• Emptiness
• Sadness
• Anger
• Fear
• Guilt

You might have mixed feelings after a loss – this can be confusing. You can also have “physical symptoms” of grief or bereavement such as fatigue, nausea,  infection,  weight loss or weight gain,  aches and pains and  insomnia

Experiencing any of these is normal. Nobody can tell you how to feel – and you can’t tell yourself how to feel – there is no way you “should” feel after a loss. The sadness of losing someone you love never goes away completely, but the feeling of grief normally become less intense over time, and let you carry on with your life. It can be hard to imagine this in the early stages after a loss

Bereavement affects people in different ways. There’s no right or wrong way to feel. “You might feel a lot of emotions at once, or feel you’re having a good day, then you wake up and feel worse again,”

Powerful feelings can come unexpectedly. “It’s like waves on a beach. You can be standing in water up to your knees and feel you can cope, then suddenly a big wave comes and knocks you off your feet.”

Experts generally accept that there are four stages of bereavement
1. accepting that your loss is real
2. experiencing the pain of grief
3. adjusting to life without the person who has died
4. putting less emotional energy into grieving and putting it into something new (in other words, moving on)

You’ll probably go through all these stages, but you won’t necessarily move smoothly from one to the next. Your grief might feel chaotic and out of control, but these feelings will eventually become less intense. Give yourself time, as they will pass. You might feel:
• shock and numbness (this is usually the first reaction to the death, and people often speak of being in a daze)
• overwhelming sadness, with lots of crying
• tiredness or exhaustion
• anger, for example towards the person who died, their illness or
•  God  guilt, for example guilt about feeling angry, about something you said or didn’t say, or about not being able to stop your loved one dying. “These feelings are all perfectly normal”.  “The negative feelings don’t make you a bad person. Lots of people feel guilty about their anger, but it’s OK to be angry and to question why.”
Coping with grief, is best done by  talking and sharing your feelings with someone can help. Don’t go through this alone. For some people, relying on family and friends is the best way to cope.

Fortunately, much of the process of healthy grieving seems to be built into our genes. Acknowledging and growing from losses is such a natural process that much of it will happen without our direction—if we relax our expectations of how we “should” grieve and give up some of our need to be in control.

But healthy grieving is an active process; it is not true that, “You just need to give it time.” One way of understanding the work to be done is to think of grieving as a series of tasks we need to complete (not necessarily in sequence):

To accept the finality of the loss
To acknowledge and express the full range of feelings we experience as a result of the loss;
To adjust to a life in which the lost person, object, or experience is absent;
To say good-bye,  to ritualize our movement to a new peace with the loss. Good friends, family members, or a personal counselor can all be helpful in doing this vital work. You can also do a good deal to help yourself.

Helping yourself
Active, healthy grieving requires balance—balancing the time you spend directly working on your grief with the time you spend coping with your day-to-day life; balancing the amount of time you spend with others with the time you spend alone; balancing seeking help from others with caring for yourself. Focusing too strongly on any single side of these pairings is getting off-track.

Healthy ways to cope
Taking care of yourself physically will help you feel better emotionally.
• exercise
• get adequate sleep
• eat nutritious food
• avoid alcohol, a depressant, to numb grief make sure you get adequate sleep, exercise, acupuncture, and supplements such as vitamin D, 5-HTP, omega-3, and the B vitamins can help elevate your mood—naturally.
Remember that grieving is an active process, it takes energy that will likely have to be temporarily withdrawn from the usual pursuits of your life. Treat yourself with the same care, tolerance, and affection you would extend to a valued friend in a similar situation.

The link between grief and diet
There are different ways in which this can manifest. Some mourners essentially begin stress eating, consuming more than they really need to, not because they’re hungry but just because they’re nervous and edgy. Other mourners eat particularly unhealthy foods—seeking solace in “comfort foods” that might feel good, but don’t necessarily lend themselves to good health. And still other mourners become so caught up in the grieving process that they stop taking care of themselves, meaning they don’t prepare meals or eat anywhere near what they should.  It’s always difficult to take care of yourself when you’re in a season of grief, of course, yet it is precisely in this season that you most need to watch out for your own health. By taking care of your body—and that means eating right—you can maintain your energy and your positivity; you can help ward off depression, lethargy, and other common side effects of bereavement. Grief can literally kill you—impacting your brain chemistry, potentially causing physical disease, even leading to broken heart syndrome—but one of the best ways to stay well is to eat right.

How to eat well while grieving
Tips to ensure proper nutrition during a period of mourning
• Keep meal preparation simple. Nobody expects you to be making lavish, multi-course meals; just get the basic nutrients that you need, that’s all. Make a batch of grain—brown rice or quinoa, maybe—and a quick, lean protein, like grilled chicken. Get a couple of vegetables and a fruit and you’ve got the makings of a solid meal. Salads and wraps can be especially easy and filling.

Remember that there is a world of difference between convenience items and junk food. You can buy quick and easy menu items, like pre-cut vegetables, pre-sliced fruit, canned beans, and the like, without stooping to chips, frozen pizzas, or TV dinners.

• Having a few healthy condiments handy—salsa. pesto, hummus—can go a long way toward bringing variety and flavor to your menus.

• For the sake of your blood sugar and your metabolism, be disciplined enough to eat three meals a day; don’t snack or graze throughout the day, and don’t fall into a junk food trap!

• Don’t live off caffeine! A cup or two of coffee each day is fine, but don’t load up any more than that. Caffeine has plenty of negative effects on the body and mind, especially when it’s consumed in high amounts.

• Get your fill by eating some healthy fats—olives, nuts, and avocados. These aren’t replacements for meals, but rather parts of your meals, or perhaps good, quick snacks when you really need them.

• Limit your alcohol intake, remembering that alcohol is a depressant; you don’t necessarily have to abstain, but do be careful about drinking in excess or drinking alone.

• Keep your immune system functioning like it should! Get plenty of vitamin C by ingesting oranges, broccoli, and potatoes.

When your world has suffered a dramatic change, it’s hard to prioritize self-love and self-care—yet you can, and must. A good way to keep yourself living and grieving in a healthy way is to be disciplined in your nutrition—not necessarily eating fancy, just eating well.

Physical effects of bereavement:  Physical changes after bereavement can include difficulty getting to sleep, vivid dreams and long periods of wakefulness. You may lose your appetite. Some people feel tense and short of breath, or edgy and restless; others feel slow and lethargic.

You’re likely to feel exhausted, especially if you were caring for the person who died or had been through an anxious time before their death. Strong emotions and dealing with all the things that need to be done after a death can also leave you tired and drained.
Take extra care of yourself , try to eat well and get some rest even if you can’t sleep. Take gentle exercise if you can. Be kind to yourself . don’t try to do too much while you’re grieving.