Saying goodbye can be one of the most important parts of the grieving process. Many people want to ensure that the way they say goodbye is as true to the loved one they are grieving as possible. This is usually done through funeral and memorial preparations. However, so many people around the world today are finding their traditions being squashed due to Covid-19. Many plans that were perhaps made in the family member’s preparation who planned their funeral ahead of time or by the bereaved in advance had to be changed.
Much like grief, Covid-19 has left many people feeling like they don’t have a choice. And, that has been the case – many haven’t been given a choice as to how they bury a loved one and celebrate a departed loved one’s life. Saying goodbye to a loved one making their transition has had to change during these times. The last connection that could have otherwise happened isn’t possible. Or, in the case of a grief recovery client of mine, they couldn’t even see their loved one before they were cremated because their loved one was Covid-positive. I don’t know if this is still the case now, but for this client, that left a void in the grief that only one last look could have soothed. It’s not as if seeing their loved one would have taken their sorrow away. Rather emotionally, it does something for the heart. It’s that one last look; an opportunity to say out loud, even if their loved one isn’t hearing them in the physical sense, but spiritually, too, it’s a soothing balm to a grievers heart.
Seeing a loved one’s physical body before burial, although painful, can soothe the grieving heart. And, you may not realize this until you’re not allowed to do so. Anything less than compounds the abruptness of the loss (even if you have time to prepare yourself like a terminal illness). This abruptness also adds to the conflicting feelings. In effect, it feels like there’s an incompleteness of the experience of the burial itself, which only adds to the already conflicting feelings grief brings.
How do we make the most of horrible situations such as these?
I don’t have all of the answers. Nobody does. But, if you’re able to follow the wishes of your loved one, that’s a little piece of comfort for doing your part in following a loved one’s dying wishes. Do you know what your loved one wants? Now is a good time to ask. It doesn’t have to take a loved one dying to have an open and honest conversation about what you would like for your arrangements. If you have children (this is especially important), who do you want to be in charge of their care if something happens to you or you and your spouse/significant other at the same time? Have you had that conversation with loved ones? Do you want to be cremated? Why or why not?
We’ve been accustomed to death-aversion. We’re afraid to talk about our mortality. In so doing, we’re acknowledging that we truly only have the promise of today. I recently had a conversation with a woman by the name of Anne Jacobs. You’ll want to catch her podcast episode when it goes live on May 18th, 2021. She’s been living with metastatic breast cancer for seventeen years. SEVENTEEN YEARS, friends! Talk about a rollercoaster ride of emotions. And, she’s not alone. She shared there’s a woman in her circle that’s lived with metastatic breast cancer for twenty-five years! That’s incredible! In listening to Anne, it’s as if it becomes a lifestyle. Almost like someone who becomes a vegan yogi, only it’s a daily practice of survival. I can’t even imagine. Seriously, I can’t wait to share her episode. If you want to hear a story of hope and the importance of living for today, it’s her story. So impactful!
Going back to our loved ones’ wishes, a good friend of mine shared that a loved one had put money down on a bar tab before they died because they didn’t want everyone eating food and being sad and mopey. They wanted everyone to laugh and have a good time. Granted, over a year ago, I would’ve jumped all over that idea. Still, considering I’ve given up alcohol and I have a better understanding of how we often turn to alcohol to cope with our lives or situation, that’s not high on my list like it once was. A fun idea, though! It’s more my speed that everyone plants a tree, to be honest. I love trees. I’m especially fond of streets where the trees are so old and grown that they meet high above the road and cover the street, creating this canopy of color in the fall. That’s the kind of street I’d love to live on, too. Anyway, I digress.
If the person you love has always had a strong set of environmental principles, perhaps some of these suggestions may resonate. Of course, these suggestions are likely only possible if Covid restrictions have lessened in your part of the world/country. I hope that leadership comes to understand the importance of a proper (and desired) burial for the bereaved. Much like the kids need to be in school to obtain their education, I feel that with proper measures and the quick testing available now, that funerals can happen safely – and like they used to. It’s so important in the grieving process for people who didn’t get to be there for their loved one in the healthcare facility that they at least get to be with them in the way of a proper burial and celebration of life.
In places where restrictions have lessened, here are some suggestions – including some eco-friendly ones. I kind of like the coffin turning into a tree idea (see above). 😉 Although, that may look a bit strange in a church cemetery.
Choosing an Eco-Friendly Burial
Your loved one may not have liked the idea of a traditional burial for a lot of reasons. For one, they may not approve of setting aside a piece of land solely for themselves when they’re not conscious of using it. As such, you might want to look into more eco-friendly methods of burial. For instance, woodland burial sites are available and can be used with biodegradable coffins to help return them to the earth in the truest sense. Eco-pods that turn into trees have also been growing popular in some locations.
Another option that is even less wasteful is foregoing a burial with a traditional casket and choosing cremation instead. Until recently, I didn’t realize that viewing was an option before cremation. Loved ones can say their goodbyes with the loved one in a casket, and later, the body is cremated. Optionally, to traditional cremation practices, you can also then return the remains of your loved one to the earth with the help of options like biodegradable wood cremation urns. This way, you can end up with no waste at all or, even if it’s not biodegradable, you can make sure it is at least made with renewable materials.
Following the Departed’s Lifestyle Choices
In the few days following the death of a loved one, you may choose to host a wake or a similar gathering if it fits with the deceased’s traditions. While wakes are mostly for the living, you may choose to make sure that it fits the principles of your loved one. If they, for instance, chose not to eat meat in life due to environmental and ethical concerns, then you may want to ensure that the wake is meat-free as well. This can also go for any meals served as part of the memorial.
Help in Their Name
Grief can be many things and take many forms, but one truth you will find almost universally is that grief is a motivator. It can particularly motivate people to act in the ways that their lost loved ones would have wanted. For instance, you can take the opportunity to arrange a donation drive or even a volunteer effort towards a local environmentally-friendly cause in the name of your loved one. This can be a wonderful memorial to go alongside a relatively cost and waste-free service, making sure that any money spent will be for a good cause.
Planting a Tree
You may want to have a memorial beside a gravestone or an urn to help you remember the person you loved. If they have touched their community’s lives, it’s not uncommon to arrange for a placard or a bench to be put up in their honor. However, it may better fit an environmentally-conscious loved one’s desires and aims to plant a tree in their honor instead (this is my wish). This way, they can contribute in some small way to creating a greener world.
If you have been left as the executor of the deceased’s last wishes, first of all – bless your heart. That is not a job for the faint of heart. And, if you’ve been chosen, it’s for a good reason. Your first job may be to see that their assets go to those that they rightfully go to. You have to follow the will of the deceased, where it can be found and, where it can’t, you may have to follow the law. However, if there are no next of kin to which you can pass their belongings, you can instead make sure that it is either reused and donated or disposed of in the most environmentally conscious of ways.
It’s important to balance the departed wishes with what is feasible and sensitive to those who are saying goodbye. You can take steps to make sure you are respectful of the one you have lost, but be sure that it does not place an undue burden on yourself. Loss, no matter if you have time to prepare or you don’t, in the end, feels abrupt. One day they’re here; the next, they are not. So, even having time in advance to sort out burial wishes and wills, and so forth, doesn’t change the fact that the grief is there. However, planning offers a great reprieve and eases the burden of making some of the most difficult decisions loved ones have to make at one of the most emotionally charged moments in their life.
All of us can do our loved ones a favor and put our wishes in writing in advance. We can have open and honest conversations with our loved ones about what we want. Again, putting it in writing is the best step forward in ensuring that your wishes are met.
End-of-Life Doula Service Coming Soon!
Stay tuned for more posts like this. Next month, I will be completing an End-of-Life Doula certification. What’s an End-of-Life Doula, you ask? An end-of-life doula is a non-medical professional trained to care for a terminally ill person’s physical, emotional, and spiritual needs during the death process. While you may never have heard of this position in the healthcare field, “death doulas,” as they’re often called, are a fantastic resource for those dying and their loved ones to fill the gap of hospice care. Also, given my background as an advanced certified grief recovery specialist and Reiki Master, I feel as though I can add a level of support not found anywhere else in my region. And, living in a rural area, access to services is often at the forefront of loved one’s minds. I can’t wait to offer this service to my region. Stay tuned for more on this! And, if you know you’re already interested in this service for your loved one, please reach out via the contact form.
Love + light to you if this week’s blog post feels just a bit too timely. 💛
Saint Valentine is a legend. I mean, consider the fact he was buried in 270 A.D. The story of Saint Valentine reads like a hero’s story. There are three different saints named Valentine or Valentinus, all of whom were martyred. In one legend, Saint Valentine was a priest who, after Emperor Claudius II declared single men were better soldiers than married ones, he outlawed marriage for young men. Valentine disagreed with this injustice and continued to marry young lovers in secret. When the secret was out, he was put to death. There was another Saint Valentine who was a bishop. He, too, was beheaded by Claudius II. There’s also another story that Valentine helped Christians escape the harsh Roman prisons. Once imprisoned himself, he fell in love with the jailor’s daughter who had visited him. Before his death, the legend is that he wrote her a letter and signed “From your Valentine.” Regardless of which of the three Saint Valentine stories or legends you believe, it doesn’t change that he became one of the most popular saints in England and France. And doesn’t change that, centuries later, the romanticism of any one of their heroism sparks the hearts of many today.
Isn’t it romantic, though, to have someone passionately fight for the injustice of others? Isn’t it romantic how all of these Saints were self-sacrificing and ultimately gave their lives for the sake of others? That’s a special kind of love. I suppose you could say it’s the love of humankind.
What has been lost on Valentine’s Day since that time? It’s become so commercialized since that time, and, to be honest, I kind of love those Valentine stories more than the love interest stories we see depicted in society today.
We all love a good hero’s journey story. There is drama, hardship, or challenge, and then the comeback storyline. The main character triumphs over their own challenges and inspires others. I love stories like these and have heard them repeatedly when conversing with guests for my podcast.
What do stories like these have to do with Valentine’s Day? People in these stories became their own heroes. They had enough love for themselves to create the changes they needed to make. What do you think happens when people turn the love to others toward themselves? And, I’m not talking ego-type love or vanity. I’m talking, life has beaten you down, you’ve had enough, and you want to become the best version of yourself, so you take action to do that. You love yourself enough to invest time, money, and resources into yourself. This is radical self-love to me.
So, this Valentine’s Day, like me, you’re not living in Roman times and aren’t facing possible beheading for being self-sacrificing for the love of humankind. But, you may be in a healthy, loving relationship. And, maybe you have the time, money, resources, or ability to give back to humankind in other ways. We have the ability to bring about what Saint Valentine (pick any of the three) made Valentine’s Day out to be – a day to be of service in the name of the love of humankind.
If you find yourself down in the dumps this Valentine’s Day, consider how good it would feel to do something to give back to humankind in a way only you can. Fill your own heart with the love you may be missing from someone else by giving to others or giving that love to yourself. You can declare this Valentine’s Day as a “Self-Love Day.” By the way, this month, I have a theme for my newsletter, and it’s all about self-love. So far, I’ve talked about the power of our breath and challenging ourselves. Curious what those topics have to do with self-love? Sign up here and, I’ll include the links to the previous editions in this coming week’s newsletter, which will be all about boundaries. 😉
What will you do this Valentine’s Day? Make it about the love of humankind or radical self-love? I’m all for both, and there’s no right or wrong. Depending on our circumstances and experiences (for example, this is your first Valentine’s Day without your spouse who died), a small act of self-love may be all you can muster. And, that’s okay. You don’t need anyone’s permission to spend this Valentine’s Day how you please. Know you’re not alone, though, and perhaps someone you know who may also be alone could use some company, too? And, I would bet Saint Valentine would smile upon you for extending your hand to another hurting heart this Valentine’s Day. ❤
P.S. Did you know? If you’ve experienced divorce or estrangement and are ready to work through that relationship, the grief recovery method isn’t just for grievers grieving someone who has died. In fact, we are often emotionally incomplete with those who are living. If you’re ready to move beyond that relationship, get in touch at [email protected] ❤
Surviving to Thriving – is this a phrase you can get behind for 2021?
I recently was interviewed for an online event that’s taking place in March that’s bringing all sorts of presenters on the topic of suicide and grief and loss. I talked about how I have seen the transition of traditional in-person support groups moving to the online space.
The online grief community is a wonderful space to be in when you’re grieving, not to feel isolated and alone. However, the caution I want to bring to the table is when “surviving” becomes a badge of honor that goes from being shiny and new to tattered and worn?
I’ve begun to notice how this pattern of “survivor-hood” keeps individuals stuck in their grief. For example, the term “Suicide Survivor” has become a popular phrase. Whether you lost a loved one to suicide or attempted yourself, giving yourself that label eventually does more harm than good.
And here’s why…
We all embrace some identity for ourselves. I am a wife, mother, entrepreneur, podcaster, and writer. By telling anyone these five things about myself, certain assumptions can be made – social profiling, if you will. These are all also labels I identify as. So, in conversations with a group of women you may meet for the first time, as a mother, if someone else mentions their a mom, you will usually mention the same. It’s an identity that you use (and take on and live into) in relating to others.
When it comes to grief, I can say I’m a griever. I identify myself as a griever – a lifelong one at that. There are assumptions one can make about that phrase, too. Shouldn’t I be over it already? The “lifelong” bit speaks to how I identify as a child-griever, too.
All the identities we wear…to relate, understand and make sense of this experience we call life.
But, when do these identities do us a disservice? When do identities do more harm than good?
I’ll tell you…
When they’re keeping you stuck, and you’re not evolving the identity.
What Evolving Looks Like
Evolving looks like new knowledge and tools that you’re implementing to create positive, lasting changes in your life.
Evolving can look like baby steps one day to a lived out, all in commitment the next. For example, maybe you commit to exercising 3 days per week for a month, and the next month you add one more day per week. It’s starting out taking small steps towards positive change and incrementally adding to it.
This applies to healing as well. Maybe you decide to start meditating one day per week for 5 minutes. Once you master that, you add in more days at 5 minutes and then follow up with more time.
Healing takes time; this we all know to be true. We can have an epiphany moment that shifts everything into a new perspective instantly, but we can’t see the label from inside the jar. We must experience life beyond our comfort zone to evolve. And, this holds true when it comes to healing. We also can’t see a situation for what it is when we’re stuck in the weeds. So, surrounding ourselves with others who are also stuck in the weeds doesn’t do much for our growth.
Tying this back to support groups, I’m not poo-pooing them in the least. In fact, I think they serve a wonderful purpose, particularly when they’re action-focused. And, that’s the difference. What good does it do anyone to show up week after week, often not with the same people, to hear stories of others’ deep grief and sharing our own, with no hope that you’ll ever get out of the state of being? This is not thriving; this is surviving.
And, I don’t know about you or your loved one, but my father died at 44. He didn’t get the chance at a full life. His potential and life experience were both cut short. I’m quickly approaching 44 myself. When I turned 40, I knew that something in my life needed to change radically, or I would find myself heading down the same path of dis-ease as my father.
My father had a lot of grief in his life. He was a Vietnam Vet and was diagnosed with Stage IV colon cancer in the midst of raising young children. Add this grief to all the years of loss experience before it and, I’m not surprised he died young – all but one of his siblings has passed, and all died younger than 70. He grew up like many of us do, learning the opposite of what to do with grief; it’s the generational learning I often speak about. We resort to what we know and have been taught. If you haven’t read my blog post about the six myths of grief, that’s a great place to start.
Anyway, my question for you is, as you reflect on the grief you’ve experienced in your life and that’s stacked up over the years, do you feel as though you are surviving, or can you honestly say you are thriving in your life? Because if you’re not thriving, something is keeping you stuck. It very well could be the company you keep and the support in which you surround yourself.
We don’t get where we want to be in this life by holding on to what is incomplete from the past or sticking with people who are stuck in their past. We can pull people along with us, too, but they have to want to find healing. This is has been one of the biggest challenges for me as a certified grief recovery specialist. I watch people every day, online, ruminate on what can’t be changed. Is there a natural ebb and flow and twisty-turvy experience to grief? Absolutely! It’s definitely not a linear, point A. to point B. experience; not in the least. However, and I can only speak from my own experience, after 30 years of grieving, that boulder on my shoulders only got bigger over time – until I took action.
Time only passes. It’s the action we take in time that matters.
Do yourself a favor, do a check of the Facebook groups you’re in or the online grief accounts you follow that don’t give bring you a sense of hope. If you leave the conversations feeling worse about your life, grief, or situation, that’s your heart speaking to you. I have heard some of the most horrendous stories from grievers on my podcast. But every last one of those souls never lost hope and found a way to get to the other side of the depths of their pain. However long that takes you is your journey, too, so as not to confuse you because there is no timeline for grief. Again, it’s the action you take that matters. Even baby steps matter and compound over time, too.
If I had a magic wand, I would wave it over all of the grievers I know and meet. It would be the magic wand of openness and curiosity.
Until we are open to the possibility of healing, healing can’t find its way to us. And, unless we’re curious, we’re never going to open the door to what could help us heal.
Are you tired of feeling how you feel? Reach out. I’m only an email away. And, now on my website, you can schedule a 90-minute Heart With Ears session to experience a space to be seen, heard, and if you’re ready, a path forward.
Perhaps your mental health is in a good place right now. That’s great news!
But there’s a good chance that other people around you aren’t doing so well. Perhaps they complain of feeling depressed, anxious, or panicky.
What can you do to help people in situations like these?
While you can’t always make them better, there are techniques that you can use to support them through a trying time.
What’s more, anyone can improve their skills to help others deal with mental health issues. The most effective remedy is often just a simple display of love and a listening ear.
Ask Them If They Would Like You To Contact Someone
When somebody is going through a challenging period of mental health, it can be hard for them to muster the energy to do anything about their condition. Just the thought of picking up the phone and talking to a professional can be exhausting for them. Many want to avoid it, even if it could improve how they feel in the long-run.
Here’s where you can step in. You can get the ball rolling by just offering to contact a professional and make an appointment for them. Once the consultation is scheduled, it creates a focus for the day, and it makes it much more likely that they will get the help they need.
If you notice that their behavior has recently changed, perhaps they’re giving away possessions, don’t be afraid to ask them if they are thinking about harming themselves or others. If someone is experiencing suicidal ideation, ask if they’re thinking of harming themselves, which will likely catch them off guard. That’s not a question most people are willing to ask. However, it’s a question they may be waiting to be asked, too. For someone to open the door of conversation around the suicidal thoughts.
One valid concern people have about asking someone if they’re thinking about harming themselves is the thought that they may follow through if asked. If someone is already having those thoughts, you asking isn’t putting the idea in their head – it’s already there. But, what it does do is show that you’re willing to go there, to listen and support, because you’re asking that one question that’s not easy to ask.
Sometimes, it can be hard to know what to do when somebody is in the throes of a mental health issue. If you don’t have the training, you often feel powerless.
Taking mental health first aid courses, however, could help. The idea here is to equip you with the skills you need to manage a crisis until the cavalry arrives – similar to what a paramedic does. When it comes to suicide prevention, there’s the QPR method, which also offers online training.
Knowing what strategies you should use is a massively empowering experience. Suddenly, you feel competent, like you can actually do something to assist people you care about.
People going through mental healthdifficulties will often tell you the source of their problems. But a lot of the time, we have our ideas for what’s wrong.
Even if you think you’re right, it’s important to listen. Just feeling heard is often enough to rescue a lot of people from their darkest moods. Knowing that there’s somebody out there looking after their welfare is massively reassuring in itself.
Often, something has happened, asking the question: Was there anything, in particular, that happened that is causing these feelings?
Understand When You Can’t Help
We each have our limits. Not everyone can be a trained psychotherapist or expert psychologist.
So when it comes to supporting someone with mental health issues, it’s critical to recognize that there’s a cap on what you can achieve. Yes, you can usually help a little bit. But you can’t erase problems that affect people at a deep level. That takes a lot of time and self-work on their part. It’s not part of your job description any more than it’s a part of mine. Even in grief recovery, it’s a self-discovery, inner-work process.
Mental health, just like the health of the rest of the body, is a long journey and one of self-discovery of what works and what doesn’t. The key is being open to possibility, surrounding oneself with support and accountability, and understanding it’s an evolutionary process. Also, challenging belief patterns that keep the cyclic pattern of behavior and thoughts repeating.
Grief comes in like a freight train and with it a rollercoaster of feelings that are impossible to ignore. Whether someone close to you has been diagnosed with a terminal illness, a beloved friend or family member has died, a relationship has ended, or chronic disease has entered the picture (or any of the 40+ losses), grief manifests in many similar ways no matter the cause of grief.
Grief opens us up like a gaping wound. It’s important we validate the grief and feelings we’re experiencing from those wounds.
It can be rather easy to close yourself off from others while you’re on the rollercoaster. It’s tempting to do everything in your power to avoid and ignore what is feeling unsettled within you. However, allowing it to fester is reflected in continually disregarding that which is trying to get your attention. Repressing your grief will eventually manifest in physical symptoms or external behaviors.
In grief recovery, we use a tea kettle for an analogy. Like a tea kettle, grief experience after grief experience causes energy to build within us. This buildup of blocked energy is what we refer to in Reiki as byoki. Over time, this built-up blocked energy either causes us to implode or explode – or both. When the steam builds up in the tea kettle, it whistles. Once released, like our emotional energy blockages, the pressure is gone. When the energy is allowed to flow or put another way when feelings are felt and processed, the pressure (or stress, anger, resentment, dis-ease) is alleviated or even removed (if you did the inner grief work).
Why It’s Important to Feel Your Feelings
Acknowledgment: By acknowledging how we’re feeling, we can’t deny those feelings. Thereby, we’re given an opportunity to either stuff or honor them with time and space. This is a choice we make.
Openness: By sitting with our feelings, we are actively opening up our hearts and releasing the emotional energy they carry.
Freedom: Embracing and fully experiencing our feelings provides a sense of freedom when we get to the other side.
Overall Health & Wellbeing: It doesn’t feel good to experience our feelings fully. However, it sure beats using a bandaid like drugs, alcohol, sex, gambling, fantasy, social media use, or anything else where the goal is to distract yourself from your feelings by using these things to feel better at the moment. Because what you’re often left with is more grief due to shame, guilt, feelings of unworthiness, etc.
Grief is a shock to the system on all levels: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. If you want to feel fulfillment in your life, though, eventually, you have to lean into the pain so you can move forward without it dictating and filtering into every area of your life. It’s not weak to allow yourself to feel the despair and vulnerability, any more than seeking help is weak.
Recovery from grief doesn’t mean you forget the love you have for someone. If it was a less than a positive relationship, it’s not about condoning any behavior you feel was an offense against you either. Recovery in either instance isn’t about forgetting either.
being able to enjoy fond memories without having them cause painful feelings of regret and remorse.
understanding your potential and no longer allowing past experiences to dictate your future.
claiming your circumstances instead of your circumstances claiming you and your happiness.
acquiring the skills we should have been taught in childhood.
one day realizing that your ability to talk about the loss you’ve experienced is normal and healthy.
When we lose someone close, it’s common to incorporate rituals and routines for the loss into our lives. This helps us to make sense of what we’re experiencing. Some people also create shrines and memorials in memorial of a loved one. Rituals, shrines, and routines, memorials are ways many grievers use to cope. The way that we feel when we grieve is physically, emotionally, and spiritually painful, and the need to remember that loss is a normal and natural part of our lives. However, these things can also entrap us and keep us leashed to the event’s past.
We desire to find purpose and meaning in everything – it’s human nature. I am no different, despite the training, tools, and education I’ve received about grief. And, I’ve thought about how I’d cope with the loss of one of my children. The honest answer is – I have no way to know unless it happens to me. And so, we can pass judgment on how others are coping with their loss, but in truth, every single relationship is unique. I don’t know whether I would leave their room as-is, or if it would feel too painful, I’d want to change it completely. That’s a form of enshrinement. And, it’s a space that could bring great comfort or it could be a reminder of great sorrow and all of the unmet hopes, dreams, and expectations or anything we wish would be different, better, or more.
The effects of loss infiltrate into every aspect of our lives, often without connecting what’s happening to the grief and loss itself. We can move in tandem with our grief; meeting ourselves where we’re at in the process of time passing. Forcing yourself to move forward doesn’t help you. And yet, we also need to consider, as grievers (and I’ve been a griever since 1987), that there has to come a time when enough is enough. When the craziness we feel within ourselves is a disservice and a hindrance to our overall health and wellbeing.
Grief is as natural as happiness and love.
One Final Thought
I think, spiritually, if we believe our loved ones are always around us, there is no specific room, shrine, or memorial spot needed. We can feel close to our loved ones always and forevermore, no matter where we are. This is the aspect of grief, I believe, that has the potential to offer so much healing to grievers, but isn’t often talked about. I’m definitely going to share what I’ve been learning about this topic as of late. If you want a head start, check out the Netflix DocuSeries: Surviving Death.
Sending you all the love today, friend.
P.S. Did you find this post helpful? Please share it with a griever you love or care about. Sharing is caring. 💛
Recovering from depression is one of the most challenging mental conditions and trying experiences for a person to overcome. It can often be challenging to tell where negative emotions are coming from, and many people find themselves unable to be mindful when they are at their lowest. Each day can feel like a real slog when you are in this position, making it feel just about impossible to make a positive change. While it will always take baby steps, though, I’m hopeful that anyone has the power to overcome depression; you need to take positive, forward-motion steps. I would be remiss to say, too, that I’m not talking about diagnosed clinical depression, which is chronic and often requires ongoing professional support.
Of course, it would be wrong to say that the same methods will apply to everyone as well, but it is worth keeping these ideas in mind when you embark on your own journey to recovery. I personally have had bouts of depression myself. After having my second child, post-partum depression came out of nowhere and took me by surprise. After my third child, it was even worse, which resulted in me seeking help. Which only resulted in being prescribed a medication that I ultimately quit on my own. And, there were zero follow-ups from the doctor when I didn’t refill the prescription either. I understand that there’s only one of them and doctors have many patients. Though, I think that the “pill-dispensary” mentality, without any other support, isn’t doing society any favors. I do think looking at the whole person, not just their mental state of mind but also their emotional is just as, if not more, important. Because rarely do doctors ask: “What has happened to you in your life?” The cure-all, end-all, be-all is not always medication, and yet, that’s the anecdote for millions of people who, with mild depression, could take steps on their own to improve their mental frame of mind.
The question I would ask myself if I were to experience another bout of depression again would be: “What is happening in my life that is causing me to feel this way?”
Recovering from Depression
It’s never easy to figure out the source of something like depression. It is unlikely that a single aspect in your life is triggering negative emotions; negative emotions tend to compound. For example, you may get up feeling great in the morning, but missing your bus to work will send you into an unhappy spiral. If the next person you talk to is rude to you, this will amplify your negative emotions, sending you deeper into a depressive state. Once in this position, mindfulness is just about the only tool that can get you out of it.
Being mindful means that you are aware of your emotions and the things that trigger them. For example, if you miss the bus, you will feel bad because you will be late for work and be worried about the consequences. In reality, though, this sort of issue never lasts more than a few hours, and it’s not worthy of making you feel bad. You can read more about mindfulness online, and it’s well worth learning some methods that will help you ground yourself when you feel bad.
Making Small Positive Changes
It can be all too easy to blame certain aspects of your life for something like depression. It’s not helpful to push people to make big changes in their lives, hoping that they will escape the way they feel. In reality, this can make it harder to tackle the root of the issue, and it can be much better to make smaller changes that will improve your existing lifestyle. No two people are the same, which makes it crucial that you take steps that apply to your situation rather than follow other people’s lead.
For example, if you feel bad about a relationship you are in, talking to your partner and improving the situation will be much better than simply breaking up with them. This doesn’t have to directly relate to the way you feel, either, with many people finding that adding things like exercise into their routine makes them feel better throughout the day. Your emotions are always influenced by the things you do, making it wise to spend time adapting your day to do things that bring about joy.
Talk To Others
Talking has always been one of the best tools for those who are struggling with depression. It can be hard to rationalize your thoughts when you are trapped in your own head. Sometimes, saying what is on your mind to someone else can bring the clarity you didn’t know existed. Alongside this, it can also help you to get the support you need, with new ideas and assessments of your emotions giving you the chance to build a good understanding of your own mind.
Family, friends, and even your colleagues can be the perfect candidates for this. However, not always. While not everyone will want to talk about something like depression directly, most people will be more than happy to lend their ear when they know that something is bothering you. You should always lead the way with this, never waiting for people to ask if you want to talk. While your emotions feel very prominent to you, other people may not see the dark cloud that looms over you until you let them. You want to be sure you’re discerning who can be a heart with ears for you without criticizing, analyzing, or judging what you’re sharing. Going through grief recovery, grievers (and trained specialists) learn how to be a heart with ears for others and what that looks like. Empathy is my number one strength, so being a heart with ears comes easily and naturally. It’s why I love podcasting so much, too. For many of my guests, it’s the first time they’re sharing their story in such a public way, and I’m a stranger. It’s because I listen and allow grievers to share their story uninterrupted.
The people you know and love aren’t the only people who can help when you feel depressed. There are loads of professionals out there that can offer support and advice while you go through something like this, and it’s always worth looking for this help when you are struggling. A therapist will always be happy to give you the time you need, with no judgment being applied when you talk about the things that you find hard. They’re a great heart with ears because they’re a neutral party with no skin in your life game; they’ve got nothing to lose or anything to gain. This can be an amazing way to deal with depression, with many people learning things about themselves that they never knew. But, I am partial to grief recovery, as it’s often the root of what’s emotionally going on in our lives. Grief stacks up over time. This is why it often takes many years and many losses for people to connect the dots of what’s they’re experiencing in their life as grief.
Finally, as the last area to consider, it’s time to think about an idea that is controversial to some. Depression is a mental health issue that stems from much more than simply being unhappy, but many people find value in working hard to remain positive in their day to day lives when they are living with something like this. Being positive about the things you find hard can be a challenge, but when you remember that tomorrow will be a new day, it can become a lot easier to smile at things used to make you feel bad.
Of course, this doesn’t work for everyone, and pretending to be happy is no substitute for real happiness. In fact, how many times have you said “I’m fine” in response to the question “How are you?” Likely, like most people, that’s often the go-to answer, even when it’s far from the truth. When we’re uncomfortable about how we’re feeling, the last thing we want to do is “get into it” when the other person is likely expecting a flat answer rather than the truth. Imagine if everyone you asked would be honest about how they felt? You’d likely stop asking people how they felt if you yourself are uncomfortable with your own life and what’s going on, right? Also, we often ask questions like this in passing, for small chit-chat conversation. Do we really have the time (or make the time, rather) to hear how each other is feeling truly? Feelings aren’t sexy, thereby, we downplay our emotions, and when we’re ecstatic about life, it’s no different because heaven forbid you love your life too much. People are uncomfortable with other people’s happiness, too.
Depression is a big challenge for humanity. No matter how much technology develops, people will always have to live with conditions like this, and the solutions can often be impossible to see. Following the advice in this post is a great start, but it will also be worth reaching out to others who have dealt with depression if you want to keep your learning going. You never know; someone may share a solution that becomes the one thing that unlocks everything for you and sets you off on a positive path forward.
One final thought: never stop seeking answers that resonate with you and never lose hope.
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