Death should – if the world was a more understanding place – be followed by a gentle period of re-orientation. A time to remember, reflect and recalibrate. An undemanding time of space, calm and understanding.
But of course real life is not really like that.
If anything, the period after losing a loved one is frenetic, full-on and frightening. It’s a strange new world, not only without the person who has died, but also with the challenges of admin, other people and of course the emotional onslaught. Faced with this barrage, our own needs plummet to the bottom of the pile. But looking after one’s self is an important aspect of coping with grief. For if we do not take care to top up our spiritual, emotional and physical reserves, the already painful process of grieving can take an unmanageable turn.
Recognising that there is often a need for physical comfort as well as mental wellbeing, we have created our new collection of Self-Care Sympathy Gifts & Hampers to nurture, comfort and help create a quiet space for rest and reflection following a bereavement. Sometimes a little reminder is needed that it's ok (and even necessary) to look after number one.
Whether you are the person grieving or watching someone else going through this difficult time - and perhaps feeling a little helpless - we hope these small reminders will help:
Don’t bury your feelings or try to pretend everything’s ok. A little bravery is fine but so is talking, wailing or thumping a pillow with rage. Writing your feelings down or expressing them through some kind of artistic endeavour is another way to air them. Talk about the person who has died as well, even – and maybe especially – if you had a complicated relationship with them.
Be kind to yourself and don’t expect to carry on motoring through life at full throttle for a little while. If you need to sleep, lie down. If you need to cry, curl up. If you need to hide away, that’s fine too, but getting out, doing some gentle exercise and feeling the healing power of nature can also be helpful.
Looking after your physical health will have a positive impact on your emotional wellbeing. Exercise is part of it, but so is eating well, getting enough sleep and being a little mindful of anything that might not be helping. This month, Dry January, reminds us that cutting down on drink can be a way of nurturing our bodies through testing times.
Don’t give in to guilt. There is no right or wrong way to feel following the death of someone you cared about. It all depends on the relationship you had with them, your own emotional response, as well as your own personality and background. Remember, it’s ok to still laugh or smile, even though they are not here.
Make it personal. Think of what would really help you. Are you someone who likes to pamper yourself indoors or challenge yourself physically in the open air? Are you someone who likes to talk or who prefers to express yourself another way? Do you like to keep your brain busy or opt instead for periods of meditation or mindfulness? Remember who you are in all this, and find the comfort that suits you best.
Above all, look after yourself as you would tell a friend to care for him or herself in a similar situation. Take your own advice and above all be kind to yourself.