12 Weeks of Peace
Week 11: Breathe and Reflect
The penultimate week tackles some difficult issues, such as guilt and life after loss. Pondering these concepts can be upsetting for someone who is still in the throes of grief. For those individuals, this week outlines a few practical ways to handle feeling stressed out or overwhelmed, including breathing and properly sleeping.
Day 71: Grief and Guilt
A particularly complicated facet of grief is guilt. Why do people feel guilty in the face of loss?
- People sometimes wonder if they could have prevented the death.
- Rather than facing the open question of why people have to die when you feel it wasn’t their time, assigning blame can work as a coping mechanism. There is a sense of order and calm in the idea that the death was caused by someone or something tangible. Accepting that nothing could have stopped the death means accepting that some things happen in life that are outside any sort of control. This is a scary idea, so many turn to blaming themselves.
- Often guilt manifests due to feeling selfish for moving forward. Survivors sometimes have thoughts such as, “how can I be laughing when they are gone?” or “how dare I enjoy myself when my loved one is no longer around?
These are difficult feelings to wrestle with.
Here are some tips in dealing with guilt in grief:
- Try getting to the root of exactly WHY you feel guilty. Do you think you really could have prevented the death, or do you simply wish you could? Is there something you feel you could have said or done differently? Are you feeling guilty about the fact that your grief is beginning to subside? Understanding where these emotions are coming from will help you deal with them.
- Imagine you were the one who passed. How would you want your loved ones to behave? Wouldn’t you want them to keep living as happy a life as possible?
- Turn your guilt into something positive and productive. Educate others to help them avoid whatever mistakes you are feeling guilty about, raise awareness about what caused your loved one to pass, and encourage yourself and others to always be open and honest with friends and family.
Be encouraged by their passing and legacy. Instead of crying, live an inspired, spiritual, and happy life like they did when they were here. Live each day with encouragement, knowing they are proud and smiling down on you.
~ Matt Fraser
Day 72: How Will Grief Change You
Grief is a powerful process, so much that it seems transformational. People seldom come out of it with the same perceptions of life they had at the beginning. Just as healing is a choice, how grief will affect you is also a choice. Will you let it turn you into someone who lives a life of bitterness and isolation? Or will you let it change you into someone stronger and wiser, who doesn’t take anything for granted? Perhaps grief doesn’t change you, but it brings out who you really are. It helps you understand what is really important to you. How do you think your grief has affected you up until now?
Grief doesn’t change you, it reveals you.
~ John Green
Day 73: The Value of Stillness
Try not to get too caught up with all the work that goes into recovering from a loss. Talking to others, self-reflection, healing activities … all of these are very important and helpful ways of coping. However, it’s also important to have times of stillness, where you allow your mind to reflect on your journey and soak up all the progress you have made.
If you’re dealing with the loss of someone you love, practice your stillness each day, become aware of your thoughts coming in and out. Allow yourself to be sad, but more importantly, allow yourself to be happy. It is the gift you can give back to your loved one who is gone and to those still with you.
– Karen Lang
Day 74: Living with Pain
People often wonder how it is possible to carry on after a loss. How do you keep walking when the floor has been ripped out from under you? The rituals, routines, customs, and grief that come with loss are all you can see. Anything beyond seems impossible. Trust that you are strong enough to adjust to this new life. Grief and the yearning for your loved one will always be there, but over time you will learn how to manage it.
It’s possible to live with pain. You just do it.
~ John Green
Day 75: Just Breathe
After a bit of time has passed since you began your grief journey, your symptoms will hopefully have decreased to a level you can manage in everyday life. Still, there are going to be times when you are feeling a bit more overwhelmed than you can handle. A simple but effective way to handle this is with breathing exercises. You can find many little opportunities throughout the day for focused breathing: in the bathroom, at a stoplight, even for a few moments at work.
Arrange yourself in a comfortable position. If possible, play some calming music (use headphones if you are surrounded by people). Make your spine long, but not stiff. Without feeling the need to change anything, pay attention to the sensations all around your body. Be aware of the feeling of the floor or chair under you, the temperature of the room, and the sounds. Relax your shoulders. Inhale for five seconds, thinking about everything that is making you anxious and upset. Hold it for a moment, and then slowly exhale. Visualize that you are exhaling all of those negative thoughts out of your body.
Day 76: Get Some Sleep
Sleep is a very individual experience when it comes to grief. Some people are unable to relax and fall asleep, while others sleep for hours on end to escape the pain. Immediately following a loss, your sleeping patterns often are disrupted. As you carry on healing and begin the early phases of re-entering daily life, it’s so important to have a normal sleep schedule. Here are a few tips:
- Eat a healthy dinner no less than an hour before going to bed.
- Form and maintain a strict bedtime routine. Eventually, your body will associate certain acts with going to sleep.
- Your routine should include some form of relaxation (taking a bath, reading a book, drinking a cup of tea).
- Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day.
Day 77: Don't Move "On," Move Forward
Think not so much of ‘moving on’
But of ‘moving forward.’
And as you move forward, you always do so
With your loved one by your side, in your heart,
Within your every breath.
They are part of you now and always.
You can move forward with them
and continue to engage in life
because of their inspiration.
~ Ashley Davis Bush