How Do We Begin to Grieve


BY: Stephanie McIlvaine, MSSA, LISW-S

CATEGORY: Grief and Loss

After the death of of our loved one, our mind is racing. We are thinking of the past, the future, the bills, people to call, heartache, guilt, anger... We are unable to concentrate. Where do we begin? How do we begin?

Understanding that grief is an individual process is paramount. Grief is a physical, emotional, social, spiritual, familial, and cognitive process. The body takes a beating during the grief process. So, it is important to begin here.
Learn to listen to your body. Where are you holding your tension/stress? Do you carry it in your shoulders? Neck? Head? Chest? Assess your body throughout the day to see how you are carrying your grief. After reading your body, take a moment to release the stress held within your body. Ease the tense shoulders, stretch your back, and breathe. Repeat this process again and again. There are relaxation apps and CD’s available to assist you in relieving your stress.

Breathing is a key to our healing. Take a deep breath and fill your belly with air. The best way to learn this technique is by lying flat on your back. Inhale a deep breath through your nose and imagine your stomach is a balloon. Fill it with air. Release the air slowly through your mouth and watch your belly flatten. The deep breath fills your lungs and body with much needed air and energy. It relaxes your muscles, reduces your heart rate and lowers physical tension. It provides oxygen to your organs and enables your “house” to function. Another important way to release tension in the body is by tensing and releasing the muscles of the body. Start with your feet and work your way to the top of the head. By focusing on each inhalation, you are also allowing your mind an opportunity to relax.

Another simple suggestion for helping your body heal is to carry a water bottle with you. One can often forget to stay hydrated when experiencing intense grief reactions. Also, try to eat proper meals. Our bodies need fuel to endure grief.

Many vital things will take place when we learn to relax our body. No, it does not take away our emotional heartache, but it will enable your body to heal. Think about times when you experienced an illness. Perhaps you did not sleep or eat well. Maybe you were irritable and sad.  When your body is experiencing physical pain, it is difficult to feel peaceful. Taking control of the tense muscles in your body can help you have moments of calmness. This control provides a very powerful tool for your
grief work.

We cannot control what happened to us that caused the grief, but we can help control our grief attacks with simple breath work. We can reduce the intensity and duration of the attack with breathing. We can control our racing heart with breath work and thus, our blood pressure. We can help prevent and manage migraines with relaxing the tense muscles in our neck and shoulders. We can control our emotional exhaustion by allowing our physical body to receive the rest it needs and deserves.

Finding a focus with the body and easing the physical pains of grief helps to ease the emotional impact and enables you to face another day as you move forward.

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