I've written posts about what one should do when their friend or loved one has lost a child...but it just dawned on me that I haven't written a post giving advice as to what the parent should be doing to help them cope with their loss. So here's a list I put together to help you, the griever, get through some tough days.
1. Pamper yourself. When things really start sinking in it's very important to be good to yourself. Get a massage, buy a new outfit, get your hair done, go on vacation, go out to eat.
2. Keep a journal. This one wasn't hard for me because I've kept a journal my entire life. Writing is therapeutic. You could also keep a blog (like I do), and it doesn't even have to be a public blog--just write down your feelings. Be honest and real. Don't worry--you don't have to share with anyone if you don't want to.
3. Eat comfort food. I ate Mexican Sweet Rolls and Mexican Hot Chocolate every day for breakfast for a good 3-4 months following Joshua's death. I didn't think anything of it. I now realize why I wasn't loosing any baby weight...but it was what I needed at the time. I'm not saying to eat junk food all day long (especially if you have a health/weight concern), but the point is to not be so hard on yourself!
4. Only surround yourself with people and activities that soothe you. This is very important. Think of a scab. (As gross as it sounds...) If you keep picking at it--it won't heal! (Now, I don't believe that in this life we will ever fully heal from our loss, but the point is to continue taking steps forward..."PRESS FORWARD!")
5. Do yoga and go on walks. My therapist, who specializes in trauma, always tells me that yoga is one of the best things a trauma victim can do. She also believes that doing a heavy workout isn't such a good idea. (I know some of you would beg to differ and have found much relief running marathons etc.), but just know that yoga is extremely calming for trauma patients and has helped me recently.
6. Go to counseling. There is no shame in receiving therapy. I didn't waste any time with this one. (Of course suffering a major loss brings out many other problems as well, so don't be surprised if your life seems as if it's ripping apart from all angles...) I have found that I do much better with a female--because I'm a female. Don't be discouraged if you can't find a good fit at first. It took me a few counselors before I was able to find a good match. If I could just give 2 other helpful tips when it comes to finding a great therapist: 1. You can't put a price on your health, especially emotional health. Go less frequent if it's expensive. 2. If your therapist makes you feel bad, sad or discouraged--stop seeing them!! Your counselor should uplift you and give you hope every time you visit them! Hello--you are going to counseling to reduce your stress--not make more of it!!
7. Take it easy and don't be so hard on yourself! If you stay up late and sleep in--or even go to bed early and sleep in--who cares! (Of course if you have other kids you probably won't be able to do this...and I know people with other kids say they are grateful to their other kids because it makes them have to get out of bed in the morning...did that make sense?)
8. Ease back into things. Normal activities that were fun and enjoyable for you before the death might not be so fun anymore. Don't have too many expectations. Stop trying to have success with the activity if it's not working. One day the dark cloud that surrounds you will thin out and your step will be light again, and the joy you found with your old hobbies and daily routine will come back in due time.
9. Don't let people tell you what you should and shouldn't be doing. As much as they love you, they don't truly understand what you're going through. Only you do.
10. Don't be embarrassed for crying at any given time or not feeling up to doing something--even if you've already committed to it. Do whatever is best for you. If someone makes you feel bad for not wanting to leave the house, then maybe you shouldn't be associated with that person right now. Grief can be triggered by a million different things...so don't ever feel silly for crying or suddenly feeling sad.