This is the second of three Survival Guides. The first focused on Body and the next will be about Spirit.
1. Share your grief with close friends. Steve said my grief allowed him to feel his own sadness, and many others invited me to share my feelings. I often felt exposed and vulnerable, but I did not feel isolated.
2. Grieve with your children and family if possible. My sons and I spoke about our memories, love, and loss. We grieved for the same person, although I had to avoid overwhelming them with my sorrow. They needed space to speak of their loss or to say nothing at all.
3. Notice who welcomes your tears and sadness. Reach out to those who offer support. My grief was too much for some old friends and family members. Most were still there when I wasn’t so sad, but not everyone. New friends arrived when I reached out.
4. Go to a therapist or bereavement group. I needed to talk with people who listened for the wisdom and intuition beneath my grief. This was especially important because I shared life’s smallest details with my husband Vic.
5. Follow the trail of your dreams. If therapy isn’t possible, tell your dreams to a close friend. I wrote my dreams in a notebook I kept by my bed. I drew them, made collages, or sculpted them in clay. Dreams helped me digest the loss of my old life and find my new path.
6. Take trips alone or with friends. It was sometimes good to get away for an afternoon, a day, or a week, but I could be a difficult travel companion. It usually felt good to return home to my own life after a break in grief work. Coming home to the reality of what was missing brought deep sadness for a few days, but it was a time of integration.
7. Write each day. I kept a record of my experience. I could look back and see my life and I were slowly changing over the months, even if I often felt stuck. I was a bit lost, but my journals were a map.
8. Paint your emotions, your dreams, and your memories—even if you have never painted before. Try the vibrant colors of oil pastels or watercolors. Painting and drawing calmed my emotions, when I gave up judgment about artistic merit. I often wept while I painted. With watercolors, tears became part of the image.
9. Read books related to your particular loss. I appreciated books that saw grief as a teacher and transformer. I found books at the Hospicare and public libraries. I searched widow or bereavement at Amazon. I browsed my local bookstore shelves and often found great poetry there.
10. Read poetry that speaks to your grief. Try Mary Oliver’s Thirst or Stephen Levine’s Breaking the Drought. Read poems by Rainer Maria Rilke, Rumi, and Emily Dickinson. Search for grief poems on the web. I have many favorites, including this poem called “The Window” by Rumi.
Your body is away from me
But there is a window open
from my heart to yours.
From this window, like the moon
I keep sending news secretly.
What helped you nurture your soul in times of loss, whether it be from death, divorce, loss of a job, or a major life challenge? Are there books you recommend?