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I’ve alluded to the fact that I’ve been going through a bit of a… ahem… rough patch, This is one of those all-consuming tough times: One that occupies 100% of your thoughts and 50% of your conversation. Your life is spent involved in spurts of trying to put your life back together and longer stretches where your consumed by an inability to move. It’s been 7 years since my mother’s death, but these days I am reminded what those of you in the wilderness of your grief are experiencing on a fairly regular basis… some to a greater degree and some to lesser, it all depends; but regardless, what I anecdotally know is this, you have got to find some grief relief once in a while or you will go insane.
We recently had a reader ask a very important question. He sought clarity on the difference between staying busy to avoid grief and being busy to obtain intermittent relief from grief. Avoidance coping and taking a break are two very different things. The first being a hinderance to healthy grieving and the later being a requisite. I would hate for anyone to get the two confused and feel guilty or dysfunctional for allowing themselves that which is necessary (i.e.m a grief time-out).
In psychology, Avoidance Coping is considered a maladaptive coping mechanism (that’s a fancy way of saying not helpful). As you might expect, Avoidance Coping basically means one avoids dealing with negative or anxiety-producing issues, stressors, thoughts, or feelings. In grief, this might mean you avoid thinking or talking about your loved one, put off tasks because of the perceived emotional impact, or avoid acknowledging and dealing with complicated emotions. Unfortunately, by actively avoiding these things and allowing your fear to hangout in the back of your mind, you actually wind up allowing your anxiety to grow.
Now this is different than someone who is dealing with their grief in their own way and at their own pace, yet feels the need to take a break from time to time. I hope the commenter who raised the original question doesn’t mind me quoting him but he put it very well when he said:
[I] “find grieving to be helpful and necessary, yet it also is exhausting. I find I can recover from periods of grieving by napping, or by cooking, watching TV, reading, running errands, going to a movie, visiting family, etc.”
What our commenter has described here is good self-care.
Experiencing periods of grief, trauma, life-transition, and emotional crisis can be mentally exhausting. Similar to allowing your body short breaks to recover when exercising, you must allow your mind and body to take a break from dealing with complicated thoughts and emotions. In fact, one of my favorite grief models – the Dual Process Model of Grief – says that it’s healthy and helpful for people to alternate between facing their grief related thoughts, emotions and secondary stressors and avoiding their loss (i.e. taking a grief time out)
Oftentimes, especially early on, grieving individuals feel guilty for allowing themselves to be distracted. It’s normal to feel this way, and all I can do is urge you please give yourself permission to take a breath. In many ways you will be grieving this loss forever, so pace yourself. Now, get out a pen and a piece of paper and brainstorm the things you do (or can do) to take a break from your grief. I assure you, it doesn’t have to be grand. Here are a few ideas to get you started…
- Go to the movies
- Find a hobby
- Bake something
- Cook something
- Listen to music
- Spend time with friends
- Read a good book
- Chat on the phone
- Play with the (grand)kids
- Join a club
- Take a class
- Have a laugh
- Watch TV
- Use your imagination
- Check things off your to-do list
- Take a bath
- Go outside
How do you take a break from your grief? Share it with us below or on Facebook. Also… Subscribe!