Me and My grandmother Pat Cook Finn.
Traditionally, in the new year, we think about our goals and all the things we want to do in the new year or how we want to better ourselves. But for some we think back to those we lost in the year or maybe even that family member slipping away slowly with a degenerative disease or a slow growing cancer. How do we handle loss in our life? Sometimes we are grieving while the person is still with us, such as a parent with Alzheimer’s disease.
For my family we have just lost my grandmother, the last of my grandparents and someone I loved very dearly. When someone is 92 years old you know that you will not get to keep them forever, and yet the heart never wants to let them go. We knew for a few months that she was declining and many of us even got to spend last precious moments with her. As we are grieving, I think about things that give me hope that I have learned through the years from many sources.
There is Always Hope – I am a naturally positive person but not all people are. It’s easy to gravitate to the negative. Try just using positive vocabulary - even if you don’t feel like it. The use of positive language can help change your narrative and maybe even eventually your mind talk.
Deep Breaths – When we are really upset, we tend to start shallow breathing which reduces oxygen to the brain giving you headaches and dizziness. The fastest way to reduce a rapid heart rate is slow breathing and for me I need to close my eyes to bring that heart rate down. The minimum amount of time needed is 2-3 minutes.. If you don’t have 2 minutes any amount will still help.
People who love you want to help – When a loved one is going through loss, we want to help, but rarely know how or what would be of most help. The phrase, “What can I do?” will come out of a friends mouth so have an answer; “Please just sit with me.” Isolation can be very dangerous so say yes to help and do not be ashamed to join a support group.
Food is Medicine – Those that know me know how much I love using food to heal. Well, once again food to the rescue! Eat health foods and avoid excess comfort foods. The easiest way to do this is to make sure you eat the healthy food first before consuming comfort foods.
Movement improves your mood – Exercise or just movement alone can improve any foul mood and it’s no difference with grief. Move your body even if it is for a 20 minute walk. Yes, 20-30 minutes is the magic number needed to get those feel good hormones going-aim for being out of breath by the end.
You have a future and you will make it through – Grief takes time but you will persevere and make it through and you may even be inspired to re-invent yourself. This can be a total over-haul or simply returning to a once abandoned hobby. I recently started water color painting as a hobby again.
My grandmother was a classical artist working with water, oil, stone, charcoal, clay and she taught me to paint. A few years before she died, I knew time somehow was short and for Christmas I wanted to give her a painting because I had started up again. I think she has never glowed so much; my gift was not only the painting but a show of how much she had inspired me for so many years of my life.
One of My first Paintings done under my grandma's instruction, I was in 7th grade.
I recommend talking to a friend or counselor if you are not able to keep moving slowly forward into the future. Grief looks different for all of us, so if you see someone grieving, please be that friend and reach out and offer to “Please just sit with me.” If it is you who is grieving, reach out to those who feel most comfortable- they long to help you.