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5 Tips for Getting Through the First Year of Grief


My mother has been dead for three and a half years, my stepmother has been dead for two years, and my maternal grandfather has been dead for eight months. At this point in my life, you might consider me a survivor of chronic loss.

While the ache of grief never really goes away, I’ve found the pain does lessen, and the fog does clear with time. That first year, however, after a loss can be the hardest, as you’re finding your “new normal” and learning your own strength in the process.

Below are five tips I’ve learned to help survive the first year of grief.

1. Learn to say “no.”

When you’re a Type A, go-getter like me, who is used to staying busy and constantly trying to keep things running smoothly, it can be very difficult to turn down commitments and create breathing room in your schedule. When you’re grieving, though, you must learn to set boundaries, or the exhaustion can eventually destroy your heart, mind and body.

2. Find your people.

You may quickly discover that grief can be isolating. You may lose relationships with friends who simply cannot relate to your situation. Make an effort to find others who have experienced loss and “get it.”

If you lack friends who understand, consider joining a support group through a nonprofit like GriefShare.

3. Use paper plates.

This one may sound silly, but a few days after my mom died, a friend showed up at my front door with a huge laundry basket full of food, gift cards, paper plates, cups and napkins compiled by our Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS) steering team.

I had no idea how much I needed the items in that basket until a few days later, after the busyness of planning and attending the funeral services was over and the dust settled on my mother’s absence.

I found myself physically and emotionally spent, with little energy or appetite, and cooking and cleaning were simply no longer on the priority list.

Paper plates ultimately became the best gift in that huge basket, because they gave me permission to give myself grace and skip doing dishes for a few weeks.

4. Make time for rest.

While self-care might seem like a luxury, I found it becomes absolutely vital when you’re grieving. (Check out this list of common grief symptoms if you don’t believe me. I had no idea why I felt sick all the time, until someone pointed out the physical effects of grief to me.)

Create a regular time slot in your weekly calendar for whatever you need, whether it’s grief counseling, yoga, prayer, meditation, massage, or even a pedicure. The more frequently you make time to quiet your mind, the better you can sleep, too.

5. Do something good.

I’ve experienced the greatest healing in my grief by channeling my pain into helping others.

Doing good in memory of my mother, Dixie, and sharing our story of strength and love through my blog and our new book for grieving preschoolers keeps her legacy alive and continues to help soothe my broken heart.

Find a way to connect with and serve others who’ve experienced a similar loss, and it just might set you free.

Image via Contributor.

Follow this journey on Love of Dixie.

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