In 2013, my sweet little Australian boho family relocated interstate and bought a stunning coastal property, an easy five-minute drive to the beach.
We had our horses, dogs, chooks, a very successful business and so many plans for the future. I could never have predicted the grief and loss I was about to experience.
I thought I was living the dream.
I was turning 40 and about to celebrate my 10th wedding anniversary when I discovered the life I shared with my (now x) husband was a lie.
When people talk about grief, it’s usually in the context of death and losing a loved one. But I can tell you, what I felt during that period was absolute grief and heartbreak.
It took an enormous toll physically and emotionally and wasn’t something I could simply bounce back from.
The reason I share this story is because I know many of you have experienced grief and loss in your life too and it knocked you for six. Maybe you’re still working through the process and wondering if you will ever feel better again.
I’m not going to pretend I understand your loss, because it’s so different and personal for everyone. But I can share some of the things I’ve learnt in the hope they may help you too.
H3: Grief is a natural response to loss
According to Beyond Blue, grief is a natural response to loss.
“It might be the loss of a loved one, relationship, pregnancy, pet, job or way of life. Other experiences of loss may be due to children leaving home, infertility and separation from friends and family. The more significant the loss, the more intense the grief is likely to be.
Grief is expressed in many ways and it can affect every part of your life; your emotions, thoughts and behaviour, beliefs, physical health, your sense of self and identity, and your relationships with others. Grief can leave you feeling sad, angry, anxious, shocked, regretful, relieved, overwhelmed, isolated, irritable or numb.
Grief has no set pattern. Everyone experiences grief differently. Some people may grieve for weeks and months, while others may describe their grief lasting for years. Through the process of grief, however, you begin to create new experiences and habits that work around your loss.”
Here are some helpful recommendations from Beyond Blue about how you can help yourself or a loved one who is experiencing grief and loss:
What you can do to help yourself
· Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
· Talk to friends and family about how you are feeling, or consider joining a support group.
· Take care of your physical health. Grieving can be exhausting, so it’s important to eat a healthy diet, exercise and sleep.
· Manage stress – lighten your load by asking friends, family members or work colleagues to help you with some chores or commitments. Relaxation and gentle exercise can be helpful.
· Do things you enjoy, even if you don’t really feel like doing them.
How to help a person who is experiencing grief and loss
· Many people do not know what to say or do when trying to comfort someone who is grieving. However, often it is the simple offer of love and support that is the most important.
· Ask how they’re feeling. Each day can be different for someone who is grieving; take the time to listen and understand what they are going through.
· Talk about everyday life too. Their loss and grief does not have to be the focus of all your conversations.
· Ask them how you can help. A few home cooked meals, doing the shopping, or perhaps offering to go walking or do something enjoyable with them can all help someone through their grief.
· Encourage them to seek professional support if their grief does not seem to be easing over time.
I also think, when you don’t know what to say, just saying, “I’m honoured you have shared that with me. I’m here for you to listen whenever you need,” can open the door for communication.
H3: The regrets of the dying
I listened to an amazing podcast by Lewis Howes recently and it was a compilation of interviews he’d done with guests about lessons they’d learnt from their experiences of grief and loss.
One guest, Australian author Bronnie Ware, worked in palliative care for many years, caring for those at the end of their lives. Those experiences led her to write a book titled The Top Five Regrets of the Dying, A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing.
In the podcast she shares those regrets, which are:
· I wish I had the courage to live a life true to myself and not what others wanted me to do
· I wish I hadn’t worked so hard
· I wish I had the courage to express my feelings
· I wish I’d stayed in touch with my friends
· I wish I’d let myself be happier
Those are some powerful regrets.
Another guest, author and CEO Grant Cardone, spoke about the death of his mother. He said it was his belief she lived below her potential and expressed his wish that she had lived more for herself, rather than putting all her energy into raising her five children.
His advice: Be more greedy with your dreams. You can’t look after anyone else until you look after yourself.
As I listened to the podcast, I couldn’t help but realise many of these things could be solved by purposefully slowing and living life intentionally.
By giving ourselves permission to slow down, to figure out what is truly important and pursue it wholeheartedly, we can create a life true to ourselves, not work so hard, have time to maintain deep connections with treasured friends and be happier.
By prioritising our own dreams, goals and self-care, we can fill our own cup and have more energy for others.
And if our grief and loss is becoming too much, seeking professional help is the best thing we can do for ourselves. It’s never weak to seek help, in fact it takes great strength.