THE EIGHT PIL­LARS OF STRENGTH

These are the key struc­tures that sup­port us and al­low us to re­build our lives. It takes work and com­mit­ment to build the pil­lars – they don’t just ap­pear out of nowhere.

Irish Daily Mail - YOU - - WELLBEING -

RE­LA­TION­SHIP WITH THE PER­SON WHO HAS DIED

A cen­tral pil­lar is find­ing ways to ex­ter­nalise that re­la­tion­ship. It might be wear­ing some­thing that con­nects you to them, such as a watch or an ar­ti­cle of their cloth­ing. l Cre­ate a mem­ory box in which you place spe­cial ob­jects such as their glasses, cards or pressed flow­ers. l As­sem­ble a pho­to­graph al­bum or write to them in a jour­nal or in the form of a let­ter. l Cook their favourite recipe. l Post an im­age on­line that you know they’d have loved. 1

RE­LA­TION­SHIP WITH ONE­SELF

We need to be kind to our­selves, lis­ten to our needs and avoid self-crit­i­cism. l Write down con­flict­ing thoughts such as feel­ing both re­lieved and sad. l We need de­fence mech­a­nisms but it is use­ful to be aware of what ours are. If, for ex­am­ple, we tend to shut down when we are up­set, we may not get the sup­port we need. l De­nial in grief is a nat­u­ral and im­por­tant part of self-pro­tec­tion. Ac­cep­tance has to be in­cre­men­tal in grief be­cause we couldn’t cope with the full truth all at once. l A new loss is likely to bring back the mem­ory of pre­vi­ous losses. We aren’t go­ing mad, nor have we failed to do the nec­es­sary griev­ing in the past. This is nor­mal. 2

WAYS TO EX­PRESS GRIEF

My big shout is that we all need to find ways of ex­press­ing our grief, and it doesn’t mat­ter how we do that. l For some it will be talk­ing to fam­ily and friends, for oth­ers it will be writ­ing a jour­nal, paint­ing, mak­ing mu­sic or see­ing a ther­a­pist. There is no right way to ex­press it. l The key is find­ing a way of con­nect­ing to our feel­ings, nam­ing them and then ex­press­ing them. If we do this reg­u­larly, we be­gin to man­age our pain, which will in turn change over time. 3

TIME

takes on dif­fer­ent hues in grief. l Al­low more time to make decisions, both im­me­di­ate ones with the funeral and long-term ones. We may feel pres­sured to take ac­tion be­cause the feel­ing of pow­er­less­ness is so strong, but only time can en­sure the proper re­flec­tion that is nec­es­sary if re­gret is to be avoided. l Griev­ing takes longer than any­one wants. We can­not fight it. When we at­tempt to block it out we make our­selves vul­ner­a­ble to men­tal and phys­i­cal ill­ness. Over time the in­ten­sity of the pain lessens and we nat­u­rally read­just and re-engage with life. 4

MIND AND BODY

will have been im­pacted by the death of the per­son we love. We know from neu­ro­science that every thought has a phys­i­o­log­i­cal com­po­nent that is felt in the body. The pain of grief is of­ten ex­pe­ri­enced in much the same way as fear and tips our body into a height­ened state of alert. We need to es­tab­lish a regime that helps to reg­u­late the body. The more ha­bit­ual the ac­tion, the more ef­fec­tive it is. The regime should in­clude: l Car­dio­vas­cu­lar ex­er­cise, which helps to ease the feel­ing of fear. l Re­lax­ation or med­i­ta­tion, which helps to man­age our anx­i­ety. l Eat­ing reg­u­larly, with­out great spikes of sugar, cof­fee or al­co­hol, which cause the body to peak and then crash. 5

LIM­ITS

When we ex­pe­ri­ence a life-chang­ing loss, it is likely to af­fect our per­for­mance at work and our re­ac­tions in a so­cial con­text. l It is im­por­tant to recog­nise the power of say­ing ‘no’. Para­dox­i­cally this en­hances the power of ‘yes’, for when we say ‘no’ our sub­se­quent ‘yes’ is in­fin­itely more pos­i­tive. l Friends and fam­ily can get bossy when we are griev­ing and are keen for us to get back into the swing of life, but no­body else can know what our lim­its are. It is up to us to pay at­ten­tion to them and voice them clearly. 6

STRUC­TURE

In the chaos of grief we can feel as if our world has tilted off its axis. It can help to build a pil­lar of struc­ture (with some flex­i­bil­ity built into it, for too much con­trol can be coun­ter­pro­duc­tive). De­velop a struc­ture of good habits: l Ex­er­cise first thing. l Do some work or chores. l Take time to re­mem­ber the per­son who has died. l Choose to do some­thing calm­ing such as buy­ing flow­ers, hav­ing a mas­sage, cook­ing nice food or lis­ten­ing to mu­sic. l Have reg­u­lar times for sleep. De­vel­op­ing a struc­ture of good habits has a mul­ti­ply­ing ef­fect: the more we do them, the bet­ter we feel. It takes six weeks for a prac­tice to be­come ha­bit­ual. 7

FO­CUS­ING

Peo­ple of­ten talk about grief as ‘a knot’ in their stom­ach. Some­times their arms, legs or head feel heavy. When there are no words for these bod­ily sen­sa­tions, fo­cus­ing is a way of find­ing them. Di­rect your at­ten­tion in­ter­nally and breathe into – fo­cus – on this ‘felt sense’. l Close your eyes. l Breathe slowly and deeply, three times. l Di­rect your at­ten­tion to the place where there is the most sen­sa­tion. l Find a word that de­scribes that place – does it have a shape, a colour? Is it hard, soft? l If the im­age could speak, what would it say? l Then fol­low where the im­age takes you. 8

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