I'm working on an acronym for my next book "Managing Change with Grace."
The first letter is "S" – for Shock, See, and Self-preservation.
Last week, we had to let our senior dog Samson go. It was his time, and despite declining for almost a year, his loss was a shock (and sadly, he was the second senior dog we lost in less than a year).
Feelings of shock in response to loss can last for days, weeks, or even months. The body steps in and won't let us feel the full extent of grief because we can't take it at first.
But over time, we begin to see what is happening to us. We notice the new hole in our lives and corresponding changes in routine, connections, and our future - as well as shifts in identity related to the loss.
This is where self-preservation needs to kick in. When faced with the loss, we need to reaffirm that our health and safety are paramount. Depending upon the magnitude of the loss, in response, we might forgo healthy habits like sleeping or eating healthy. We might turn to addictive behaviors (alcohol, drugs, gambling, shopping) to numb the pain. We may withdraw from others and think we are better off not living at all (if you have these thoughts, please call 911 or visit your local emergency room).
Instead, we need to think of our safety and best interest first when in the early phases of loss – because reacting to fleeting emotions can have permanent outcomes.
So please, please, please put your self-preservation first during difficult times.
To help us get through our recent loss, we've been watching Ted Lasso (this is probably our third go-round in watching the first two seasons). It's funny and has a lot of wisdom for navigating change. One of my favorite scenes is when Ted suggests a player "be like a goldfish" when handling a disappointment. He says goldfish have a memory of only ten seconds.
This advice works for minor issues but can be a struggle for bigger ones. Yet the idea of giving yourself brief forgetting breaks from loss is helpful. The time-outs allow us to rest and imagine a life where grief doesn't dominate every minute.
A good source for these breaks is your self-care list. We will talk more about nurturing ourselves next month, but in advance, you may want to put together your list of ten self-care go-tos. In case it helps, here are mine:
- Walking with my dog Jake
- Reading / Writing
- Eating foods that are supportive of mental health (B-Complex vitamins, Omega 3s, nuts, and dark green leafy vegetables)
- Getting a lot of sleep
- Taking a hot bath or shower
- Watching a funny sitcom (excellent suggestion below)
- Meditating / Practicing yoga
- A spa visit for a massage, facial, pedicure and/or manicure
- Calling a close friend/therapist
- Organizing/cleaning/donating old clothes and household items to Goodwill
Hope this is helpful.
Will be back next month with the next letter of the "Managing Change with Grace" acronym. In the meantime, take good, good, good care of you.