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Finding Light In The Darkness – The Importance Of Self-Care During The Grieving Process

Written by: Leslie Gaudet, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

 

Grief and depression are complex and deeply personal experiences that can impact our mental and emotional well-being in profound ways.

Whether we're coping with the loss of a loved one, a relationship breakdown, or another major life event, the feelings of sadness, loneliness, and despair that can arise during the grieving process can be overwhelming and all-consuming.


Yet, despite all that, I believe that the combination of grief and depression are not talked about enough in our society in a way that opens it up for someone to be vulnerable with how they feel without them feeling like sharing will lead to someone feeling sorry for them or that their sharing is asking for advice or being told that with time, all wounds heal, because when someone is going through a grieving process, there are no words that can soften the blow or make someone feel better.


That's why it's so important to shine a light on this important topic and encourage open and honest conversations about the challenges of coping with grief and depression. By sharing our experiences, we can help others who may be struggling with these difficult emotions so that they feel less alone and feel more supported.


Let me tell you about my most recent personal experience with grief and depression in my home.


My father-in-law was diagnosed with brain and stomach cancer this past February and he was given a very short window of time before he would leave this earthly plain.


It came as quite a shock when we found out six weeks later that he had passed away, and it was this event that set my husband on a spiral of emotions which I later found out was a series of stages that one goes through when processing grief.


It wasn’t just the passing of his father that brought him through a series of emotions which dictated the actions he took that I believe led to his shutting down and falling into depression.


It was anger and resentment and feelings of judgment that had been building up for years because his relationships with his siblings were toxic and once his father passed away, that was the final straw that broke the camel’s back.


He’d been holding in so much rage and hurt, feelings of betrayal, feelings of being mocked, and feelings of being judged and he felt looked down upon by his family for most of his life and it finally came to a head when he had to face his family. They had been reaching out to me so that I could tell him of his father’s passing.


They were using me as the go-between because he had had no contact with them for months and the only number and email address that they had were mine.


First, it was his eldest sister calling my phone and leaving multiple voicemails and then subsequently sending me multiple emails to let me know to pass on the message to my husband that his father was sick and did not have much time left.


Those emails and calls led my husband to having a wonderful and beautiful conversation with his dad that seemed to heal some of the wounds he had from feeling betrayed by the man who was his hero. He always believed his father didn’t respect him. He always believed that he was the black sheep of the family.


Second, it was the final call from his eldest sister calling my phone to let me know that my father-in-law had passed away and that message set my husband down a road of many stages that I soon learned fell within what is described as “the 5 stages of grief”.

First, I learned that the 5 stages of grief are: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.


My husband’s first stage was anger. He had already accepted that at some point his father would pass and so he went straight to anger, but not towards his father.


Instead, his anger, manifested into angry and rage-filled telephone conversations with and text messages to his eldest sider, and eldest brother saying things that he had been holding onto for decades but never had allowed himself to say to their face.


He felt he was releasing himself from the pain by pushing it off onto them feeling like they never once gave him the benefit of the doubt but always ridiculed and mocked him and finally he was releasing it like a tornado violently tearing through and leaving destruction in its wake.


Though not to make excuses for his behavior, he truly was set off when it was revealed to him by his eldest brother, when he asked about the funeral arrangements, that not one of them thought he would even show up and so they never thought to include him and that’s where it started. And in the end, because of what happened next, he never did get to say goodbye to his father at his funeral.


His second stage was self-destruction. He started to drink (a lot), more than usual and that led him to dehydration that led us having to go to the emergency room of the closest hospital because his body started to shut down and he was feeling panicked and out of control. And so there we were trying to figure out how to get his body from shutting down and that’s when the next stage popped up.


His third stage was depression. Unbeknownst to me (at the time), along with his body shutting down on him, he was also shutting down emotionally. I didn’t quite pick up on it immediately because I was concerned about his physical well-being first but when he kept telling the emergency room doctor that he was shutting down, I knew what he was trying to say.


I knew what he meant but the doctor didn’t seem to pick up on it and so after getting fluids into his body, they sent us home and gave him some calming meds to try to help with his feelings of panic and loss of control, but they only seemed to make him feel worse and so off to the hospital we went again. But this time, we went somewhere else.


This second time, the next day, the emergency room doctor took more time to listen to what my husband was saying to him and he finally understood that it wasn’t just physical, it was emotional as well and my husband was able to get his prescription for his panic meds that he had been taking for many years (when the need arose) but unfortunately he didn’t have access to when we found out about his father and so we both were completely caught off guard.


It was also suggested that he seek counseling and talk to someone about his emotions because he had been holding onto a lot of pain for so many years and he was pushed to the brink.


That’s where self-care comes in – for me. I was also grieving but I knew or rather felt that I had no option but to stay strong, for his sake, because he needed my strength to get through these trying times.


And so, for 2 weeks, everything that I had been working on, all my projects and upcoming opportunities all had to wait. I knew that I had to take care of myself (really well) in order to be able to give of my energy to my husband as he went through these stages of grief.


I made sure that I ate healthy and hydrated my body. I made sure that I took breaks throughout my day and didn’t try to do more than I could or that I felt I could.


I made sure to have hard stops at the end of my day so that I could unwind and get ready for a good nights’ rest.

I leaned on my friends to keep me sane as my husband stayed quiet and didn’t want to talk, in essence feeling like he was shutting me out. I had to learn patience in those 2 weeks which was hard because I felt like I couldn’t grieve with him. I had to let him grieve by himself and that left me to grieve by myself.


Finally, after two weeks, he finally started to come out of it, and that was his fourth stage, acceptance.


He was starting to feel better, both physically and emotionally, and was starting to accept that his father was gone and that it was time for him to get back to living his life.


As I said earlier, I have come to learn that there are stages of grief that I didn’t really think about but as I have gotten older and started learning more, I am coming to understand this more. The process of grieving is complex. It can involve a wide range of emotions, thoughts, and behaviors.


In 1969, psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross introduced the concept of the five stages of grief, which are commonly used to describe the emotional journey a person may go through after experiencing a loss.


These stages are:

  • Denial: In the early stages of grief, it's common to feel a sense of disbelief or deny that the loss has happened. We may struggle to accept it and we may even try to convince ourselves that it just isn’t true.

  • Anger: As reality sets in, it's common to feel angry and frustrated, leaving us feeling a sense of injustice or feel like “life just isn’t fair” because of what happened. We find ourselves directing our anger towards other people, ourselves, or even the person we've lost. This is what happened with my husband. His first stage and his unleashing of everything he had been feeling and holding onto for decades that were unleashed onto his eldest siblings.

  • Bargaining: In this stage, we may try to negotiate with ourselves, others, or a higher power in an attempt to reverse or mitigate the loss. We might even make promises that we will do better or be better, all in the hopes of changing the outcome. I believe that for my husband, his way to lessen the loss was to drink to dull the pain.

  • Depression: As the reality of the loss becomes more real, it's common to feel deep sadness and despair. We may withdraw from others, struggle to find pleasure or meaning in our lives, and may even experience physical symptoms like fatigue or appetite changes. This was the third stage for my husband. He withdrew from me. He barely spoke, and if I tried to talk with him, he would just tell me that he just didn’t feel like it. On top of that, he had to take 2 full weeks off from work.

  • Acceptance: In this final stage, we begin to come to terms with the reality of the loss and start to find ways to move forward. We may feel a sense of peace or closure and may begin to incorporate the loss into our lives in a way that allows us to honor and remember the person or thing we've lost. My husband finally made it to this stage once he was able to process it all. I also believe it was my being patient and giving him the space he needed to process it all that allowed him to slowly come out his depression because he felt supported.


It's important to note that stages of grief are not a process, because remember, my husband’s second stage was self-destruction. So, it’s important to know that everyone's experience of grief is unique to them.


While some people may move through these stages quickly, others may take longer and may stay in one stage for a longer period of time.


In addition to the emotional challenges of grief, it's important to be aware of how grief can impact our mental health. Studies have shown that grief can increase the risk of depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues, particularly if it's not acknowledged or treated appropriately. That's why it's important to seek support from loved ones, a life coach, a therapist, or other mental health professionals if you're struggling with grief and depression.


Finally, let’s center on the importance of self-care and why I believe it is the lifeblood to our success in life and business, and most importantly when one is going through the grieving process.


During times of grief and depression, self-care is especially important, as it can help us cope with difficult emotions and experiences.


One of the key benefits of self-care is that it allows us to prioritize our own needs and take time for ourselves, even when we're feeling overwhelmed or exhausted. By engaging in self-care activities like exercise, meditation, or spending time in nature, we can help to reduce feelings of stress and anxiety and promote a sense of calm and relaxation.


Self-care can also be a valuable tool for managing difficult emotions like anger, sadness, or frustration. By engaging in activities that we enjoy or that bring us a sense of fulfillment or meaning, we can help to counteract these negative emotions and cultivate more positive feelings like joy or gratitude.


Some self-care strategies that can be helpful for coping with grief and depression include:

  • Prioritizing sleep and getting enough rest. When you get enough sleep and take time out of your day to just relax, it helps to improve your mood. Getting enough sleep can help to regulate our emotions and reduce feelings of irritability, anger, and sadness.

  • Eating a healthy, balanced diet. When we eat a diet that is balanced and nutritious, we provide our body with the energy and nutrients it needs to perform at its best, which in turn can lead to increased energy, focus, and productivity throughout the day.

  • Engaging in regular exercise or physical activity. Exercise has been shown to release endorphins, which are natural mood boosters that can help reduce feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression. Regular exercise has also been shown to improve self-esteem and increase feelings of accomplishment and confidence.

  • Spending time in nature, or other calming environments, promotes relaxation and calm. Spending time in nature has been shown to reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which can contribute to feelings of anxiety and overwhelm. By promoting relaxation and calm, spending time in nature can help to reduce these levels and improve our overall sense of well-being.

  • Engaging in creative activities like art or writing. Creative activities can help us connect with our inner selves and increase our self-awareness. By expressing our thoughts and feelings through art or writing (or whatever creative outlet brings you joy), we can gain a better understanding of our own emotions and experiences. In fact, a great friend of mine turned to water painting to help her as she was going through a difficult time in her life. Her emotional healing journey through art has given her a creative outlet for her emotions and through that she has also created a source of income for she now sells her artwork.

  • Seeking Emotional Support. Seeking support from loved ones, a coach, or a therapist can provide us with a sense of social support and belonging. It can help us to feel less alone, more understood, and can reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness.


Of course, self-care looks different for everyone, and it's important to find strategies that work best for your own needs and lifestyle. When you prioritize self-care during times of grief and depression, you can help to protect your mental health and well-being and build resilience for the challenges that lie ahead.

Although grief and depression can be incredibly challenging to navigate, it is important to remember that there is light at the end of the tunnel, and that self-care can be a powerful tool for finding it.


Whether it's prioritizing sleep and getting enough rest, engaging in regular exercise or physical activity, spending time in nature or other calming environments, or seeking support from loved ones, a coach, or a therapist, self-care can help us build resilience and cope with difficult emotions and experiences.


While the grieving process can be painful and difficult, it's important to remember that it's also a natural and necessary part of the human experience. By acknowledging our emotions, practicing self-care, and seeking support when we need it, we can navigate the challenges of grief and depression with greater ease and grace.


I do feel compelled to say that sharing my story and what I saw my husband go through is not to shame him but to bring to light that grief can throw you off kilter and into a spiral and that it is extremely important to have support in your life whether from a friend, family, coach or therapist, even if the act of support is simply the giving of space so that one can process their feelings and emotions.


I hope that by sharing my story of how self-care helped me look after myself really well so that I could show up and be there to support my husband the way he needed support in those difficult days, that it brings you a sense of relief to know that self-care is a great tool to help manage our emotions and help us through the process, whether you are the one grieving or you are the one in the supportive role.


If you're struggling with grief or depression, remember that you're not alone, and that there is always hope.


Remember to take care of yourself. Reach out for support when you need it and know that brighter days are ahead.


By finding light in the darkness, we can emerge from even the most difficult experiences stronger, wiser, and more compassionate than ever before.


Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and visit my website for more info! Read more from Leslie!

 

Leslie Gaudet, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Leslie Gaudet is a Mindset and Emotional Awareness Coach for women. She helps her clients achieve self-awareness around their emotional triggers by shifting their mindset to make better decisions when they respond, allowing them to bring more balance, peace, and harmony into their lives.


Almost 4 decades working as a Legal Assistant and Paralegal in the corporate world left her feeling emotionally and physically drained. That’s when she decided that she had to make some changes for her to live the life she loves. Those changes involved learning to love herself (without judgment or criticism). That mindset is the key to everything because our mindset influences our thoughts, and in turn, our thoughts dictate our words and actions. Thru her journey to self-love and self-acceptance, Leslie became certified as a Life Coach and attained further certifications in Group Coaching and Emotional Intelligence.


She works closely with her clients, starting with mindset because that is the foundational piece to self-love and self-acceptance. She teaches her clients about triggers and how they affect us emotionally by helping her clients tune into, spot, and understand their own so that they can become more self-aware of their trigger moments and emotional responses.


With proven tools and techniques and with her guidance, her clients tap into and discover their true potential to living their life and loving the life they are living.


Leslie believes that you will transform your life when you Change Your Brain (the way you think).

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