How to cope with grief during your first Easter alone

Whether you celebrate Easter or not, it’s hard to deny that this time of year signifies re-birth and new life for many.

Whether you celebrate Easter or not, it’s hard to deny that this time of year signifies re-birth and new life for many. This year however, almost a month on from the UK’s National Day of Reflection, where we all took time to think of everyone and everything we have lost to the pandemic, it may be unthinkable to buy into the Springtime festivities.

Sometimes we wonder if we will ever get over our loss, or if the loss we are grieving is even justifiable; here are some things to try remembering when the wave hits;

Everyone experiences loss in their own way. There is no definitive timeline, structure or formula for grief. There are some great theories, such as the ‘Fried Egg’ analogy, which articulates how the loss stays with us but our lives become full again over time. Although how you move through, around, over, under and any which other way you navigate this emotion is unique to you and your frame of reference.

Honour your emotion, or it will bite you in the butt! Emotions are our internal GPS, which signal to us that we are heading in the wrong (or right) direction. When we feel grief, sadness, emptiness and other such emotions, we tend to find them uncomfortable and unwelcome. It can be so tempting to push them away, only to find your GPS has taken you off the edge of cliff further into your journey! Give these emotions some attention, even if for a few moments. Ask these emotions what the problem is and what they need, as though you were caring for a loved one. Keep listening and attending to these uncomfortable emotions and try to see them as messages to keep your GPS on the right track, as you navigate your way through a difficult period.

Identify and plan for your triggers. Big life events, anniversaries and celebrations such as Easter can be an especially triggering time. This can be due to the emotions tied up in the memories of the person or thing that is no longer in our lives. Be realistic about expectations of how you might cope during these times, and plan some self-care around events that are unavoidable, but intensely emotional for you. When we are using our Amygdala or our ‘emotional brain’, our frontal lobes, which are responsible for rational thinking, are shut off, which can make it difficult for us to think clearly, or put any of our self-care intentions into action. Have a go-to list of things, activities or people that will bring comfort or support during this time. Write them down and keep them close by when you feel you may struggle to recall them.

If the loss you are grieving is a death, despite the infamous Kubler-Ross theory where eventually you arrive at acceptance, you don’t have to pressure yourself into gaining closure if this doesn’t feel right for you. When will it ever be okay that this person is no longer with you? The answer may be never if it was someone who you were close to, loved dearly or was a big part of your life. Shift your focus to think about how your emotional relationship with this person lives on, in your thoughts, decisions, imaginary conversations, ‘What would my friend say now?’, and actions. Create new memories that symbolise this change, not ending, of how you experience the emotions of this relationship; after all they are still present for you. Think of things that are meaningful, things that you had planned to do or things you would’ve loved to show them and put these intentions into action.

Grief an be a very unpredictable experience, you may feel fine one day and in despair the next, this is normal. Allow your feelings to just ‘be’ and stay curious about what you are feeling emotionally, physically and mentally. Over time, the grief will still be there but you will learn how to work with it so it is not as disruptive and traumatic, particularly by implementing some of the ideas above.

If you are feeling a prolonged feeling of grief, despair, hopelessness or any other kind of low mood or your health and daily functioning is being impacted in a harmful way, such as unhealthy coping mechanisms, please consult your G.P who will be able to direct you to an appropriate service for specialist support.

Faye Keenan MBACP, Relationship Therapist, Relate Bradford

References and helpful reading –

Fried Egg Theory, https://www.funeralguide.co.uk/help-resources/bereavement-support/the-grieving-process/tonkins-model-of-grief

Kubler Ross, 7 Stages of Grief pdf – https://www.therapistaid.com/worksheets/stages-of-grief-education.pdf

If you are struggling with the end of a relationship, Relate Bradford and Leeds can provide subsidised and, in some cases, fully funded sessions for those living in the Leeds/Bradford area. You can find out more about the service by visiting relatebradford.org. If you are not in this area, contact your G.P who will be able to direct you to a suitable service.

Communication…

If you go down to the woods today…you may notice how many acorns and seeds are about. That’s because 2020 is a “mast year” where the trees coordinate to produce bumper crops, which they do every few years.

They do this through communication, but how they communicate – across sometimes thousands of miles – is a bit of a mystery. It seems to be through a variety of cues of chemical signals, underground communications, and the right conditions. The theory of this incredible communication is they need, and accept, some help from the weather and from fungi: just the same as how humans may need a bit of help with their signals, communications and conditions from outside agencies, therapists or mediators, to get things just right.

Tabitha

Therapist, Relate Bradford

Disclaimer: This is a personal blog and any views or opinions represented in this blog are personal and belong solely to the blog owner and do not represent those of Relate Bradford.

Becky’s Blog – Parenthood…

(When it comes to parenthood) Get him involved as much as possible, or the resentment will fester… 

When I look back to when I first discovered I was pregnant, my husband and I were overjoyed, but deep down, I could sense my husband fear that he was soon to become second best to the baby.  

You see, my husband has two older children from a previous marriage so he had prior knowledge to how hard it can be to sustain a loving and strong relationship when children are involved.  

I was determined it would be different this time around though, and I would not let the baby affect our relationship.  

Of course that was not the reality of the situation… 

Once our baby boy was born, I went in to super mum, organisation mode, and always had to be two steps ahead of my game (i.e. attending to the baby, cleaning the house, cooking the dinner, working part time…etc).  

I wanted to prove to everyone that I had everything in order – and I wanted to do it all with a smile of my face!  

My husband moved further and further down my list of priorities.  

To make him happy, I told him to go out with his friends, attend as many football matches and drinking sessions down the pub as he wanted (something he hadn’t done for so many years).  

I thought I was being a relaxed wife, but behind closed doors, the cracks in our marriage were beginning to show.  

Fast forward a few years and we had lost that connection we once had, I’m not even sure we liked each other half the time.  

Everything just ran on auto pilot and once our little boy started having sleepovers and having more of an interest in seeing his friends at the weekend instead of days out with us – the reality of what our relationship had become really hit me.  

I was constantly being taken for granted.  

But who was I to complain – I helped to create this mess we were in! 

He on the other hand felt unloved, unwanted, and rejected – so just went about his daily life thinking about himself! 

That’s when the penny finally dropped… 

I was trying so hard not to be a nagging wife, but I had gone completely the other way and had implemented no boundaries whatsoever.  

With no boundaries there is no respect, and with no respect, there’s no love.  

There had to be a healthy middle ground where we both felt happy and content – and I was determined to find it!  

Fast forward another few years (our son is now 7), and I’d like to think we are in a pretty good place. 

It certainly hasn’t come overnight – and it’s taken us a good year or two to finally feel strong and united as a couple again.  

But it was worth the journey – and we have both learned so much and appreciate each other so much more now.  

So how did we get here… 

Well… 

It’s all about the small steps!   

i.e“Don’t run before you can walk” 

If I had my time over again, or I could give any advice to the new mothers out there – these are the three main points I would tell them 

  1. Never stop having date nights(just once a month or every two weeks if you can). 

This is so important because, this is where you finally get to be just you two again, and to fully communicate without the kids being around.  

Looking back, we should have never stopped having date nights, but I told myself that our relationship was fine, refusing to acknowledge the cracks that were beginning to surface.   

The reality is, if you constantly chose the kids over your relationship, your relationship will suffer, and once the kids are grown up, you may not even know where to begin to find some kind of connection again – so chose to part ways. 

Try and catch it early – don’t push the problems aside, hoping they will just get better on their own…NEWSFLASH – they never do!  

Never lose yourself in parenthood.  

  1. Have the difficult conversations.  

I know I know it’s scary – you are worried that they will react badly so you convince yourself it’s better to just keep the peace and not say anything at all. But this is exactly how resentment starts! 

And the thing to remember about resentment is that it festers, and will sit and reside within your body.  

Over time, the resentment will then affect the intimacy between you. 

If you have something to say or you feel hurt in some way by something your partner has said or done – it is so important that you speak up and release it.  

Women need to communicate and feel listened to, in order to feel loved.  

Men on the other hand need the physical touch in order to feel loved.  

One will not work without the other. 

What I found is…when I sat down to have the difficult conversations (i.e. I felt that he wasn’t doing enough around the house for example) – it’s best to always start a conversation with, “I feel.”  

“If you keep it in first person it will never be offensive. 

Also, acknowledge your part in it all– don’t just shift the blame onto the other person.  

Make sure the kids are not about when you have these conversations and try to sit down and discuss it properly (i.e. not just shouting at each other across the room for example). 

I found that the more and more we did this – the less stressed and tactile we became with each other.  

Keep confronting your fears and eventually they will disappear. 

We began to let our barriers down, and he finally understood how important it was for me to be able to communicate my anxieties to him without being shut down or being told I’m, “over sensitive.” 

Also explaining to your partner that you just need them to listen, they don’t need to rescue you or give you solutions or advice.  

My husband would often feel like he had to come up with all the answers and that just put more pressure on him. All I needed was for him to be the sounding board.  

  1. Don’t try and do it all. 

Make sure he is involved no matter how much you are both struggling at first.  

I remember when we first had our son, every single time I would get in the bath or lay my head down for half an hour’s sleep – our son would always start crying.  

This was brought on by my husband’s anxiety and fears that I wasn’t there to help him, so I would automatically jump up from my rest and rush to the baby. 

Try not to do this… 

He must learn to figure it out for himself. 

True happiness in life comes from knowing we can stand on our own two feet and work things out for ourselves  

If we try and take the responsibility away from another person they will never learn to cope on their own!    

Becky

Relate Bradford Counsellor

Disclaimer: This is a personal blog and any views or opinions represented in this blog are personal and belong solely to the blog owner and do not represent those of Relate Bradford.