6 Ways to Keep Living While Grieving

Photo Credit: Helga Weber via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Helga Weber via Compfight cc

Life is hard.

Living through loss makes it even harder. There is a period of time where you feel dead. Your soul has been ripped out and you just feel numb. When you’re not numb, you hurt. Sometimes numb is better than feeling pain. I used all of my energy each day to just make it through – the paperwork, the processes, paying the bills and making sure my kids had food.

As I was battling to survive each day, I started to remember what Steve and I had promised each other. We promised that no matter what happened to us we would always put our children first. I also promised Steve that I would LIVE life and take care of our children if anything happened to him. Everyday that I spent feeling dead was a day that I was breaking my promise to him.

That broken promise began to become fuel for change. I gave him my word – I became determined to keep it.  It wasn’t easy – I can assure you it was not. However, the story you tell yourself is POWERFUL. You have the choice to be a victim or the champion in your life. As I thought about our children, I wondered what type of role model did I want to be for them?  What did I want them to see when they looked back at this period in their life? I answered these questions for myself. Here are some ways I moved myself from death to life. You can do it too!

1. Identify What’s Most Important

For me, it was showing my girls that they were safe, loved and cared for. They were going through a situation in life that no child should ever have to endure and it was my job to show them that we would make it through this together.

They needed to know that being sad was okay and we could talk about it together – but it was also okay to play.  If I couldn’t pull it together, then my children would have essentially lost two parents in a time that they needed one the most.

2. Focus on What’s in Your Control

I would have given anything to go back to that day and somehow change the outcome – anything! Unfortunately, no amount of tears, focus, guilt, or pleading with God would change the outcome. There was no redo or rewind button.

What I could control was how I engaged with my children. I could choose how I wanted my children to remember their father and I could choose to show my children how to deal with significant life challenges.

3. Ask for Help

Why is it SO hard to ask for help? This is what I am the worst at – even today. After Steve died, I had a crew come out and help me finish the barn which was one of his goals. They did what I could not do alone.

I had to get a tax advisor because I had never done taxes before and had no clue where to start. I sought advice from a friend knew a lawyer to deal with the beneficiary issues.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help with non-critical or technical tasks. People want to help and don’t know how – they’ll be happy to help if you give them something specific to do!

4. Write Down Goals That You Had Together

The one that stands out the most for me is taking our girls to Disney World. We had planned to do this in 2-3 years and were really looking forward to it. In my mind I questioned whether I would be able to give our girls this opportunity without a dual income household. I also had immense guilt in thinking that our girls wouldn’t get to experience life the way we had planned as a family, because I couldn’t afford it.

We may not be able to do everything – it may take a few extra years, but I know we will have these adventures together.  Disney became a priority to me and I opted to put a portion of Steve’s savings into a CD, so that the money would be there when we were ready. I’ll find money for bills in another place or another way. Daddy will make our Disney dreams come true after all!

5. Find Your New Life Balance

I realized that I struggle a lot on days that I don’t get enough sleep. Cleaning the house and doing other activities have to wait if sleep is needed instead. Sleep is essential for me to execute on #1 above.

Going for a run also helped immensely. At first, I ended up hyperventilating and really struggled through a lot of workouts – in the end I felt like I accomplished something. Running became my outlet and by the time I finish a run my head is clearer – I feel like I’m back in control of my life – at least for a moment!

6. Lean on a Buzz Word or a Theme Song

I have both. Steve had a wall hanging that I had given him as a father’s day gift one year that hung in his office. It was titled “Perseverance” and for me that word fit. I kept that picture where I could see it and it reminded me that I needed to persevere through this.

Steve also had a love of music and we connected often through the words in a song. There was one song in particular that he played for me when we felt like we were struggling with life – Faith When I Fall. After Steve died, my mind kept repeating the lyrics, “Give me strength when I am standing and faith when I fall.” I’m not sure if Steve put those words in my mind and heart, but those lyrics have repeated themselves in my head thousands of times in this past year – it’s now my theme song.

Different things will work for different people, but these are six ways I found to keep living while I was grieving. They are still things I do to this day! I hope that they help someone else through their grief.

Is there anything else that helped you keep living while grieving?

10 Simple Ways to Help Someone Grieving

The death of an individual causes a ripple affect across family and friends – even across communities.

Many times people are at a loss of what they can do to help those that are grieving. I’ve been there and bet you have too.

Now that I have been on the other side of the tragedy, I know how much of a difference simple gestures can make. Here are ten meaningful ways that people helped me in the last year.

1. Take Time to Talk

Give the gift of your memories. Take the time to talk to your friend or family member about their loved one. They may not do much talking, but those of us that are grieving love to hear you memories of our loved one.  It means you loved them too.

One of my fears was that my children wouldn’t know their father and that he would be forgotten by all but our immediate families. Hearing friends, family, acquaintances – even total strangers tell me a story or a way that Steve impacted their life helped me realize that he will never be forgotten.

These stories help me focus on the legacy that he left. They remind me to live the story that I would want others to tell.

2. Tell Stories to Children

Share age-appropriate stories with the children that are grieving the loss of their loved one. Steve was a hero to his daughters. They were both daddy’s girls through and through. I needed to make sure that he maintained super-hero status in their minds.

I share stories about how special their dad was on earth and about his character traits that made him an exceptional human being. I also make it a point to talk about their “angel daddy” every day. It may be through a huge bout of tears, it may be a statement about how proud he would be of them, or it may be a special place I take them to that reminds me of their father. We talk about him – and by talking, we keep him alive.

3. Gift a Tree or Plant

One family sent me an oak tree from Seeds of Life as a memorial gift. I kept this little tree in my house over the winter and tried to pick the perfect spot to plant it. I decided on my parents’ house because I wanted to plant it somewhere that I knew wouldn’t change for me.

My father chose to plant it in the middle of their front lawn – right by the play yard. When I asked him why he chose that location, away from all the other trees, he simply stated, “This way Steve’s tree can watch his children play and grow.” The girls know it as Daddy’s tree and they see it every time they visit. This is truly a legacy gift for someone mourning – especially if they have a special place to plant it.

4. Gift a Picture Book

Shutterfly (among others) allow you to upload pictures and make a photo book online. I made a book for each of my girls – focused on pictures of each of them with their Dad. When he passed away they wanted to see him and I knew individual pictures would never last.

Recently I asked Reanna what her favorite book was and she replied, “the book about me and Daddy.” Make a picture book for children or adults. It is still on my list to get one done for me, but I continue to struggle completing one for myself..

5. Write Down and Share Favorite Stories

I asked people to do this at Steve’s prayer service and funeral. Those stories and notes still give me comfort – I share them with our daughters often.

Having stories about their Daddy from other people’s perspective has been wonderful.  I would love to have a thousand more stories about Steve. It doesn’t matter if it has been one day, one month, one year or ten years – a written story about a loved one is a treasure.

Take the time to pick up your pen and jot down the first story that comes to mind and give it to the family. This gesture is priceless and timeless.

6. Make a Keepsake

Consider sewing a quilt, blanket or re-purposing other items that were special to the deceased.

Steve loved playing softball and he had a stack of championship t-shirts to prove it. I gave them to his mom who is planning to cut out the logos and numbers and sew them into a quilt.

7. Gift Small Tokens to Children

Find small gifts for children for different holidays or just because as a surprise. They can be homemade gifts or store bought. Some of the ladies that I work with got together and gave Reanna and Kaelyn each gifts on their birthdays, at Halloween and at Christmas.

They also gave me a gift basket full of stuff for Christmas. They were true “treats” – a free day of babysitting, salon/spa gift certificate, bath bar, chocolate, etc. This was very generous and reminded me that people truly care and are thinking about me and my girls. I was touched.

8. Make a Dream Come True

Identify a tradition, dream, or goal of the deceased, the couple’s or of the grieving person. Help make it come true! This is true for also continuing on traditions. Close counts in either case.

Steve had a passion for woodworking. My sister and her husband found the plans he had to make rocking horses for our girls and made the horses for them. Watching our girls tear off the wrapping and ride those horses was the best gift I could have ever gotten. They made one of Steve’s dreams for his daughters come true.

I’ll also be sharing my bucket list soon – as well as how others have helped me cross items off.

9. Send a Card

Buy a card or quickly jot down a note and send it. Even an email saying you’re thinking of them is nice to receive.

Anything that you can do to show that you care and can appreciate their grief makes a difference. Pick a random day and send  – today if you have someone in mind!

10. Bring Food

Don’t ask what you can do or what you can make.  Simply state that you are planning to make that person dinner one night and ask which night is convenient. Or just make something and drop it off.

One co-worker did this and it left no excuse for me to say no – plus it was great to have a meal. Especially one that I didn’t have to make. After a significant loss it is a struggle to breathe, let alone cook and bake. Getting the gift of wholesome food is amazing!

Thank You

A big thank you to all of you that helped me in this past year. Your thoughtfulness and generosity was truly touching.

Even though my grieving period isn’t over – I’m not sure it’ll ever be – you helped me to make it through the most difficult time of my life. Thank You!

What else would you add to this list?

Do you have any experience being on the receiving end?