This week I read The Grief Club - The Secret to Getting through All Kinds of Change by Melody Beattie for the Read 52 Books in 52 Weeks challenge.
This book covers a wide range of losses - not just the "typical" loss of parents, siblings, children, or friends that other books cover. This one dives deeper and wider into many types of loss.
In some ways, it's good to explore this concept because truly - until I did the Master List of Losses inventory which is included in the book - I had no idea how many losses I had experienced in my life and the impact they have had on it. There were 176 that I checked off on the list (this is a life-long list...not just in my current life). The list has even more types of losses that weren't applicable to my life.
Some examples of loss that I could identify with included: death of a close family member, seeing a loved one in the process of dying, death of other loved one, death of someone (loss somewhat affects us), murder (of someone we loved), death of a pet, loss of a pet, inability to obtain and sustain adequate insurance, chronic illness, intractable pain, surgery, accident, illness that carries perceived stigma, as a child - had adult household/family duties and responsibilities, robbery (we're the victim), crime committed against us (by a stranger), divorce of a friend or relative, end of friendship, major disappointment, move to another city or state, loss of retirement funds or savings, credit card theft or loss, being lied to, loss of energy and vitality, significant change in religion, stress, loss of job, working more hours than usual, business failed, creative work failed, uninsured loss, learning disability (our child), unwanted changes in appearance due to aging, deprived of contact with nature, deprived of sunshine, move into nursing home (someone we love)....the list goes on.
So, there is a wide range of loss that I didn't even consider "loss" in the sense of something to be grieved. This was certainly an eye-opening activity to me.
Some of the suggestions that the author wrote about that I thought may be helpful are below:
- Keep a diary of any dreams or contacts with a deceased loved one. Jot a few notes about the content of the dream or describe the contact.
- Engage in rituals that honor your loss (e.g., do something on the deceased's birthday).
- Remember the best. Create a book of memories of the good times you had. Include things you learned, things you or the person said or did, placed you visited, trips and activities you both enjoyed.
- Write your memoirs. You don't have to wait until you're old. Make this an ongoing project. Start when you are young. Write about events in your life that are funny or sad - the events that have meaning for you. Write it for your family and yourself. Include pictures too - anything you want.
- Review your Master List of Losses. Which losses have made you who you are, shaped who you are (or who you're becoming)? What did you learn from each one? What did each mean to you? Do you believe there's purpose and value in what you're going through right now?
- Practice gratitude daily. Make a list of five things you're grateful for each day.
- Be a helper (when giving feels right to you).
- Write about your thoughts and feelings on the subject of getting older. Buy a journal and devote it to that subject. Write about how you feel about being your current age. What do you dislike the most about aging? Then make another list. What are your favorite things about being your current age?
- Write your money goals. Do a new goal sheet once a year or as needed. Put life in your goals by writing what you want to do and create, not just what you want to have.
- Celebrate your rites of passage. Throw a party for yourself. Your normal is changing. It's common to feel lost for a while. Give yourself some slack, some room to wander about in the mystery and let your new life take shape and form. Buy new clothes. Rearrange your home. Make a photograph album of pictures and remembrances from the time in your life that's passing. Or do some writing about that part of of your life. Write a story. We need to find a way to to say goodbye to what we're leaving and hello to what's ahead.
- Choose how you want to handle aging. We can fix or replace many body parts that wear out. There are forms of physical exercise - even walking - that we can do our entire lives. Yoga...and tai chi are great ways to keep our energy vital. Make a commitment to take great care of yourself.
- Get your affairs in order. Have a will and a living will.
- Watch for warning signs being fired in your life. It's easy to get lax...and not stay present in [your] body. The author said, "I'm up in my head. That's when I'm prone to falling down the steps, falling down flat on the sidewalk, giving myself a concussion. I need to be reminded to slow down, stay centered. Stay present and aware. Listen."
- Take care of your health. It's common when we're grieving to have compounded losses. We get loss piled upon loss, then another one layered on those. Our immune system may be shot. Chronic or acute illnesses frequently begin during grief. Get the medical care you need.