By Rachel Thompson, APCC, CGCS
Summer means longer days, hotter temperatures, more time by the water, and social get-togethers with good food and cold drinks. For those who are grieving, summer can include fresh grief waves as the sensory cues are reminders of past memories along with the acute and painful awareness that their person is no longer here to share it. Grievers may find they lack the energy to enjoy all of the events and activities they once did before their person died. Wherever you find yourself today in your grief, some compassionate reminders may cushion the difficulty that comes with grieving in the summer season.
- Check-in on your sleep hygiene, nutrition and exercise. These three components of health greatly affect the intensity of grief experiences. Summertime can create a change in routine for many, and it is easy to let self-care slide. Now is a good time to create a stable routine that works for you.
- Take time to note what was special about your relationship with your person during summertime. Create a ritual or activity that honors it. Did you spend time taking walks? Consider visiting some of your favorite trails. Have a special summer snack? Invite people who are close to share it with you and talk about your person. Finding ways to connect to the good memories and aspects of your relationship can build resiliency and a comforting connection to your person. Get creative.
- Allow yourself to feel your pain. Grief comes with a mixture of many feelings. Find ways to express your feelings whether it is journaling, talking with a friend, creating art or writing a letter to your person and telling them how you feel. Pain and difficult emotions are a healing part of grief. Find a safe time each day to feel and observe your pain, and then turn to your list of enjoyable activities that can help ground you as you rest from your feelings.
- Re-engage with your community—but have an escape route ready. Being alone can be re-charging, but too much isolation creates more stress. For each event, make a plan with options so you can regroup or exit if you find that you do not have the energy. Recruit friends or family to help you. Be specific with your requests so that everyone is on the same page with how best to support you during social gatherings. Grief groups are offered through The Elizabeth Hospice as a place to connect with others who are grieving.
- Depending on your unique life events of the same time last year, your body can respond as if those traumatic memories were happening in the present. If you find that a sense of panic or anxiety is welling up without an obvious present stressor or a distressing memory keeps coming to mind, consider finding a safe person to talk to about these memories in a safe place. Grief counselors are trained to help you heal from traumatic memories and can provide support. If you are finding that it is difficult to do life’s tasks or are needing a listening ear, reach out to The Elizabeth Hospice for grief counseling today at 833.349.2054.
Rachel Thompson is an Associate Professional Clinical Counselor (APCC), Certified Grief Counseling Specialist (CGCS), and EMDR Trained Therapist providing grief counseling with The Elizabeth Hospice.