This is a day so many people will struggle with. It doesn’t matter if you lost the father to your children or your own father. This is a day that will hit you hard. You will likely feel alone. Lost (especially if you have recently lost both). Devastated. Even if it has been years, and these significant men in your life are absent, you will find that sadness is there. In your heart. In your mind. And in your body.
There is no point in pretending that there is a way of getting through this day without immense courage and resilience. The fact that you are reading this blog is a brilliant first step. Well done. This means you will address and find your coping tactics. Here are some tips and psychological tools to help you get through the day.
First things first. You matter. Your wellbeing matters and you must make sure you do what works for you. So whatever this is, make it a priority. Whether it means you need some time alone, or you want to avoid the day all together by going on a road trip or whatever it is. Give it to yourself.
Grief is a personal affair and there is not much wrong you can do here. Your psychological journey will take you on your path and how you navigate this is your choice. I have no judgement at all. Some people will want to surround themselves with lots of friends and family to focus on the good things in life and others will want to be alone, letting the tears flow. Whatever it is, it is your experience and this is valid.
Remember practicing self-care and self-compassion are hugely important in your adjustment to grief.
In order to experience that upward turn towards feeling that the new kind of normal is ok, it does help to face the grief. Burying it, means you push it down into your body and the body (as we know) will remember and find it’s own way to express it. Many people with repressed grief end up drinking, having disrupting eating behaviours, develop mental health difficulties with anxiety, panic, OCD and depression and some experience somatic pains. This is your body doing it what it can to reduce the impact of grief. So psychologically facing it is the most healing way forward for you. Especially if you have good support.
With this in mind you may want to allow time to grieve. As I’ve said many times before, Grief is a family affair so I see no harm in taking the children or your widowed mother to the cemetery to lay some flowers on your loved one’s grave and to have a chat with them. This is of course sad, but in practice it allows you to bring the departed back into your life, to think about them, to remember them, to connect with them in your heart. This is healing.
Some people find it very healing to organise an act of remembrance – like a special walk, or a family gathering at their favourite pub. Something personal and something that allows you to feel that you are honouring their life, their legacy.
It may be that for you, getting through the day is going to be such an ordeal you would rather avoid it altogether. This is fine. In this case, what I would encourage you to think about (especially if you are caring for little ones) is to let them know that you feel very sad today. That you really miss daddy. That if they want to make him a card you will treasure it on his behalf and that for you today, you would like to focus on saying all the good things they remember about dad, have a little cry about it (they need to be given permission to process and express their grief) and then you hope you can all find something fun to do for the day. For daddy.
If you are feeling overwhelmed and you just don’t think you can handle this day – then please reach out to you family, friends and ask for their support. Ask them to have the kids. Perhaps they can give you lunch. Make life a little easier and do not expect yourself to go through this alone. This is too harsh. Family and friends care and it is how connections are deepened. Trust in them.
When you feel that you just need to have some way of grouding yourself – grief can feel frightening and you may be feeling like you are losing your sense of being centred – I suggest that you compassionately practice some mindfulness or take yourself out for a good walk outdoors in nature. You may want to do both. This is all good for you. From a neuroscience point of view, such self-care behaviours will release your body’s natural anti-depressants and this helps. Mindfulness won’t eradicate your grief (of course not and in some cases practicing mindfulness may be too much to expect) but if you can manage your relationship with what mindfulness is about, it will alleviate some of the extreme aspects of your groundlessness by allowing you to be in the present moment, without judgement. It will allow you to validate your present moments in the here and now in a compassionate attitude and this helps. There is something healing in validating your truth and appreciating your inner experience.
Below you will find a mindfulness exercise you may want to do. If you need help reach out to professional services. There is lots of help out. For more on grief, refer to my website and my other posts. You are also welcome to follow me on Instagram DrChloePsychologist- where I regularly post advice to help those coping with grief, trauma and psychological distress.
Mindfullness for grief
This is an exercise not to clear your mind, or reduce your grief. This is not possible. This is an exercise to allow you to feel valid in your present moment, in your reality and in recognising what your thoughts, feelings are, acknowledging them and letting them go for now. Imagine you are standing at a platform with trains coming and going. Your thoughts are like the trains. They come. They go. None of them you board if you can help it.
Your task in this exercise is to focus on your body’s movements. Breathing in and out. Slowly. With focus only on your breath. Sitting comfortable. Quietly. Without interruption. Tell yourself you are going to do this exercise without judgement. As you breath, imagine you are breathing in love with every breath. Hold each breath for 2 or 3 seconds. Then breath out your upsetting feelings. Do not follow these feelings. Do not engage with them. Just breath them out. Letting them come and go. Remember the thoughts that come up are trains, passing through your station. Do not board them.
The point of this exercise is not to avoid thoughts but to notice them. This gives you mastery over what you are experiencing. Noticing what thoughts and feelings overwhelm you is important. It will help you with getting through the day.
Practice this breathing exercise for at least 5 mins at the beginning of your day if you can. Repeat it later. And set your intention to be compassionate to you today. Self compassion is healing.