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Short and Sweet Summary: If you’ve just been existing and not really enjoying life, it’s time for a change. Shake things up and get out of your grief funk by following these foolproof ways to alleviate grief and actually start living again. You deserve this.
It’s safe to say that most widows go through a period of time post-death in which they have no idea how they got from one moment/day to the next. You’re floating. There’s no manual to teach us how to go from mental anguish to accepting reality. How to start living instead of just existing.
Just existing is about all you can do in the beginning. Those first few months and possibly years after your spouse dies are filled with confusion, anger, fear and a whole host of mixed-up, discombobulated thoughts and actions.
The struggle is real. And living in a world not of your choosing is sheer torture. Do you also carry guilt for not doing more/knowing more/caring more?
Ugh. Guilt is not useful. Let that shit go.
When your beginning turns into the middle and you’re still just existing, it’s time to shake things up. Time to get out of your grief funk. The days of just existing are OVER. You’re alive and you damn well better start living.
1. MAKE ROOM FOR GRIEF
By now you’ve probably had your fill of grief. It’s sometimes easier to push it down and suffocate it than feel the uncomfortable feelings. But grief doesn’t really go away, we just learn to make room for it.
Part of healing and moving forward with grief is to acknowledge it when it shows up. You don’t have to go all-in every time you feel a twinge of grief surface, because sometimes acceptance is really all it takes. Here’s a recap of some Conscious Ways to Acknowledge Grief when you’re ready to accept and support your mourning process and begin healing.
Can you make room for grief by yielding to it instead of ignoring it?
2. CONTROL YOUR CORE GROUP
Your core group is the group of people with whom you spend the most time. Because you spend the most time with them, they affect your energy, your mood, and your point of view.
If you hang around positive people, you’re more likely to think positive thoughts. And, if you hang around negative people, you’re most likely to think negative thoughts. Basically, your core group determines how you think and what you decide. It’s not that you can’t make your own decisions or come to your own conclusions.
I’m just saying that your environment plays a bigger role than you think. So you must choose your core group wisely.
“You’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with”
If you have family members who are more destructive than supportive, remove them from your inner circle. You don’t have to disown anyone, but you don’t have to invite more drama into your life, either. The same goes for friends. Not everyone is able to mentally or emotionally support grievers, so it’s OK to let them off the hook. They don’t belong in your inner circle affecting your limited energy, either.
Do what’s best for you and move some people to the periphery instead of smack dab in the center of your life.
The center, your core group, is reserved ONLY for those people who have your best interests at heart.
3. REDUCE SOCIAL MEDIA EXPOSURE
There are lots of benefits to social media and then there are some pretty severe disadvantages.
The biggest disadvantage is the tendency to compare yourself to others. But, those comparisons aren’t always comparing identical things. There’s no reason to compare your grief journey when every griever is on a different path.
Hanging out in widow Facebook groups or other groups can be good for a while, but it loses its appeal when the group remains full of despair. When you’re ready to alleviate grief and start living again, you can’t be surrounded by perpetual hopelessness. Because you’ve seen slivers of hope. You know it exists and you’re ready to explore what that hope means to you. Take yourself away from social media influences who aren’t open to hope.
Another disadvantage of social media is feeling judged by others for being happy. Or you start to judge yourself and feel guilty that you’re happy.
It can be a no-win situation.
If you really want to learn how to offload some of your grief and start living again, consider reducing your social media exposure to help benefit your mood. To stop comparing and stop justifying. To be OK with being happy.
If you need more convincing, here are 9 Positive Benefits of a Social Media Detox.
4. RECOGNIZE YOUR SELF-WORTH
You are worthy of happiness. You are. Just because your person died doesn’t mean you’re destined for a life of misery.
You’re worthy of love, contentment, joy, and whatever else you want. It’s when you don’t believe in your worth that you remain stuck in a negative loop of just existing.
When you’re ready to start living again, you can stop feeling guilty for feeling good. You’re allowed to feel good and be happy and smile and laugh. You’ve been through so much that it’s time to recognize how amazing you are for keeping your shit together for this long. Widowhood isn’t for the faint of heart. And you’re rocking it.
Please recognize your worth and start owning it.
5. START A NEW HOBBY
What do you like to do to have fun? Start doing that.
Hobbies relieve stress by giving you a purpose, letting you engage in activity and enabling you to receive gratification from it.
When you’ve run out of ways to alleviate grief, why not start a new hobby or pick up an old one? Doing something with your mind, your hands, or your body takes you out of your grief funk and plops you right into engaging in something fun – and productive.
This article, How to Find Hobbies As An Adult, offers some ideas to get you started.
6. CHANGE YOUR LANGUAGE
How do you talk to yourself? Are your words positive or negative? Is the way you talk to others kinder than the way you talk to yourself?
When you’re ready to alleviate parts of your grief and start living again, pay special attention to the words you use. Psychotherapist Denise Fournier, Ph.D., wrote a great article on the Psychology Today website about how changing your language can change your life.
Dr. Fournier says, ” We are all in relationship with ourselves, and the way we speak to and about ourselves goes a long way in influencing how we feel. Using only our words, we can construct a prison for ourselves or set ourselves free.”
The article illustrates how using subtle language shifts results in major life shifts. I believe it. I gotta work on this one, too.
My favorite suggestion is changing one small word from I’m going through something difficult to I’m growing through something difficult.
I love that little shift in words! You can read the rest of Dr. Fournier’s suggestions here.
In the meantime, let’s start talking nicer to ourselves. What do you say?
The summer after my husband died, I joined a Bubble Soccer league. Back in the early days of grief, my widow brain wasn’t thinking clearly or I would’ve chosen a sport less physically demanding. LOL. This isn’t me or my team in the video, but it gives you an idea of what Bubble Soccer is all about.
Anyway, I joined the league because I wanted to have some fun. I needed to get myself and my kids out of the house, so every Friday night I ran around a soccer field trying not to get bounced around like a popcorn kernel in a vat of hot oil.
When most days are filled with doom and despair, it’s important to incorporate some fun into your life. You don’t need to get bounced around a soccer field like I did, but try to find something you can do to bring more joy and wonder into your life.
Need some inspiration? Here are 10 Ways to Make Your Life More Playful.
Travel is good for the soul. When you’re ready to alleviate some of your grief and start living again, plan a trip somewhere other than your own backyard. These 9 Reasons You Need to Travel More are terrific reminders of why you need to get your travel mojo revved up again.
Even if you work full-time, have limited funds or aren’t confident traveling solo, you still have lots of options. Travel doesn’t have to mean far-away places or exotic locales. It’s not about the money or the location, it just means you’re getting out of your house and seeing something new. Doing something different.
You know, living.
Check out Dave Ramsey’s 15 Cheap Vacation Ides for Your Whole Family for budget-friendly ideas.
I traveled more when my kids were younger. Now that I have teenagers I have a hard time justifying a vacation with kids who are surly, disrespectful and just plain annoying to be around. But, I need to follow my own advice and plan a trip somewhere even if it means going by myself!
The health benefits of exercise are too numerous to mention. I know how hard it is to stick to an exercise plan when your energy level is at an all-time low. But exercise is still one of the best ways to help yourself feel better and alleviate grief by getting rid of toxins in your body.
Exercise releases dopamine which is the feel-good chemical associated with happiness, productivity, mood and more. In the article, 6 Reasons Why Exercise Makes You Happy, the number one reason exercise makes you happy is dopamine production. We need it, and exercise helps us get it.
I used to think exercise was all about cardio and sweating and pushing myself to the limit. But I’ve learned in my wise old age that exercise is whatever you do that keeps you moving. Whether it’s yoga, swimming, or dancing, experts say to just keep moving your body for a minimum of 30 minutes 5-6 days a week.
Yoga and walking are my favorite exercises. I do yoga 3 days a week and I walk 3 miles/day, 3-4 days a week. I listen to a podcast while I walk so that’s my productivity hack for the day. Exercise and learn something new at the same time!
What can you do to get your body moving?
10. EAT GOOD FOOD
Eating good food is the ultimate self-care for widows.
It’s not easy to prepare meals or figure out how to eat healthy when you’re in the throes of grief. Or cooking for one. I get it. I’ve been there. But, when you’re ready to stop existing and start living again, nourishing your body with good food is an excellent place to start.
I don’t like to cook so I usually sift through recipes that call for the least amount of effort. If you’re a lazy cook like me, here are some simple ways to fix yourself a good meal:
- 40 Quick and Easy Meals for One – these recipes from the Food Network give you loads of ideas for cooking solo.
- Free meal plans from Detoxinista – do you have trouble deciding what to make? Get some inspiration from Megan Gilmore, the recipe creator from the Detoxinista website, and follow along as she shares her weekly dinner meal ideas. These are healthy meals that taste delicious. I have all of her cookbooks!
- Minimalist Baker’s recipes use minimal ingredients – all recipes require 10 ingredients or less, 1 bowl, or 30 minutes or less to prepare. That’s my kind of recipe. And the videos show you step-by-step instructions. Easy Peasy.
11. SURRENDER/RELEASE EXPECTATIONS
This is where I need the most help. How about you?
You’ve been carrying a heavy load with this grief. Carrying the past from yesterday into today. And still carrying it tomorrow. Are you ready to set it down? To stop carrying such a heavy load on top of your already fragile shoulders?
My need to let go reminds me of a story about traveling monks that my kids and I used to read in the highly recommended book Zen Shorts by Joh Muth.
Two traveling monks reached a town where there was a young woman waiting to step out of her sedan chair. The rains had made deep puddles and she couldn’t step across without spoiling her silken robe. She stood there, looking very cross and impatient. She was scolding her attendants. They had nowhere to place the packages they held for her, so they couldn’t help her across the puddle.
The younger monk noticed the woman, said nothing and walked by. The older monk quickly picked her up and put her on his back, transported her across the water, and put her down on the other side. She didn’t thank the older monk, she just shoved him out of the way and departed. As they continued on their way the young monk was brooding and preoccupied. After several hours, unable to hold his silence, he spoke out.
“That woman back there was very selfish and rude, but you picked her up on your back and carried her! Then she didn’t even thank you!”
“I set the woman down hours ago,” the older monk replied. “Why are you still carrying her?”
If you think you’ve carried it long enough, it’s OK to set it down. What is “it?” Whatever is too heavy.
When things aren’t going the way you think they should go, try surrendering to what is. To alleviate the awful grief in your life and start living again, let whatever happens happen and see how much more peaceful your life is.
It’s not easy, I know. But I will be right there alongside you continuing to do the same.
12. DO NOTHING
This is one of my favorite ways to get back into my groove when grief throws me upside-down. It takes a lot of work to work through grief and all of its associated emotions. Plus, when you spend your days catering to everyone else, sometimes it’s best to do nothing at all.
I know it sounds counter-intuitive to do nothing to alleviate grief, but doing nothing is sometimes exactly what it takes.
13. LET LOVE IN
One of the saddest things I hear widows say is that they found their one true love, he died and now they’re destined to be alone forever.
Um, no. That’s not the way it works.
I don’t believe for one minute we only get one love in this lifetime. For one thing, a human’s capacity for love is limitless. Why deny something so intrinsic to our core being? To our salvation? Love is all around you in infinite forms. And it’s within your reach if you choose it.
“For the first time in my life, I saw the truth as it is set into song by so many poets, proclaimed as the final wisdom by so many thinkers. The truth – that Love is the ultimate and highest goal to which man can aspire. Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: The salvation of man is through love and in love.”
If you don’t believe Viktor Frankl, I have a personal story that proves you can find love again if you want to. You can read my story here. As an aside, I didn’t love my husband any less because I chose to start dating and bring happiness and love back into my life. As a matter of fact, it’s a testament to the powerful love my husband and I had for each other that I even wanted to experience a loving relationship again.
In other words, you can do it too. When you’re ready to alleviate your overwhelming grief and start living again, let love in.
14. SAVE MONEY/CONTROL YOUR FINANCES
A great way to stop just existing and start living again is to get control of your money so you can make sound financial decisions. When you aren’t sure how to create or follow a budget or you’re in a debt spiral it’s hard to feel good about anything.
To explain this in more detail, head over to the 7 Critical Money Management Skills Every Widow Should Have post that outlines simple ways to make your job of managing finances less stressful.
Whenever, wherever and for however long you need to. Because emotions pop up in unexpected places. Just go with it.
WIDOW WRAP UP
It’s up to you to decide what kind of relationship you want with grief. It’s normal in the beginning to get lost in an ocean of grief and get beat up by the grief waves crashing down on you over and over again.
But when your beginning turns into your middle and you’re ready to alleviate some of that grief and start living again, you can use any one of the options listed here as a jump-off point.
Here’s the thing…there are no easy answers or specific scripts to follow. Some things work for one widow but not for another. So you need to do whatever it takes to find what works for you and get out of your grief funk once in a while.
You deserve it.