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Supporting your mental health when grieving

09 February 2021


"There are three needs of the griever: To find the words for the loss, to say the words aloud and to know that the words have been heard."

- Victoria Alexander

Sometimes we just have to get back to basics. When grieving, our mental health can take a real hit and it can seem like everything is a bit too hard. Finding ways to reconnect with yourself and slow down can really improve your mood and help you to cope.

Here are five suggestions of ways you can support your own mental health while grieving:

Reduce your screen time

Turn off the TV, walk away from the computer and put your phone down. We are bombarded by messages these days on a multitude of devices and it can really impact our mental health.

Improving your mindfulness and being more present in each moment can reduce feelings of stress and overwhelm, which tend to amplify grief. It could be tempting to distract or “numb” with time online or by watching entertainment on your TV or devices. However, the constant pushing back of feelings and emotions can only delay your exposure to grief and amplify it in time.

You may also find that being “on” all the time and having these messages and thoughts added into your mind can increase reminders about your grief and leave you feeling worse. There are other ways to gain support and spending time being still with your mind and doing things that truly give you space to be mindful can help, without the need to numb.

Go for a walk

Exercise has consistently proven to be beneficial to our physical and mental health. A gentle walk, even for five minutes, can improve your mood and reduce stress.

When we exercise, we create endorphins which can increase feelings of positivity and lift the mood. It can also give you something to focus on, again getting to practice mindfulness. Try to concentrate on your breath as you walk and simply focus on the act of putting one foot in front of the other. This is a type of moving meditation and it can really help to bring back the simplicity of taking one thing at a time and being in the moment.

Spend time in nature

If you’re not yet feeling up to a walk and exercise seems a bit too overwhelming, getting out into the fresh air and being in nature can also be hugely beneficial to your mood.

Whether you drive to the beach, walk to a park or simply step outside into the fresh air, you can improve your wellbeing instantly. Getting some Vitamin D from the sun, feeling the wind touch your face and having your feet planted firmly on the earth, will all be very grounding for you at this time.

Again, it doesn’t have to be a long time – though you may find once you are outside and start to feel the benefits, you might like to stay longer. Take a look around you, acknowledge what you see and focus on the various elements of nature – leaves on trees, birds in the sky, the sound of the breeze and the movement of water. It can all help to reconnect you to the simple things and help you find a sense of calm when other things may seem difficult.

Call a loved one

Sometimes when we are in grief, it can take us deep into our mind and we can get stuck in our thoughts. Calling a friend or family member can break the circuit of thoughts rushing around in the mind and give us something else to focus on.

You don’t have to talk about anything big or important, you don’t even have to address your grief or the thoughts you’ve been having. Simply speaking to another person, hearing their voice and knowing they are there can be beneficial. You can let them know that you don’t want to discuss anything, you only want to chat or just know they are at the other end of the phone.

Letting someone else support us and be there can be a huge help in reducing the burden of grief and the mental load that comes with us. If you’re not up for calling, send a text and ask your friend or family member to reach out to you and check in from time to time. Every little bit helps.

Hang out with animals

Our animal friends have a special way of helping us to find calm and re-centre in difficult times. They are intuitive and may even come to us before we know we need them. If you have a pet, make some time to go and sit with them. Patting a dog or cat, watching a fish in a tank or listening to your bird sing can all help you to come back to the present and it can be such a wonderful sensory experience.

If you don’t have pets, you might like to go out and watch animals in nature. Seeing the birds in the trees, lizards in the garden or even kangaroos in a paddock can really help you to be mindful of the world around you. If you’re fortunate enough to live near an animal park or zoo, a visit there can also be really rewarding. Animals such as horses are often used in therapy settings for their calming and intuitive nature. Patting a horse for a short time can help you to feel more connected to nature, more compassionate and less concerned with what’s happening in your mind as you are brought back into the wider world.

There are many other ways to support your mental health when grieving and if you feel that you need more than the tools at your immediate disposal, please see these resources below for professional guidance and support.

If you need support while grieving and would like to look at some gentle activities with guidance, visit the Centre for Care and Wellbeing page.

For additional support when grieving, please contact the Australian Centre for Grief and Bereavement (ACGB) for resources and guidance - 1800 642 066. ACGB is the largest provider of grief and bereavement education in Australia, providing support for bereaved and grieving Australians for more than 22 years.

If you are feeling worried, low or struggling to cope, please call Lifeline or Beyond Blue for immediate help and support.

Lifeline

Lifeline provides all Australians experiencing a personal crisis with access to online, phone and face-to-face crisis support and suicide prevention services.

24 Hr Telephone Crisis Support – 13 11 14

lifeline.org.au

Beyond Blue

No matter how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting you, Beyond Blue has information, strategies and expert advice to help support you.

Call 1800 512 348 24 hours / 7 days a week

For additional support during COVID-19, Beyond blue have created this dedicated space:
Online forums 24 hours / 7 days a week

coronavirus.beyondblue.org.au