Friday, February 27, 2015

Health During Grief

Photo: Bynie, by Angela McKellar, June 2011

Grief sucks. It drains us of our energy, it takes time away from our normal routine, it adds extra chores and errands to our schedule, sleep patterns suffer, and no doubt tears flood your eyes and thoughts fill your head. 

I'm walking through a season of grief right now and I hate it. Our 10-year-old puppy-girl, Bynie, passed away last Friday night. It was unexpected and I've had a hard time this past week. Our house is much quieter, our routine is different and our 1-year-old puppy-boy doesn't know what to do with himself.

Once I got past the initial couple of days of shock, I reminded myself that I need to take extra thought in caring for myself. Here are some things that might be helpful to others walking through grief.

I don't pretend that walking through grief over the loss of a dog in any way compares to a human loved one who has gone on, but grief is grief and we need to make sure we stay healthy through the process.

Sleep deprivation contributes to a weakened immune system causing colds, flu and other ailments, and adds stress to your pancreas, brain and blood pressure.

On a good day we need 8 hours of sleep. If you're grieving it may be hard to sleep, tossing and turning with uncontrollable thoughts running through your head. Plan to go to bed early or don't set the alarm for the morning if possible. Rest as much as you can. 

Take Supplements
If you regularly take supplements, now is not the time to stop, especially if they have been "prescribed" by your doctor. Because grief affects us physically, you need them to keep your hormones in balance, immune system strong and your body functioning at its optimum.

If you’re not on a supplement routine, look for a good quality vitamin C and D and multiple to get you through the next few weeks. (Locally, the folks at Harvest Health will help you find the right ones for you.)

Eat Healthy
Your body needs fuel to get you through the tough days ahead, especially if there are funerals to arrange or attend. Keep your mind and immune system healthy by eating whole foods - vegetables, fruit, nuts, high quality protein - and drink lots of water. Avoid sugar and processed food.

While tempting to run through the drive-thru during this busy time, now is the time to cook at home, or ask a friend to provide a home cooked meal or two for you. 

Activity helps with stress. Try to find time for a walk once or twice a day, even if it's only for 10 minutes. It will help clear your mind as well as help your body. (It might also help you sleep better.)

Remember the funny things, the crazy stories, weird habits or quirky routines. Talk about them with each other and laugh together at the good memories.

Also, watch something funny on TV or DVD. I have some Carol Burnett episodes on my DVR that helped take my mind off my dog and gave me something to laugh at. I mean, Harvey Korman and Tim Conway, c'mon! (Mr. Tudball vs The Coffee Machine)

It's ok to cry. You may cry once or you may cry for days or weeks, but cry. We all grieve differently and at different paces, so don't try to rush yourself through or grieve how you think you "should". Give yourself permission to take as much time as you need to grieve.

Get back to your normal routine as quick as possible. My puppy-girl passed away at 6:30 Friday night and it was Tuesday morning before I was back to my day job. It felt good to get back to a routine where my mind wasn't constantly thinking of the images I witnessed Friday night and where I wasn't thinking about missing Bynie's presence in the house.

God knows. He hurts with you and He will comfort you. Rest in His peace.

Isaiah 49:13
For the Lord comforts his people and will have compassion on his afflicted ones.

Again, I know losing a dog is nothing like losing parents, siblings, other close family members or friends; I don't want to trivialize that. But please, DO take care of yourself when seasons of grief come. And remember - it's only for a season.

Bynie's Mad at Kyle
This is from October 2008. I was fortunate enough to have the camera rolling for this one! Bynie didn't like that Kyle wouldn't give her the tennis ball.

Read my previous post: Snack Attack
Read my next post: Take Time: Learn