First Aid for Impact
Grief impact is a time of confusion, shock and a desire to “do something.” If you are a new widow/er, or find yourself supporting a newly bereaved person, here are some practical tips we have found helpful in the immediate aftermath of loss.
Gets some ASAP. You will almost positively have trouble sleeping. Your body NEEDS sleep. You can try over the counter ones at first, but don’t hesitate to talk to your doctor about something stronger, if needed. It’s not weakness to need these.
Get an accordion, AKA expanding file folder! Put all the death-related documents in it. Don’t worry about organizing it in the beginning. When you start needing the documents, they will all be in one place.
Before anybody does the laundry, grab a few articles of their clothing and put them in a zip-loc bag. If somebody has done the laundry, take items of clothing that your person wore frequently. You can preserve their smell for a while.
Honestly, you might not care about your safety, especially in the beginning. Stay safe for your family, your frields, and your community. Remember, you won’t always feel like you do right now.
Come up with a “code word” for close friends and family to let them know that you need during the “social” parts of the aftermath. For example, if you need a break from visitations or need to step away for some quiet time.
Point Of Contact
Designate somebody you trust to be the “point of contact.” They can field all the questions and decide if you, personally, need to be the decision maker and when is a good time to present those things for your input.
If your funeral home asks if you’d like them to take your person’s finger print for a piece of memorial jewelry, say “yes.” You don’t have to buy the piece, but it’s better to say “yes” and have the option down the road.
Nourish & Hydrate
Find SOMETHING you can stomach in the beginning. Ideally liquid + calories (think smoothie, or protein drink). Make yourself drink. Or assign somebody to remind you to drink.
Whenever you think of anything that needs to be done, write it on a sticky note. Put those on the fridge or another central location. Whenever anybody asks what they can do, refer them to the list.
You Do You
But on the flip side. How and when you do tasks is COMPLETELY up to you. Don’t be pushed into getting rid of clothing or give away belongings, put things away or buying a headstone, etc. You get to be in control of when those things happen.
Take advantage of the help in the beginning. It feels like it will always be there, but it will fade away. Seriously, ask for it all.
You’re Not Crazy
You are going to feel sad and happy, devastated and okay in quick successfion or at the same time. IT IS NORMAL! You are going to feel like you might be going crazy. You aren’t. Nobody gets to decide how you feel but you. And none of it is wrong.
Put absolutely EVERY appointment or task in your phone calendar (with an alert). Widow brain/fog is REAL; you might not even remember the routine things you’ve done for years.
Move your body! Exercise is a known anti-depressant. Those feel-good chemicals will be super-helpful. Start where you are, walking, yoga, cycling, swimming, aerobics. Doing activities outdoors is especially helpful.
Find Your Kind
Find other widow/ers of similar age! It is sooo helpful to talk to people who “get it.” You can even lurk in online groups until you are ready to talk. The Widow Wives Club on Facebook is one option. But there are many others.
Write It Down
Get a journal. Write all the good things, write all the bad things. You might see some blessings. Over time you perspective will change and it will be interesting to reflect back on the past and see how you’ve grown.
If you live in the US and have children under age 16, make an appointment with the Social Security Office ASAP. Those appointments typically schedule out weeks in advance. This is something you have to do yourself.
If you have kids, consider joining a children’s grief counseling group. Ask somebody to research those available in your community. Sometimes they have waiting lists, so it is good to call early, so you can begin sooner rather than later.
Keep the Cards
Don’t throw cards away! Keep them for a few months. You won’t remember any of them and it’s nice to look through them again when you need a boost. And, you might have missed some money or gift cards in them!
Find something to care for or tend to. Don’t have kids? What about a pet? What about a plant? Don’t like plants? How about sourdough? Do something for somebody else. It will help you feel like you have some meaning and purpose.
Find SOMETHING to look forward to. A trip, a race, a goal, a meal at a favorite restaurant, a visit from a friend. This can help keep you going forward and not be buried by what you are feeling in the moment.