Mental and physical heath seem to be on the back burner for many grieving people. It is hard to get the energy for either. There are so many feelings that go with the grieving process that taking care of yourself goes out the window for a while. However, it is important to at least think about what could be helpful in these areas. Mary-Ann, Ashley, Jody, Erin, Leslie, and Kyle have given a wonderful variety of ideas this week and I thank them for offering what they do.
As for me, I go to a local workout facility for usually three days a week and in the summer I work on gardens both public for our town and private around our house. Somehow working outdoors gives me both physical and mental pleasure as I watch the flowers come to full bloom. Now with the fall just around the corner, different plants are blooming and each season brings its brightness, even winter. When I am working in the garden or looking through magazines in the winter and planning what will happen next year, I feel a sense of the continuation of life that is helpful as I remember it even in my darkest hours.
For next week, Donna sent a question upon which she would like your opinions. The question is: What do you say to people when they ask about how you are feeling? What do you say to them? Donna says “If someone were to ask me how I feel right now, I have no words...even for myself. I'm afraid I feel tired of sorrow and missing, and feel guilty about that.‘’
I know that our family at TAPS can help her to answer the question and I am looking forward to the answers. So grab a cup of coffee or your favorite beverage and think about what you would say to Donna across the table.
Until next week……..
As to this week’s question, I have joined a water exercise class and really miss it when I can't go. It seems to help calm me as well as work those muscles! I also find praying and walking the trails at the lake to be helpful in calming me somewhat as well as keeping my muscles going. Nature, especially water, seem helpful to me in keeping my nerves in check. Therefore I'm able to calm myself and work my muscles at the same time. A win, win situation for me. I try to keep my brain going by reading light-hearted books and magazines. That is when my brain is clear enough to do so. It's not every day that I can actually do this though. It has taken me quite a while to get to where I can actually read, comprehend what I'm reading, and actually get into the story. Jigsaw puzzles and brain teaser type puzzles seem to be helpful as well.
Roller derby saved my soul… Or sanity anyway! 6 months after my husband died, I attended a boot camp for a local roller derby league. I was hooked immediately!! I left each practice physically & mentally exhausted - but finally able to sleep. The new challenge it presented gave me something to focus on and strive for. I found great pride in my progress as a skater and built new friendships with the women on my team. The team dynamic and focus on goal setting that I found in such a competitive sport contributed tremendously to my mental and physical health.
Keeping myself physically and mentally healthy has been a hard chore each and every day. I am involved in therapy and a women’s' group (not necessarily survivors of suicide but a group of women who have a myriad of day to day problems.) This strengthens me as we meet every other Saturday.
One of the main things that helped me through the past few years has been art. The process of creating it and looking at the work others have made has been incredibly healing. When I first started to take art classes my drawings were small and timid. The lines were light and the figure took up only a portion of the page. As I progressed in my classes, I started to gain a sense of myself and the courage to put what I felt on the page. Instead of pencil I began to use ink. Harsh, scratchy objects filled my pages. I found that this was a place that was safe. I could be angry, sad, happy or empty. Creating is both mental and physical and it can be kept private or shared. Creating has helped me to not only process feelings I didn’t know what to do with, but it also has been my forum to share my experience with others.
To keep physically healthy I am in the pool exercising. I have always done this. Sometimes I swim laps and many times there is a group of us who meet in the pool. We each have a noodle (A noodle is a Styrofoam tubular thing that is about 4 feet long with a circumference about the size of a large orange. It's very light and you can either sit on it or put it under your armpits and stay above water) and we tread water for about an hour. We talk while doing this about anything and everything. Mentally... Carol, you are a big help as are these weekly questions. I have a shrink I speak to and a Rabbi who is terrific. I am lucky to have a great support group of friends most I know since elementary school. It's hard to talk to family - they have a hard time with this and probably always will. I also have the piano. I am a classical pianist and vent though my music.
I run to keep myself both physically and emotionally healthy. The physical benefits of running are obvious and I've definitely kept in shape. But the best part of running for me has been the mental. I'd never run farther than 5 miles before my late fiancé Mike died. And the year after his death, I did my first 10k race. And then I did a ten mile race. And then I signed up for half marathon. This October I will be running my first marathon with the TAPS Run and Remember Team in Washington DC. The physical preparation and the mental toughness needed to keep running when you're exhausted have made me realize I'm stronger than I thought. And it shows me that no matter what, I can still have amazing accomplishments, moments of joy, and conquer my goals, even if Mike's no longer physically here with me. Running proves that I am strong, I am tough, and even if I don't win a race, I have done something amazing - run 26.2 miles!