Five steps to well-being during bereavement
Following the loss of a loved one, it’s easy to overlook the importance of your well-being. Understandably, you’re very upset, but allowing too much negative introspection can be detrimental to your overall health and outlook, and profoundly affect your ability as a Solo Mom to move forward with the fighting spirit you need for your and your children’s immediate future.
Below are five suggestions to help get you through this difficult time:
1. Develop a daily fitness routine
Following a regular fitness routine first thing in the morning will help kick-start the day. A few simple stretching exercises to work your body from head to toe, along with a positive focus, will give you the gentle push you need toward cultivating a sense of self-care. Feeling good mentally and physically can contribute to your recovery following bereavement.
Yoga is an excellent form of exercise you can do at home on your own, via online exercise videos, or by taking classes at a nearby gym. Following my first pregnancy, I was very fortunate to find a regular class at my local Y. The on-site crèche was an absolute blessing!
Over time I have established certain exercises to suit my own needs. The daily 10-minute yoga routine, which I have practiced now for more than 30 years, is something I value and take with me wherever I go. I have followed this routine while overlooking the Gulf Coast in Florida, and bowed and stretched at an open window looking toward the Eiffel Tower in Paris!
Following the sudden death of my husband more than 20 years ago, practicing yoga definitely contributed to my recovery. It was something over which I had control and could use to my benefit whenever I felt low. As a Solo Mom, I can’t recommend it enough.
2. Get some fresh air—and do some aerobic exercise
If you’re fortunate enough to be within easy reach of a park or open countryside, putting on a pair of sneakers and running, jogging, or walking briskly can work wonders for the spirit. This is something you can share with your children—even if it means jogging while pushing a stroller. Appreciating the sounds and smells of nature will help dissipate any feelings you might have of feeling sorry for yourself and will instill a stronger mindset for you to get on with life. Surrounding yourself with nature encourages thoughts of rebirth and recovery, helping you reappraise your future.
If mobility is an issue, then make the most of any outside open space you can find with ease. Sitting on a park bench or in your garden and breathing deeply is better than doing nothing at all.
When you exercise, your body releases endorphins, chemicals that help you destress. Likewise, mindfully replacing negative thoughts with positive thoughts will also get the endorphins going and help lift your spirits. As Michelle Steinke-Baumgard has shared through her blog, One Fit Widow, and her book, Healthy Healing (HarperOne, 2017), the benefits of dealing with grief in this way can be extraordinarily powerful.
As a Solo Mom, it isn’t always possible to find time for yourself, but a single bend or stretch, or a few moments of inward thinking are better than doing nothing at all.
3. Discover the benefits of meditation
Meditation is a growing trend and one that is helping many people cope with various conditions, including anxiety and stress. Meditation calms the mind and relaxes the body. It does take time and patience to achieve a satisfying outcome, but the benefits are well worth the effort, even if you start by meditating for only five minutes a day. Recommended courses are the best way to begin, but there are plenty of tips available online and in books.
It’s very easy to neglect your mental health. As a Solo Mom, you’re likely to have a busy agenda, which could get in the way of responding to your own physical and mental needs. Sleep loss is a familiar problem, as is putting everyone else first when you should be ensuring your own needs are met in order to meet the demands of others. Learning how to focus on the inner you will work wonders for your morale and help establish a balance when chaos prevails.
Making a concerted effort to keep yourself fit during the early days of bereavement will give you the determination you need to get through this challenging period.
4. Eat well
The need to follow a healthy eating regimen is very well documented, and it’s up to us to apply common sense when it comes to what we eat and drink. Being conscientious about our diet when we’re feeling vulnerable is particularly important.
Following bereavement or any other life-changing trauma, it’s easy to neglect our well-being, particularly the need to eat well. Comfort eating when you’re feeling low is OK once in a while, but relying on sugary foods and drinks to lift your spirits on a regular basis is not recommended. As a Solo Mom, it’s doubly important to nourish your body with healthy food because doing so will set a good example for your children.
Look for recipes and plan meals that suit your diet and routine: if they’re quick and easy to prepare, so much the better. It could be, of course, that cooking is something you really enjoy, and preparing food for yourself and your children is a welcome diversion. Also, encouraging your children to help prepare food will hopefully inspire them to develop a healthy approach to their own diet in the long term.
5. Keep a journal
Not everyone will relish the thought of keeping a journal, but making a note of relevant things that happen in our lives is a worthwhile habit to adopt.
When you’re feeling despondent because you have lost someone you love, writing about how you feel can help you initiate a plan of action to get you back on your feet. Finding a pathway to recovery might be a slow process, but keeping a journal can be cathartic, illustrate where you are at the moment, and hopefully dictate where you want to be in the future.
Bereavement is something most of us will have to confront at some point in our lives, but losing a partner, especially when you have young children, is harder still. When you lose someone you love dearly and with whom you have shared a life, it will take time before you’re able to come to terms with the loss.
Following the death of my husband, I felt as though I would never experience pure joy again. However, happiness, it seems, comes in many guises, and I can honestly say I have learned to savor the moment and not dwell on the past.
Recovery will be imperceptible, but as a Solo Mom, focusing on maintaining your physical and mental well-being, for you and for the sake of your children, will help restore your spirit. Supporting your children and shaping their progress over time will bring you a satisfaction you never thought possible and, it is hoped, many joyful moments to add to your already treasured memories.
You may also be interested in hearing from another widowed Solo Mom in the article “How a Journey to Fitness Taught Me About the Woman I Really Am.”
A former advertising executive, Annie Hunte is the founder of widowsorwidowers.com, the longest running dating site exclusively for widows and widowers.
Please feel free to contact us with any comments or questions.