Even without grief, there are plenty of times in life that we are so overwhelmed we just want to crawl under the covers and hide out forever. Add the physical, emotional, and psychological strain of grief to the mix and it can truly make it hard to even get out of bed.
So in keeping with our promise to give you practical tips for dealing with grief, here’s a simple plan where, in six steps, you can make everything just a little less overwhelming.
If getting out of bed is too much for you, start with pulling back the covers, one at a time. If you’re returning to work, take one deep inhale/exhale in your car before you head in. Whatever you’re trying to accomplish, find the first small step you can take and just plan to do that—moment to moment. It sounds ridiculously simple, but at its heart, overwhelm is our inability to see the tree through the forest. So, take a step back and figure out what little thing you need to do to begin.
Make a list
Take a bit of time to make a list of all the projects, appointments and tasks you have coming up. Everything. Social, professional, volunteer, familial—all the things you’ve planned to do. This is a good chance to, in a controlled way, confront just how much you have on your plate.
Set a goal
All the activities you were able to accomplish before your loss might not be within your capabilities now, or if you were a caretaker maybe the amount of time you now have available is overwhelming. Either way if you set a reasonable goal for your day, like accomplishing 3 things, you set a specific expectation for yourself. It may take a little trial and error before you figure out what’s workable for you, but setting and accomplishing small goals means you control the pace of your day.
Decide what’s important
Now that you have a list of all the tasks and activities, and a goal for the amount you’ll do each day, it’s time to prioritize stuff you need to do and eliminate stuff you don’t. A good way to do this is to mark each of the items as “need,” “want,” “optional,” and “no.” “Needs” are things like paying the electric bill or picking your kids up from school. “Wants” are things you don’t need to do, but would really like to. These are usually things that fill up your cup rather than drain it. “No,” is for the things you don’t need to do and that will drain you. When you’re experiencing grief, it’s a good time to be courteous but honest with people about your limitations. Everything that remains on your list becomes “optional.”
Communicate your position
Everyone’s grief experience is unique so friends and family will often not know how to best support you. Do you want to keep busy? Do you need down time? Do you want to talk about your loss today? Do you want a break from talking about it? Your grief style is unique, so you can’t reasonably expect others to know exactly what you need, when you need it. The fastest and best way to avoid upsetting you or them is to be honest about your needs and limitations.
When all else fails…
Just keep it simple. Do what’s next. At some point this well-considered plan you’ve created will likely go completely sideways. When it does, don’t be hard on yourself and don’t panic, just narrow your vision a little and do the one thing that needs to be done next…
then the next thing…
and the next.
“A journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step.” –Lao Tzu
Want to dig a little deeper with general time management tips? You’ll find 21 more here.
Thanks for visiting Grief Compass. We’re sorry you have to be here, but are glad we’ve found each other.