"I'm tired of being tired."
"I don't want to do this anymore!"
"I'm so tired of always grieving."
"I feel guilty when I just want to shut it all out for a minute or two."
When you're walking through your grief journey, it can feel all-consuming at times; if not all the time. Others around you don't understand the fact that grief feels like an around-the-clock job; if it's not figuring out logistics that comes after losing a loved one, it's doing the grief work or managing whatever may pop up in our day-to-day. While it presents as a full-time job with an abundance of overtime, I'm here to tell you it doesn't have to be! You get to set boundaries around this and "shut it all out" by giving yourself a "grief break".
Grief Break Definition
"Well this sounds kind of nice but what is a grief break?" I have defined a grief break as:
A timeframe within one's grief journey in which they are not actively doing the grief work. In this timeframe, they grant themselves the space to focus on or engage in other aspects of their life.
***Please note, no one ever needs permission to step away from actively doing their grief work. You are in control of your grief journey; you choose what allows you to honor your grief journey. However, in the times you experience guilt for focusing on something other than your grief, this concept can help navigate those obstacles.
Grief Break Importance
Giving yourself a grief break is important for many different reasons. The importance may vary from person-to-person but let's cover a few of the most common:
Identity discovery: I've worked with many clients who are being met with the obstacle of not knowing who they are now that they've lost their loved one. In working towards overcoming this obstacle, we rebuild the client's identity. In order to do this, you need the space to begin to explore what your new identity could be. Engaging in a grief break creates space for you to begin partaking in old or new activities that you otherwise wouldn't from being consumed by the grief.
Moments of rest: Think of the last time you felt physically fatigued. What did you do? Chances are you took a rest (in whatever way that looks to you). Giving yourself a grief break is doing the same thing when you're mentally and emotionally fatigued.
Reduce additional symptoms: It's not uncommon for additional symptoms outside of grief (symptoms such as those paired with anxiety) to be present during your grief journey (if you're experiencing anxiety within your grief journey, I'd like to invite you to take the time to learn why anxiety is part of grief and how to begin navigating these experiences via my youtube channel Exposing Grief). A grief break can help put you in a space to begin quieting the mind, relaxing the body, and reducing the additional symptoms you may be experiencing while navigating grief.
Grief Break Exercise
Anytime we're thinking about implementing a new skill/strategy, it's worth identifying the specific benefit(s) it will have on our situation. I'd like to invite you to explore the following questions to determine how implementing a grief break could help you honor your grief journey:
Do you resonate with the areas of importance listed above? If so, why? What will tapping into these areas of importance look like when you engage in a grief break?
If you don't resonate with the areas listed above, what are your areas of importance for engaging in a grief break? How will your areas of importance be attended to by engaging in a grief break?
A Grief Break In Action
As with many things in life, engagement in a grief break will look different from person-to-person. You get to choose how often you take a grief break and how you want to spend that time. So let's break down putting a grief break into action.
Step One = determine how often you are in need of or would like a grief break (i.e. once a day, once a week, multiple times a week, etc.). If you're feeling stuck in this step, I'd encourage you to reflect on the times you've thought, "I need a break" or "I'm tired of this"; use the frequency of these thoughts as your guide.
Step Two = identify what you want to do within your grief break that will allow you to begin exploring who you are outside of grief (i.e. read, exercise, watch your favorite tv show or movie, get together with friends, meditate, game night with family, etc.). If you'd like (or need) more direction on how to begin exploring this area, watch the Exposing Grief YouTube video on engaging in self-care while grieving.
Step Three = assess how you feel (physically, mentally, and emotionally) afterwards. What worked? What didn't work?
If you only take one thing away from this blog article, I hope you take away the message that you don't have to be doing the grief work all the time; it is okay to take a break and explore life and who you are outside of grief. A great way to welcome this idea into your life is through implementing a grief break. If guilt arises, that's okay! Validate it.
If you need guidance around putting a grief break into action or around honoring your grief journey, begin your grief counseling journey via a FREE 20-30 minute consultation or scheduling your first session with me.
Here's to living a better life as your best self.
Brittany Squillace, MA, LMFT