There was a time I believed everything society thought of me.
As a suicide survivor, I wasn’t merely suffering from grief after my husband’s suicide, I was also internalizing the stigma that surrounded me.
I felt guilty; surely I didn’t get my husband the help he needed. I felt shame; my husband preferred death over his life with me. And I felt hopeless; this is the kind of event that you never get over.
In my grief, I subscribed to the attitudes and assumptions I’d heard expressed countless times throughout my life. As friends and family, the media, and even I made seemingly meaningless remarks about mental illness, depression, and suicide, it shaped the way I would react when these completely shattered my world. I was a living, breathing self-stigma, and that made life unbearable.
Breathing exercises are so important to do on a daily basis when you are grieving. They helped me deepen my connection with my body and bring awareness to the present moment. I found that when tension in my body was released, my mind was able to take a break from worrying about my loss and how I would cope in the future, which is a side effect of grief.
My grief settles in my belly and chest. I find myself tensing up to protect myself from future pain. Learning to breathe and soften my stomach and chest muscles has helped me to relax and let go
How to breathe:
1. Find a quiet, comfortable place for a few minutes. Sit up straight with your hands by your sides or on top of your legs, palms up or down—whichever feels most natural and relaxed.
2. Close your eyes; breathe deeply through your nose so that your abdomen expands first, followed by your chest for a count of four.
3. Hold your breath for a count of eight.
4. Slowly exhale completely through your mouth, making a whooshing sound to the count of twelve.
5. Repeat four times.
6. Open your eyes. Breathe normally. Take a minute before standing to make sure you are not lightheaded.
Grief is often described as a journey – one that does not present a clear or efficient route from Point A to Point B.
In fact, in my own experience, Point B may not even exist on the map. For me, the grief process is one I navigate every day, with most of those days (but certainly not all) a little happier and healthier than the last.
Unfortunately, along that journey there are often outsiders telling you which turn to take, when it’s “okay” to stop and rest or maybe even trying to convince you that you’re already at Point B and it’s time to end this journey and move on to the next. The thing is, grieving is a complicated, personal process, and society’s opinions, requirements and stigmas only serve to make the terrain rougher – and the griever weaker.
by Kristi Hugstad
Each of us has attached ourselves to something or somebody, and when you lose that special thing or person, you grieve. Always. You can try to run from it all you want, but it will always find you and tackle you when you’re not looking. My blogs, along with my books, will give you the tools to help you learn to live with your new self as you journey through your grief.