Conversations in Grief Blog: Tired
In the popular PBS series Downton Abbey, Dowager Lady Grantham (played by Maggie Smith) observes after a tragic death, “Grief makes one so terribly tired.” Riley Keough, daughter of Lisa Marie Presley, described her grief after her brother’s tragic death, “The first four or five months, I couldn’t get out of bed. I was totally debilitated. I couldn’t talk for two weeks,” (The Week, August 6, 2021).
This probably shouldn’t surprise us (although it usually does). The bereaved often expect to carry on as you did before your loss. But there is a reason, or reasons, for your exhaustion. The death of your loved one impacts you in every way possible: physically (sleeping troubles, low energy, muscle aches, shortness of breath, headaches, appetite changes, sensitivity to noise, to name a few); emotionally (a vast range of emotions are experienced when you are grieving); cognitively (struggle to think clearly, struggle to absorb information, struggle to make decisions, short-term memory problems, sense of going crazy); socially (disconnecting from your world including family and friends, sometimes by you and sometimes by them); and spiritually (questions about God, fairness, whether life is worth living).*
Whew! Considering that you are impacted in five different ways, maybe it is easier to understand your exhaustion. You get to be tired. If you can offer yourself permission to feel the full extent of your loss in your body, mind, soul, and heart, hopefully you can also take the next vital step, which is to protect yourself.
I intentionally use the word protect to avoid the word selfish, which I’m going to use anyway. When I encourage someone to protect themself, to practice self-compassion or self-care, yes, to be selfish, I often encounter resistance from the one who is grieving. This is never how we want to show up. In fact, we feel compelled to practice putting others first.
So, I am encouraging you to do something that is well outside of your comfort zone, and I am encouraging you to do this for your own comfort. Grief expert Rev. Richard B. Gilbert explains, “Healthy grieving is selfish grieving. It is the self (my self, my context, my feelings, my dreams, my relationships, my expectations, my needs) that has been most hurt by this significant death.”
Please take good care of yourself. You are bereaved, which literally means that you have been “torn apart” or that you have “special needs.” As you take this time to focus on yourself, know that as you do this important work, you will eventually find yourself back in a place where you can begin showing up to care for others.
Can we make this a true conversation in grief? What is an effective way you are caring for yourself as you grieve? I would love to hear thoughts from those in the trenches of grief. Because you are the true experts in how to grieve well.
*Five areas of impact described taken from Understanding Your Grief: Ten Essential Touchstones for Finding Hope and Healing Your Heart, by Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph.D.