Experiencing the loss of a family member or close friend is something everyone sadly tends to experience throughout their lifetime. Dealing with the loss of someone can be a very challenging experience, as well as stressful for all of the family. For parents, the unimaginable pain felt when losing a child is one of the toughest experiences someone can face, in particular the impact it has on mental wellbeing.

Debra Longsdale, My Possible Self

Debra Longsdale, My Possible Self

We spoke to Debra Longsdale at independent mental health care provider the Priory Group to discuss the key relaxation techniques you can use to find calm and maintain your wellbeing when dealing with grief.

Speaking on behalf of the leading, free global mental health app My Possible Self, Debra explains:

“For many, it can be a very traumatic time when dealing with the loss of a loved one, in particular when trying to look after your own mental wellbeing and those around you. There are tailored relaxation strategies you can undertake to try to find moments of calm and maintain your mental wellbeing.

Here are 8 simple relaxation techniques that you & your family can use to find calm during the challenges of the grieving process.”

Relaxation techniques to find calm when grieving:

1. Immerse yourself in nature

Getting outdoors is a great way to spend some time away from the pressures and stresses of the immediate challenges of dealing with grief. In particular, if in a home where multiple people are grieving it is important to get some time alone to have individual personal reflection.

Spending time in nature can nourish your spiritual and emotional needs, for instance finding a quiet place in the fresh air can be the perfect setting to really have time to reflect. Finding those moments to be in your own personal space, in peaceful surroundings can reduce the impact of grief and give someone brief respite from the challenge of grieving.

2. Practice being mindful

Depression and anxiety can be extremely common when dealing with the loss of anyone, but the loss of a close family member such as a child can heighten these feelings. Mindfulness has been shown to be helpful in terms of lowering levels of anxiety and depression, whilst also helping to manage the obvious impact of stress that can be caused by the loss of a loved one.

The concept of mindfulness can often feel daunting but being mindful is easier than you might think. The concept can be broken down into three areas; being aware of yourself, your surroundings and your emotions.

One particular technique to find mindfulness is meditation. Many people find meditating allows you to connect to your body and understand the physical effects of the grieving process. Meditation welcomes a combination of techniques to help you become more aware of your mental state and learn to gain a healthy perspective, helping you to find calm on the difficult days when dealing with grief.

3. Try your hand at journaling

Journaling is an invaluable tool both as a way to reflect but also as a productive way to express your emotions. A grief journal is one way to preserve memories you have of your loved one and also helps you work through the challenging emotions felt by grief.

You can use your grief journal to write personal stories about happier memories, poetry to express emotions and personal logs to keep check of your own personal emotions during the immediate aftermath of losing someone close to you.

As we are in the digital age, technology can help make this process easier. The My Possible Self app also provides a digital grief journal, which helps guide you through this process and keep a log of all your wonderful thoughts and emotions - it’s a great place to start for people trying for the first time.

4. There’s an artist in everyone…

Art can be a great alternative way to channel your emotions during grief. Various types of art have been found to link expression and mental health, positive emotions and diminished stress levels, guilt, grief and depression.

Using art allows an outlet for people to express emotions in a way they may not be able to discuss or share with friends or family. Furthermore, art can serve as a way to have personal reflection and provide some relief from the feelings of grief. Finally, it may support by producing memories of your loved one that is personalised to you.

5. Get moving - try dance?

Dance and bodily movement allow your body to express emotions and feelings that words simply cannot. Whilst there are the obvious physical benefits to exercise, research also indicates that dance therapy can also improve mental and emotional health, whilst also being beneficial to your mobility.

Furthermore, dance is a great outlet to release the emotional numbness that can be felt during grief. It’s also a way to channel memories and feelings you have for the loved one lost, highlighting the emotions attached to the grief you are feeling. It is also a different way to reduce tension, stress and anxiety that can be felt in difficult times.

6. Find comfort through music

Whether it's creating your own music and finding music that has meaning, it can be a powerful form of creative expression during moments of grief. Music evokes strong personal emotions and can help you connect with different feelings you may have not been aware that you already had. It can also help with connecting back to the person you have lost in an alternative way allowing you to keep something that bonds you together, such as a memorable song.

Music can also help relieve stress and anxiety, you may choose to find a personal space where you can relax and use the music to help find calmness.

7. De-stress with a massage

Massage therapy is an outlet that can certainly support relaxation both physically and mentally. It may support decreasing pain and improving your health, with research indicating that massage is a great way to fight stress. The benefits of therapeutic touch can be soothing, it can provide comfort, rest and relaxation for those dealing with grief.

It can also be a great way to have a personal time of reflection and help reduce the anxiety that is felt during the grieving process. If the thought of another person massaging you makes you uncomfortable, or if you’d prefer to learn yourself, the My Possible Self app also provides guided video content highlighting some great self-massage techniques that you can try yourself.

8. Be at one with your senses with aromatherapy

Aromatherapy can be an alternative therapeutic way of finding calm, for example, essential oils are pleasant and soothing to the body and mind. When they are inhaled, their scent travels to the brain, signaling receptors that influence your mood. Those who like scented oils, can use them to help find calm and more generally soothe the body and mind.

One of the possible benefits from aromatherapy can be that it helps reduce signs of anxiety and depression when used in combination with the other relaxation techniques discussed above. For example, you may combine massage and aromatherapy to have an afternoon of relieving physical and mental stress.

‘My Possible Self is a free NHS endorsed global mental health app which provides holistic and engaging tools to support and improve the mental wellbeing of all, inclusive of a guided grief’ series. To find out more, visit www.mypossibleself.com.’

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