As a therapist specializing in grief, people often ask me how they can process their loss the “right” way. I understand why they want a formula for how to move through loss. Death is so disorienting. But there really is no specific blueprint or plan - our grief is as unique as the relationship we had with the person we lost.
So, what are we supposed to do when someone dies? I wish I had a simple answer. And in some ways, I do. Allow yourself to fully grieve. Listen to your grief, allow yourself to feel your pain. It won’t be easy, but we cannot know what we need to do or feel until we listen to what grief is asking of us.
I often tell my clients to plan intentional time to sit with their grief. This looks different for everyone, and it can be hard to know where to start. Which is why I was so happy to learn about the Remembering A Life Self-Care Box.
The items in this box were carefully selected to help grieving individuals find relaxation, reflect and remember:
Journal: Writing is an incredibly powerful tool. Whether your loss was recent or many years ago, writing through grief is instrumental to clearing out all the weight we carry with us in the aftermath of a significant loss. With the Remembering a Life Grief Journal, you can use the featured writing prompts as your guide, write about what you're feeling at any given moment, or a combination of both. Let whatever comes out flow naturally. Be gentle and compassionate with yourself as you do so. Allow space for emotions to arise and let them out. There is something so cathartic about putting pen to paper.
Memory Jar: Grief is an extension of love and connection. Finding ways to maintain meaningful connection to your person is so important. I love the idea of jotting down favorite memories on pieces of paper to store in the jar to read on special anniversaries or holidays. What a wonderful way to reminisce and feel the presence of your loved one on meaningful days!
Candle and Essential Oil Roller: A comforting scent can bring us into the present moment and provide an opportunity to take a step back from an active mind. The thoughtfully curated pear-and-sandalwood-scented candle offers a sense of warmth and well-being, while the essential oil roller blend of sweet marjoram, orange, and lavender is incredibly calming.
Dragonfly Keychain and Story: The Dragonfly Project was founded in 2002 by an 11-year-old girl who wanted to reach out to others who were grieving the loss of a family member or friend. The Dragonfly Project since then has been bringing comfort to more than 100,000 grieving individuals in the United States and around the world.
Rose Quartz Stone: Meditation has been the single-most helpful tool that I’ve learned in over twenty years of struggling through grief. I know that for many, meditation can seem cliché, and it’s totally normal to have a healthy dose of skepticism. But meditation is simply about learning how to observe your thoughts rather than react to them. The only requirement is that you have an open mind and that you don’t put pressure on yourself to do it perfectly. The stone provided in the Remembering A Life Self-Care Box can serve as a simple reminder to observe your thoughts. Keep it in your pocket or purse and gently rub your thumb across the smooth stone to help ease feelings of anxiety and to promote relaxation.
Water Bottle: Grief can be so physically exhausting. We can easily overlook our basic needs when life is completely turned upside down. Keeping a pretty water bottle nearby is a helpful reminder to tend to these needs.
We seem to know more than ever about the psychology of grief, but nonetheless continue to live in a society that shies away from death. It’s no wonder we often feel incredibly isolated after the loss of a loved one! If you are in the midst of grief, I encourage you to take intentional time to sit with your grief and really get to know it. It can feel scary to really let grief wash over you and through you, but I promise that surrendering to it is easier than fighting it. Grief asks so much of us, so remember to nurture yourself. Reach out to your community, create healing rituals, take a walk outside, and above all, be kind to yourself.
Listen to Claire talk about the role anxiety plays in grief and how we can manage it after loss on the Remembering A Life podcast. Purchase the Remembering A Life Self-Care Box for yourself or to give to someone you love here.
About the Contributor
Claire Bidwell Smith is a renowned grief expert and author. After losing both of her parents at a young age, Claire was drawn to helping others navigate the grief process. A therapist in private practice for over a decade, she has counseled thousands of people, and written three books about grief and loss. Claire speaks and lectures widely and runs a series of different programs designed to help others move through loss.
Claire is passionate about advocating for advancement in end-of-life care and also bringing awareness to our culture’s understanding of grief. She serves on the board of End Well Project, an end of life initiative that holds a yearly conference, and also Near, an organization devoted to helping people find end of life and grief support. Claire also hosts a popular virtual series for the Let’s Reimagine Death organization, in which she interviews notable figures in the death and grief space.
Claire’s three books of nonfiction The Rules of Inheritance (Penguin, 2012), After This: When Life Is Over Where Do We Go? (Penguin, 2015), and Anxiety: The Missing Stage of Grief (Da Capo, 2018) have been published in 18 countries, and received many accolades and critical praise. The Rules of Inheritance is currently optioned for television rights.
Claire has written for The New York Times, Scientific American, The Washington Post, Goop, The Huffington Post, Salon.com, Slate, Chicago Public Radio, The Guardian, Psychology Today, Yoga Journal, and BlackBook Magazine. Her thoughts, insights and interviews have been featured on MSNBC, Good Day LA, Today.com, The Atlantic, the Los Angeles Times, The Chicago Tribune, NPR, Forbes, Conde Nast Traveler, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Oprah Magazine, Self Magazine, Shape Magazine, and dozens of radio shows and podcasts.