November sneaks up on me. The anniversaries of my dad’s birth and death are both in this month. Dad was a veteran and I recall his war stories on Memorial Day. So many memories of him packed into this month.

My wedding anniversary also used to be on November 15th. I can’t help myself – I always do the math and feel a little melancholy that we can’t celebrate this date. It’s still the date we married, and we had 36 years together. With age, we grieve so many losses (our innocence, relationships, deaths, loss of a home, business or job).

One thing I know for sure is that grief is cumulative. It adds up, one loss after another and you seem to be coping with them, and one more happens, and you find yourself grieving all your recent losses. Your cup overflows with the loss of a neighbour or a person with whom you identify. That loss is the proverbial straw that breaks your camel’s back.

It’s my personal belief that grief shows up like dust bunnies. You move something or open up some space and grief is there. Surprise! It can be big and ugly, and it seems to show up out of nowhere.

People often say, “Call me for anything” but it’s better to do ‘something’ rather than offer ‘anything’. People who are grieving don’t know what they want. Drop off a snack or a meal, write a card with memories of the person they lost. Call them to ask if they can join you for a walk in nature. Follow their pace and be willing to rest when they tire. Be ready to listen and let them be sad. Tears heal.

I often hold back with someone that I’m not extremely close to and I contact them six weeks after a death or a birth. I find that many people close to them have moved on by then and they are ready for some fresh support.

When I show up, they tell me about what’s been going on and are grateful for someone new to tell the whole story to. We need to share our stories several times to better understand them.

The more significant the loss, the more intense your grief may be. I’ve talked to a few undertakers who say that it might be the death of a dog that opens up the floodgates of the other great losses. Again, it’s the cumulative effect. Or it may be that dog is the only one you felt loved you, unconditionally.

Our job in grief is to feel the feelings to process them. Move through our feelings and practice self-care. What self-care best supports you in your own healing?

I know that there’s no time limit on how long it will take to grieve a loss. We move through the process and come to a place of acceptance. There’s no right or wrong way to grieve. Don’t let society tell you that it’s time to stop and get back to work and a full schedule. Make the time you need to move through your own grief. There are no shortcuts.

Learn your own best practices to help move you through these feelings. We don’t have enough supports in place in our society and we need to learn these skills and teach them to one another. Then, share our stories.

Do you find yourself holding your breath? When I do, I put up sticky notes that say ‘Breathe 10 times’ and while I do, I reflect on where I’m holding tightness in my body. I gently massage it. Become aware of how your body feels and where you are holding your own tension. Approach your feelings with curiosity instead of fear. This can only be done if you spend time in reflection. I journal and sip my tea. You may prefer a hot bath or something else.

Time alone in nature is a fantastic way to process feelings. Be still and remember to breathe deeply. When you can find a physical exercise you enjoy, it can keep our feelings moving through our bodies. Any movement helps – Stretching. Yoga. Swimming. Dancing alone in your room. Bike riding. Running. Walking is my favorite.

It’s said that “If we want to heal it, we’ve gotta feel it”. Exercise helps your body burn off adrenaline and release endorphins. It calms your nervous system and relieves stress. We can also sleep better after exercise and sleep restores our bodies in the best ways.

Keep gathering information about what works well for you. Then, share it with others. They will benefit from your experience and learn from your exploration. Let me know how you best process your grief. I’ll try it out and then share your wisdom. Thanks!

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