Enduring Grief: Establishing a Mental Health Roadmap
"When someone you love becomes a memory, the memory becomes a treasure." – Author unknown.
When you lose a person (or a pet) you love, it doesn’t matter what the manner of death was or whether it was “expected” – it is a great shock to your mental and physical health. Many experience physical symptoms such as fatigue, body aches, breathlessness, or even becoming physically ill due to stress. Grief sufferers also experience the full spectrum of emotions from the beginning of their journey. The feelings go beyond sadness and discomfort; many report feeling unfocused, drained, confused, disoriented, and even intensely angry. Why did they have to leave me?
Guess what? These physical and emotional manifestations of grief are all normal. If you’ve experienced any of these feelings, there's nothing wrong with you. A loved one or friend’s death can be one of the most stressful, unnatural times in a person’s life, and often there are no easy words of comfort or answers. That’s why it’s imperative for you to establish a “mental health roadmap” while you’re mourning.
What is a Mental Health Roadmap?
Your grief roadmap may be unpredictable at best. Some days, you’ll be speeding along in a straight line, focused and determined; the next day, you might be lost in the wilderness, fumbling for direction. It’s okay not to expect anything close to “perfection” during this time. That’s why it helps to establish some “stops” along the way that allow you to regain strength, health, and happiness…and to prevent “roadblocks.”
A mental health roadmap consists of those things that recharge you, no matter how big or small. “Stops” along the way could be:
- A favorite meal or treat during the day or some well-loved music;
- Time with family and friends you love;
- A short coffee break to help you refocus, particularly during a stressful day;
- Visiting a grief counselor, support group, or someone you feel comfortable talking with;
- A walk in a nature preserve or a bike ride;
- A vent to a pal – followed by a long, good cry;
- Displaying a photo or memento of the person or pet you loved in a place of honor in your home;
- A short break cuddling with a favorite family pet; or
- A spa visit, complete with a hot stone massage.
Reading, napping, and simply enjoying quiet time can also be “pins” on your mental health roadmap. You get the picture – your mental health roadmap should help alleviate your feelings of sadness, isolation, and stress, which are all too familiar during periods after significant losses.
Remember that there is no acceptable “deadline” or “timeline” to heal from grief. A memory about a loved one you lost can generate intense feelings decades afterward, and sometimes it’s all you can do to swim above the waves of emotions. An article by Maria Mastrogiovanni, CRC, called “The Roadmap for Grief,” stated, “The ‘roadmap’ also lacks an ‘estimated time of arrival.’ The grief will always be there, perhaps not at the same intensity, but it may never go away. Friends and family may say, ‘But she died two years ago…why are you still crying every Christmas?’ Two years, five years, ten years? When will you forget? Never. You will, however, find ways to honor a memory. The pictures you hid away because they were too painful to look at may eventually be displayed again. You will be able to listen to his or her favorite song with a smile on your face.” And you will begin to live again.
Mastrogiovanni also pointed out that grief is highly personal and will differ from one person to the next. She emphasized, “We have permission to grieve in whatever way works for us. We can celebrate the holiday just like mom did with her famous cookie recipe or simply be home alone with soothing music and a ham sandwich. We can visit the cemetery and leave flowers on each grave or just sit quietly at home with fond memories to comfort us.”
Experiencing a life-changing loss often means things will never be the same for those suffering the loved one’s absence. But it doesn’t mean life is over. Establishing a mental health roadmap in the days following a loved one’s death is essential to regaining your direction and rebuilding your life. There’s only one you – and in the wake of a great loss, please be kind to yourself.
"Although it's difficult today to see beyond the sorrow, may looking back in memory help comfort you tomorrow." – Author unknown.
Mastrogiovanni, M. (2018, February 6). The roadmap for grief. CoveCare Center. Retrieved September 13, 2022, from https://covecarecenter.org/the-roadmap-for-grief/