You may behave differently while you are grieving. Some people keep themselves extremely busy, while others may sleep a lot or find it hard to complete even simple tasks. Many people avoid reminders of the person who died because of the intense emotions. These different behaviours are normal, but can make it difficult to settle into a routine.
Some people use alcohol or other non-prescribed drugs to dull the emotional pain. Risk-taking behaviours, including unexpected sexual behaviour, can also be part of grief. While these behaviours may give short-term relief, they often only delay the experience of grief and can lead to more serious problems.
Tips for establishing helpful behaviours
- Try to live day to day rather than looking too far ahead or looking backwards.
- Balance rest and activity. Set small goals and congratulate yourself when you reach them.
- Have an alternative plan ready in case you’re not up for a planned activity.
- Try not to judge yourself too harshly. Your usual expectations for yourself may be unrealistic while you are grieving.
- Decide on a daily routine that includes getting up and dressed by a certain time. ‘Going through the motions’ can help you maintain healthy habits and self-esteem.
- If you or others are concerned about your use of alcohol or other drugs, ask your GP for help and support.
- Have regular treats, e.g. a bunch of flowers, a massage, listening to music, or visiting a barber or coffee shop.
Kate Jurgens, Bereavement Coordinator, Southern Adelaide Palliative Services, SA; Gabrielle Asprey, Cancer Support Consultant, Cancer Council NSW; A/Prof Lauren Breen, Psychologist, Curtin University, WA; Rev David Dawes, Manager, Spiritual Care Department, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Rob Ferguson, Consumer; Karen Hall, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council SA; Joanna Mangan, Psychologist, Cancer Council Queensland; Kate Reed, Nurse Practitioner National Clinical Advisor, Palliative Care Australia; Maxine Rosenfield, Counsellor and Educator, NSW.
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