Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Grief Tools: An Emergency Kit for a Bad Day

Janet Roberts, Executive Director of Centering Corporation and Grief Digest Magazine invited me to share this wonderful article from the December 2014 issue. It was contributed by Elaine Stillwell, a writer based in Rockville Centre, New York.

I subscribe to Grief Digest Magazine, and loved the practical suggestions for self care. But I also wondered:  could this be a condolence gift?  


By Elaine Stillwell

 As hard as we try to keep our heads above water in grief, there are some days that sneak up on us and catch us totally off guard, spiraling us backwards to what seems like day one. It just doesn't seem fair to fall down when we thought we were doing so well or were giving it our best effort.

So, do yourself a favor and plan ahead. Be ready for that black day that knocks you over in your grief. Start right now putting together your emergency kit so you can shift immediately into "Plan B" whenever you are blindsided by some event, circumstance or happening.

For our emergency kits, some of us might only need a simple carton or a box the size of a carry-on suitcase. Others might need an old-fashion sized trunk-use whatever it is that fits your needs, because each of us grieves differently. Here are a few suggestions that might help you get started.

Loving Listener Address Book
You might grab this handy, specially made, little phone book that lists those friends who give you their loving presence while offering no advice for your hurting heart. A quick call to one of them might be just what you need to get out of the doldrums as you share what has knocked you back into the grief pit. We know talking is the best medicine, so this might be immediate, vital, first aid. On our grief journey, many of us learn that we need to rewrite our address book, so this can be a grand opportunity to add new support persons and delete some folks who have not been there for us. This is a perfect time to create this handy item and to make sure it is in our emergency kit for quick use.

Magic Wand
This useful tool might bring a smile to our faces as we wave it a few times, hoping that its magical powers will restore our hope, motivation and determination. It might just help us focus on happy memories that lighten the burden of our grief. It might make us feel more in control and more able to make the decisions we need to climb out of the hole. My wand came from a memorable sweet-sixteen birthday party, and it still has those magical powers to make me feel joy. You might have a similar item that conveys the same message to your heart, something that stirs a lot of memories for you, like a team pennant, a fishing rod, a baseball cap, a letter or a photo album. Find the linking object that works for you.

Something cuddly to hug can help our hearts, especially if it is a teddy bear or pillow made from our loved one's pajamas, bathrobe, sweatshirt or favorite outfit. We can sense their presence and almost feel them hugging back. It could be any plush toy or quilt, but it should be something that has meaning to us and brings us comfort when we hold it. Denis' Ziggy doll that has "I is a brane" emblazoned on its chest
cracks me up every time I look at it. And Peggy's loveable unicorn reminds me of all her dreams and plans. Anything huggable that has history can give you a boost as you relive the memories it brings to your mind.

Uplifting Book
Carefully selecting a favorite book that has a warm, healing message offers a soothing note for broken spirits. Whether prose or poetry, finding words that bring back a loving feeling in our hearts can help on a gloomy day. We might smile again as we reread favorite passages that open doors to healing for us. You will forget you are having a bad day!

Besides giving us a new perspective, these glasses can help us find those colorful, chirping birds that enjoy our garden, flit around our feeders and fly around our trees. Listening to their daily songs and becoming a "birder" can be a key therapy for the bereaved. So begin listing the birds you see and then doing your homework to find out more about them. You may learn to see your life through new eyes. 

Family Recipe
Including a popular recipe in the kit might get us out of bed and headed for the kitchen. Sometimes preparing a favorite dish that we love or that our loved one enjoyed makes us feel better. Getting involved with all the ingredients and planning this special dish is a delicious distraction from pain. It gets us busy with something that has happy memories. We might even want to call someone to share it with us. This can be the beginning of feeling social again.


On a tough day, music can be very healing to some souls. Be sure you include a favorite CD, or iPad selection to get you out of a dark mood as you hum along. Years ago, I had my Walkman all primed ready to go each time I walked the dog, because the music talked to my soul. So whatever your musical choices, classical, spiritual, big band, country, Motown, heavy metal or rap, make sure you include the songs that brighten your spirit.

Don't waste another minute. Start assembling all the emergency-kit items that will have you ready with "Plan B." As time goes along, you can add and subtract, continually updating and insuring you that you can have a better day. Our new mantra will be just like the Boy Scouts, "Be Prepared."

Readers:  don't miss the poignant story of Centering Corporation's founder, Joy Johnson: Joy's Warrior Dragon: Courage Befriends a Widow

Thank you for caring!

1 comment:

Janet Roberts said...

I love this article!!! :)