End of Life and Grief Doula Dianne Gray joins us on Better Together with Maria Menounos to share easy-to-apply tools for those who are grieving, many of which helped Maria learn to cope with death after the loss of her mother Litsa. However, we learn that Dianne’s expertise does not only come from years of extensive research, but also from her 14-year experience as caregiver for her son Austin, who suffered from neurodegenerative brain iron accumulation disorders and died in 2005. After his diagnosis, Dianne’s marriage fell apart leaving her a pregnant single mother living in a one-bedroom apartment. She went through a parent’s worst nightmare, having to helplessly sit and watch her son endure the worst pain for years on end until he lost all bodily function. It was then when Dianne realized, she had to let him go. She told him to jump to Jesus and go to God.
Through this strenuous journey, Dianne accumulated a wealth of knowledge on the subjects of caregiving, death, and grief, and she shares it with the Heal Squad. The last couple of years brought nothing but devastation, and we all experienced loss in one form or another, but Dianne’s tools are sure to help you cope with the pain.
1) Allow yourself to sit in the sadness
After the death of a loved one, the first step towards healing is accepting that you will be a beautiful mess for this season of life. Remember to rest and allow yourself to feel all of the emotions, no matter how painful.
2) Caregivers need rest too
40% of caregivers die of stress-related issues before the person they are caring for passes! Caregivers, you need to give yourselves more rest and grace. You are doing the best you can.
3) Ask yourself, who are you becoming?
After a death, caregivers often don’t know who they are. Their entire identity was being a caregiver and now, they feel lost. Take some time to really sit and think about who you are, and who you want to become.
4) Your loved one will never really die
When you love someone, you don’t love their hair or skin or teeth or their physical being, you love their energy. And since love is energy and energy can neither be created nor destroyed, the love you feel will never die and therefore, your late loved one will always be with you.
5) You can hug those who have passed
At the end of a meditation, Maria hugged her mom and felt it. She couldn’t believe it so she tried to hug her cousin who passed away when she was young. Again, she felt the hug. You still have access to that feeling even if the person is not physically there. It is really because you are feeling it. So if you are missing your loved one more than usual, try hugging them. Chances are, you’ll feel them hugging back.
6) How to combat a grief attack
In grief and stress, we forget to breathe and when we do that, we can’t think or emote clearly. This can lead to what is called a grief attack. So if you find yourself in that panicked, hyper-emotional state, take deep breaths. Another trick is to sniff lavender oil. You can carry a small bottle in your bag so that it is accessible all of the time. Lavender is a soothing scent that will calm your nervous system down.
7) Honor a loved one who has passed
Build a garden, start a scholarship, plant a tree, or do really anything that honors someone who has passed. This allows the mourning to move forward as their energy shifts from grieving to celebrating their loved one’s life.
8) Cry in the Shower
As silly as it sounds, crying in the shower can be really healing. Being around water helps reorient our brain. Think about it, we all come from a watery womb – water is our safe space, and we cry when we feel safe.
9) Music Heals
Music is great for releasing emotions as it can get through a part of your brain that nothing else can, and trigger emotions or memories that you didn’t know you had.
10) Practice Companioning
When comforting a grieving person, try “companioning.” Tell that person that you are there for them in whatever capacity they need. You are not there to give unsolicited advice. You are there to say “I am sorry and I don’t know what to say, but I am here for you and I love you.”
11) Temper Expectations
We often have expectations of others when we lose a loved one. We expect them to be there for us and act a certain way according to our standards. So, when they don’t act as you want them to be, resentment builds up. Dianne reminds us that we can’t expect other people to be who we want them to be because their lives are not about us, it is about them. This realization will allow many of us to let go of that anger.