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November 18, 2019 Beyond The Dash

Finding Your Routine After a Loss

Creating consistency for your physical, emotional and mental health

Finding Your Routine After a Loss
Grief can be disruptive to an established routine. But, during bereavement, consistency may be more important than ever. (Getty Images)

The death of someone close to you can rock your whole life — even the parts that were separate from the deceased. The brain processes emotional pain in much the same way as physical pain, making grief much more debilitating than simply being sad. For some, it involves a near-collapse and total rebuild in order to move forward in life productively. Even healthy grief experiences can be difficult beyond words. 


Why is routine important?


Although variety and change are good, having a solid routine is beneficial. Having daily or weekly benchmarks can improve confidence, build good habits, and provide reliability that is reassuring — particularly to someone who navigating grief.


The shock waves of grief can last months, and even years. It's a disruption that affects all aspects of life, and especially hinders a griever's ability to maintain a normal routine. However, it is during this time that a routine can help more than ever. 


How to build a routine after a loss


1. Envision a routine that doesn't rely on the person who has passed.

If the person who has passed was a part of your routine, it may be difficult or impossible to forge on the same as before. Think of ways you can build a routine around your lifestyle that don't depend on your loved one. 


2. Start with your basic needs.

A good routine is repeatable, purposeful and genuine. The best place to start is with the basic needs of your body and mind. Prioritizing health will arm you as you go about your daily life while adjusting to a world that no longer includes your loved one.  


Start with the three main building blocks: 



  • Diet

  • Exercise

  • Sleep


Even in the best of positions, it's difficult to balance this trifecta. Creating a routine that involves adequate sleep, healthy food and regular exercise is a lifelong pursuit that can easily be derailed by a change in circumstances. Slowly incorporating good habits little by little will be easier than trying for immediate perfection.  


Getting regular exercise is a lifelong pursuit. Try to get at least 30 minutes of activity a day to reap the benefits of a balanced lifestyle. (Getty Images)


3. Add in the things that make you comfortable.

Think of one thing that comforts you to do daily. 


Need a shower every day to feel fresh and productive? Or maybe you operate best when you have an hour of morning time before starting on your daily tasks. For others, it might be prayer, meditation, or taking time to remember a loved one.


Choose something you already do at least some of the time, and commit to doing it daily or as often as possible. Incorporating a soothing benchmark into your daily routine can give you something to look forward to, and act as your "me time"—even if it's only a couple minutes per day. 


It's also important to limit the number of items to work into your daily routine. Most people don't have unlimited time for self-care, so choose the most essential things to incorporate daily, and save others for a more relaxed timeline. 


4. Make your reactions to grief part of your routine too. 

When you are living with fresh grief, even the most mundane, everyday occurrences can set off an emotional reaction: a song, a smell, the sight of someone who reminds you of your loved one. Though you can't always control your reaction, over time you can build a routine that makes dealing with persistent reminders easier. 


Grief counseling is a support mechanism that many find useful. Grief counseling can set you up with the tools to deal with living in a world that no longer includes your loved one. Over time, you can also incorporate positive reminders of your loved one and their impact into your routine. Actively addressing your emotions as part of a routine is a good way to find a deeper understanding of yourself, and your relationship with death.


5. Keep your routine simple. 

More than anything, a routine that is simple, flexible and repeatable will serve you best. Every day can't be jam-packed with mindfulness, self-care and soothing rituals. In addition to your daily duties, it's important to make space for spontaneity, rest and even vegging out. Adding too much can lead to failure of the routine, if your goals are too lofty to repeat every day. 


A period of grief may feel like a grind. Keeping a positive routine can help you make it through. (Getty)


If you are thinking of incorporating a more stringent daily routine into your life in the aftermath of a loss, you are taking a step in the right direction. Your health, state of mind and overall wellness will benefit from the stability of daily benchmarks that bring you peace and joy. 


Remember to keep it simple, and choose elements of a routine that work for your lifestyle. The point of a daily routine is not to be perfect or super-efficient, but to bring some structure to your life during a time of uncertainty. More important than anything is being able to easily repeat your routine day in and day out. By finding a natural rhythm for yourself, you can improve self-confidence, maintain calmness and move more easily through your grief journey. 

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