Clock on wall

How having a routine can help with grief

Posted by AK Lander | On April 15, 2020 00:00

Whilst grieving, sticking to a familiar routine can help you process and keep an element of normalcy in life, in this article, we explain why.

Something that often goes out of the window in times of uncertainty is routine. Whether this means you take time off work to heal, avoid doing your daily chores or even start sleeping at unusual times, it’s common that with a death, our whole lives get turned upside down.

Although, during times of anguish, taking some time for ourselves and focusing on what we need is important, there are a lot of positives to keeping a balanced routine, even if this is different to your normal daily routine.

In this article, we discuss how routine can be used as a coping tactic and offer some tips to those who are looking for ways to carve out a schedule whilst struggling with loss.

Why you should try to keep a routine whilst grieving

Hot cup of coffee

It can be all too easy to let positive habits slide when recovering from grief. However, as we all know, grief is an infinite process and does not simply end one day. Because of this, keeping a routine whilst grieving can be an effective way to help you get through the worst days of the pain, whilst keeping the world around you turning.

Nancy is part of the team at Being with Grief, and she told us: “When we are grieving, we often feel overwhelmed and out of control. A routine gives our lives a sense of order, helps us to feel grounded, and restores a sense of normalcy to our lives when we are living in unknown territory.”

We also got in touch with Ed at The Grief Recovery Method, who had this insight: “As humans, grief is the normal and natural reaction to loss of any kind.  We grieve any time there is an end or change in a familiar pattern of behaviour. What is happening in our world very much has ended or significantly changed the familiar patterns of behaviour in each person's life, resulting in conflicting feelings and emotions... grief. 

“The value of routines is that they are familiar patterns of behaviour and there is a great deal of comfort when these routines or patterns of behaviour are consistent and what we expect them to be. It's when our routines, our familiar patterns of behaviour, are disrupted that we naturally feel conflicted feelings about how we wish things were better, different, or how we want more of whatever we no longer have."

Finally, we spoke to the team at Cruse Bereavement Care who told us: “The death of someone close can be one of the hardest and most distressing things we will ever face. During times of crisis and uncertainty, it can be even more difficult to grieve.

“It can help to keep to a routine, especially when everything has been disrupted. Structured days can help many people, including younger children, stay happy and healthy. Try and get some fresh air or sunlight each day - even opening a window can help. If you are allowed, go for a walk or run, or do some exercise in your home. Try to keep to a regular routine of getting up and dressed and eating meals at the usual time, whether you are on your own or part of a family group. As part of the routine, it can also help to take regular breaks from the news and social media. Think about what activities are the best distraction for you – this could be watching old films or TV series, reading, arts and crafts, or getting on with some jobs around the house. 

“The structure will help, even if only a little. Overall, make sure you look after yourself and get rest. This can sound obvious but at these times it is so easy to want to hide away.

“However, it’s also important not to be too hard on yourself or set unrealistic goals about what you can do under exceptional circumstances. Try to make sure you get time to relax. If you are responsible for caring for younger children, where possible, let them make some choices about what they are doing, as this may help give them some sense of control over their lives.”

Tips for making a routine

Morning sun on bed

Make a list of what needs to be done

When making a routine, it can be nice to add idealistic items onto your list, but it’s most important to make sure you include the things that you need to do first and foremost. For example, if you have a dog, ensure that walking the dog is a priority item on the list.

It may only seem like a small task, but by adding small, everyday items to your routines, you can make it easier to tick things off, and also ensure you are doing those things.

Include some social time, whatever that means to you

We can often turn in on ourselves when we feel our world is falling down, however, trying to stay connected to friends and loved ones can be a vital asset for those who are struggling. If this is something you are experiencing, including some ‘social time’ into your routine can help.

Whether this means continuing an existing weekly coffee date with a friend, or simply telling yourself that whilst you eat breakfast you’ll reply to the text messages you’ve been putting off this can help not only keep you connected to the outside world but ease yourself back into socialising.

Keep days with heavy items clearer

Whilst grieving, it is likely that there will be some heavy days. Whether it’s the day you need to buy a memorial headstone, or even the birthday of those that have passed, make sure you allow these days to be easier.

There will be times when you need to slow down, and these days more than any should allow that time. Even if you just plan to take a nice long bath or watch a film that never fails to bring a smile to your face, making sure there is something to look forward to on those days is important.

Try to incorporate exercise into your routine

Exercise may come more naturally to some people than others, however, there are plenty of ways that exercise can help with grief. And, we are not talking running a marathon once a week here, but even if you plan to take a walk every evening to watch the sunset, the advantages can really help.

Make it clearly visible

If you are someone who has never had a very clear routine, something that can help is making it clearly visible. You could buy a whiteboard and put that somewhere in your house that you walk past often; or, you could even schedule things into your phone calendar. This way, you know what you should be doing and when, meaning you don’t have to wonder what it was you planned to do.

Your routine can be in whatever format you need

Although the most natural way to make a routine is to carve sections of time out for activities, if this doesn’t work for you, there are plenty of ways you can create a routine. Perhaps, you create a to-do list for every day and tick things off as they are done. There are also many apps that can help you track the activities you plan to do in a day.

Find a way that works for you and use that.

Hold yourself accountable

This can be especially useful for those who tend to struggle with self-discipline, make a way to hold yourself accountable. A wonderful way to do this is to reach out to a family member or friend and tell them you are struggling to keep a routine and ask them to keep you accountable. Whether that’s them making you send them a photograph of your clean kitchen at the end of the week, or even joining you for activities like a run, this can go a long way.

We understand that after losing someone, even something simple can feel like a mammoth task. We hope this article can help you create a routine which takes some of the strain out of grieving. From headstones to advice, our team are happy to help you in any way they can through this difficult time if you get in contact.