If you’ve experienced a loss, it’s more than likely that someone at some point has advised you to “keep busy”.

Have you tried it? Did it work? Or was busyness merely a distraction?

The idea that keeping busy will fix your broken heart or help you recover more quickly is one of the major myths about grief.

Distraction doesn’t equal healing.

Exhortations of “keep busy” from well-meaning family and friends are akin to that other long-held myth that “time heals all wounds”. And just as time doesn’t necessarily heal, so too staying busy in itself doesn’t promote healing. Propelling yourself into a flurry of activity is essentially false hope that keeping busy will help you to avoid or transcend grief.

Like other potentially compulsive behaviours, staying busy is, in essence, just a distraction and will always disappoint as a coping strategy. Ultimately, your grief will remain after the distraction of busyness ends.

 

Stop running on the spot

Yes, it’s true, distraction can be a temporary reprieve from the pain of loss – but there are healthier approaches to grief recovery. Facing the loss directly and finding constructive ways to deal with pain. Talking with an understanding family member or friend. Attending a support group or seeing a counsellor. These are all things that will have a positive impact on your grief journey.

It’s difficult to change a situation or feel you have choices if you’re running and hiding from the problem by keeping busy. In truth, distracting yourself in the face of grief can end up undermining your confidence in your ability to cope.

 

Practise self care

When you’re grieving, keeping busy only serves as a distraction and buries your pain under every activity you pile on top of it.

Remember, keeping busy is not self care.

So how can you take care of yourself while grieving? Yes, we’re all individuals. And yes, we each have our own way of working through grief. But there are ways we can avoid the trap of busyness:

  • Face your feelings. The painful emotions that come with grief are a natural and normal response to loss. Try as you might to suppress or hide from them, all you’ll end up doing is prolonging the grieving process. Acknowledging your pain and taking responsibility for your feelings will help you to avoid the complications often associated with unresolved grief such as depression, anxiety, substance abuse and health problems.
  • Express your feelings. The most effective way to do this is through some tangible or creative expression of your grief. Try journaling or writing a letter to give a voice to your emotions. Or undertake an art project celebrating the person’s life. Find an outlet that allows you to work through your feelings of grief.
  • Feel whatever you feel. It’s OK to be angry, to cry or not cry. It’s also OK to laugh and find moments of joy, or to let go when you’re ready. Your grief is your own and no one can tell you when you should be “over it” or when to “move on”.
  • Look after your health. Be aware of short-term relievers like food, alcohol, drugs, anger, isolation or workaholism. These things can become harmful when they’re used for the wrong reasons and to cover up, hide or suppress your grief. Try to sleep well. Try to make healthy food choices. Try to be physically active. And, importantly, allow yourself to feel your grief as it’s the best form of self care.

 

Busy doesn’t work

Distracting yourself with work, household chores and other activities might help some people, but it’s not a cure all. You need to devote time and energy to feeling the loss.

No one likes to feel bad, so it makes sense to want a distraction. But distraction isn’t recovery. Avoiding normal and natural feelings of grief could even make your grief last longer.

Facing grief head on is the least painful way to recovery from loss in the long run.

 

Want to know more

For more information about coping with grief, please contact the Walter Carter Funerals team by emailing community@waltercarter.com.au.