We are going to talk about what do you do when you’ve lost someone or something? And this, my friends, is going to be the thing that you need when it first happens.

When you’re in acute grief, when it’s like “Oh my God, I just lost my job”, “I just found out my spouse is moving out”, “My person that I love dearly has died”.

We’re are going to talk about dealing with that first sting.

Transcript:

Tami: [00:00:00] Hi, Michelle. I’m so happy to see you again. We’re 

Michelle: [00:00:03] back I’m so we’re back. 

Tami: [00:00:05] Okay. So we’re back with more grief talk radio with me and Michelle Marlin. Okay. We talked in our first episode about what is grief and what is loss. Then we talked about the myth of the five stages of grief. Oh my God.

If you’ve listened to nothing else, friends, I want you to go back and listen to that one, because those are meant for the people who are dying and that’s why they make no sense when you apply them to the living. In our last episode we talked about like the all-encompassing nature of grief and how it touches all parts of you.

And today. We are going to talk about what do you do when you’ve lost someone or something? And this, my friends is going to be the thing that you need when it first happens. When you’re in acute grief, when it’s like, Oh my God, I just lost my job. I just found out my spouse is moving out. My person that I love dearly has died.

So I’m going to shell. Can you get us started what do we do? 

Michelle: [00:01:20] What do we do? It first, there might be just some shock. There are some kind of predictable responses that we might have in this shock of. Like the nervous system going into, as we talked about in our previous episodes, this fight flight freeze fond, like you just go into complete stress response.

It also depends on who you are. We all respond differently. So, you know, if this doesn’t sound like you, or this is you fall out of this range, that’s totally normal, too. Like anything can happen. I would say, as soon as you can in Tammy, you’ve really been an example of this reach out to trusted people or a trusted person, like know who you can go to, which we talked about being prepared in our last episode.

So know who you can go to and reach out to that person. Even if it’s just a text like this happened. I’m going to need you, or this happened, you know, can you come over or this happened, can you just be available tonight or for the next week or whatever, maybe it stopped therapist that, you know, now, you know, you’re going to be able to make that appointment or you have this ongoing relationship with them.

So this there’s, it depends again on the person. There can be a little bit of a window where you have some. Lucid moments before the shock, or maybe inside the shock, you’re Oh, I am vaguely aware of what’s just happened. And I know that I need to get some support systems in place.

So I’d say that’s kind of the first thing. If you are aware enough to have the wherewithal to make a call or send a text, reach out to someone. Get your, get some grounding tethers that, you know, you can hold onto. 

Tami: [00:03:25] Yeah. One of the things, so, you know, most of you know, but maybe if you don’t know yet, my best friend died in November.

And within 15 minutes of getting that news, I had reached out to. Some of my other really good friends who I know are good with grief. And how do I define that? I define that because there are people who are, they’ve had, they’ve experienced tremendous loss before, and they are people who can be. Comfortable with your discomfort.

They don’t try to make it better. They don’t try to push you away. They don’t try to fix it. They’re like, yes. What do you need? You’re going to need some food. How can I make that happen for you? Then there’s the the friends who you just go I need to tell you, and they’re the people who.

Unequivocally, we’ll be like, I got you. I’m going to do that thing for you. And so some of the things that have come up are like, I need somebody else to tell this news to people, because maybe you don’t want to be the one that is telling people that you lost someone or you like, cause you don’t want to.

I was going to say, you have to caretake everyone that you tell, but that’s really what it is. And you don’t want to relive that moment over and over again. Yeah. What else should people do? 

Michelle: [00:04:47] And I think you bring up some really great points. Like I know that we are taught, we have an upcoming episode on how to be the more of a support person, what to say, how to, what not to say how to be a support to someone.

Because when you’re in this situation, you don’t, I mean, that’s not what you’re focusing on your. Your brain has kind of shut down basic needs stuff, and you can only focus on Oh my God, this person’s dead. I don’t know what to do. Or, you know, I’ve had this massive change, this massive loss, the shocking news.

Tami: [00:05:26] So you’ve had your sliding doors moment, which is before I got this news life was this way after I got this news. Now life is this other way. And I don’t know how to be in that other world yet. 

Michelle: [00:05:40] Yes. So not, unfortunately not everybody has someone in their life that who will just know. Oh, okay. So I’ve, you know, I’ve been called up, I’m going to take some soup.

I’m going to, you know, do all the things that are so helpful. Not everybody has that. If you. No, that there is a person in your life who can do that. And I hope that everyone has someone. Then it is like just knowing that person that you can call, who knows what to do, bring the food drop it off park outside, just to know that someone’s there, you know, like little things that some people don’t know how to do.

Tami: [00:06:24] Yeah, what’s interesting is when w in this last round because, you know, I’m, this isn’t my first grief rodeo when my mom died. I wasn’t sure what to do, and I kind of closed the ranks in pretty quickly. And I reached out to a couple people, but this time, because we were all living in the pandemic and we were all, everything was just bizarro, Ville.

But I knew for sure. I did not want to be online a lot. And I also didn’t want to retell the story over and over again. So, and I also knew that I had a window before, like either numb shock and inability to keep my eyes open was going to happen. So within the first hour I had called you and I called cache and.

I was like, what am I going to need? And so we made a checklist of the basics and the very, and I still have the checklist and I made it on a piece of paper. And then I made it a checkoff bubble list on my phone in that the very first thing was eat. Yeah. And then I had Ooh, brush your teeth, brush your hair, put different clothes on all of these things.

And you think, Oh, why would I need that? In your new sliding doors life, You might be very disconnected from your physical body and your physical needs. So you’re like, I might need a reminder to eat. Yeah. I might need a reminder to take my medication, right? 

Michelle: [00:07:55] Yeah. I wanna make a quick comment about like changing your clothes or brushing your teeth and just give permission that there might be some days where that doesn’t happen.

So in that shock place, in that complete disorientation, in that utter despair, you know, if that’s where someone is, it’s okay. If you have some days where, and then occasional days ongoing where you’re like, you know what, fuck it today. I can’t, I’m not going to get out of bed and that’s okay.

There are things like, yes, please drink water. Have some food take your medication like that there are things non-negotiable things for your ultimate health. Absolutely. Please do. We don’t want you to not to get dehydrated and to be worse off so that the grief is actually just so much harder to deal with and be with And to give permission if you’re having one of those really dark days and you’re like, I just, I can’t get out of bed today.

I want to watch TV all day. I don’t want to go outside today. And especially in the beginning in those early days when you’re not gonna really even remember anything anyway those days might happen. So there’s kind of this balance of some structure. And a lot of permission. 

Tami: [00:09:25] Yeah. I wish I would have said that better.

I didn’t make the checklist as a, you must do these every day. It was a, you’re not going to remember what your bodily needs are and here’s a helpful reminder. And then some days I would be like, did I brush my teeth already? And I would have to look at the list. You know what I mean? It’s did I check it off?

Was that yesterday? Was it two days ago? Because it was like, my brain was so occupied with this new reality that, that I was like, I’m going to need an instruction manual. Like I probably shouldn’t drive right now because I can’t like use all of the things that I need in order to make this safe. Yes, absolutely.

Right. Because my brain is like processing the worst imaginable. 

Michelle: [00:10:15] Yes, no brain is on shutdown, not a lot of cognitive function available. 

Tami: [00:10:22] Oh my God. And terrible short-term memory. Terrible short-term memory. 

Michelle: [00:10:27] And then, so, so you know, this can let this kind of shock place can last for days, it can kind of come and go.

It can feel like clouds coming in and then for a moment, the clouds part began. The clouds come back. And then at some point, totally undefinable at some point there’s I want to say, and this isn’t going to sound great, but I want to say that in some ways we think as time goes on again, this linear process, what’s going to get easier as time goes on, right?

No, not always. 

Tami: [00:11:02] Cause time is made up.

Some weird parameters on things that don’t really have them, but go ahead. Right? 

Michelle: [00:11:14] So here’s one thing that can happen. So sometimes in the early shock phase, there is emotional response. There is, there are feelings, there’s emotion, there’s there’s intensity and. Sometimes there, there is, as you spoke to that numbing, that can happen in shock where we’re not really feeling the breadth of it, the entirety of it.

So actually as we move out of shock and some of that numbing wears off, we actually have more emotion come forward. More of. The pain or the sadness or the anger, you know, that whole range of emotion that we talked about before. So sometimes it feels like, why is this not getting this actually feels like it’s getting harder.

I’m more in pain. I’m suffering more now than I was at the beginning. And I think it’s so important for people to know that’s not abnormal. That is not unusual. That. That’s actually your body kind of protecting you in a way. I also like to think of your psyche and your system kind of metering.

Tami: [00:12:32] I was going to say dosing where it’s like, you can only have use we slammed that new door, the old door closed. We opened this new door, but we can go ahead and close it just a little bit because this new realities very new and perhaps. In your news state, you can’t take it all in at once. Absolutely.

Michelle: [00:12:51] I 

Tami: [00:12:51] felt like I was stuffed with cotton under my skin and it was like up my nose and in my I just felt like I was kind of in A cotton cloud slash covered with a blanket and like almost insulated. And then as the months go on like little pieces of it come apart and you’re like, Mmm, owl. It hurts when you take that off.

Yeah. I don’t like this new reality it’s too. Then things started feeling like it was too hard. Cold, rough. Cause the numbness had worn off, right? 

Michelle: [00:13:28] Absolutely. 

Tami: [00:13:29] Yeah. And I’ve had her earplugs a lot earplugs and headphones and I didn’t wear my glasses. I. Have found myself looking for my glasses more often than not.

And I’m a person that wears glasses all the time until tests died. And then I was like, Oh, I never wear my glasses anymore. I’m lost. I’m not going anywhere. And so, but I was like, why am I doing that? And I think it’s because I needed the world to be a little fuzzier. 

Michelle: [00:13:55] Yeah. That’s 

Tami: [00:13:56] interesting. Like I don’t need to take it all in 

Michelle: [00:13:59] right to see it.

Tami: [00:14:02] Yeah, I don’t need to see my pain that clearly. Thank you very much. I will go ahead and take my glasses off and let the sharp edges soften a bit. That’s 

Michelle: [00:14:10] interesting, because I was going to say, in my experience, I have felt like I’m kind of an alien, like I’ve landed in this place that is alien to me.

Totally unfamiliar. And I could see that I don’t really want to see it that clearly I don’t want to be exposed. I. I just feel like nothing makes sense. I don’t understand any of this feels so foreign. You can just, in this, I landed in this random place, what has happened, 

Tami: [00:14:38] right. And it’s it’s doubly weird because I’ve experienced extreme acute grief in regular times.

And during the pandemic and in regular times, I wanted to isolate and stay home and snuggle in, and probably not wear my glasses, but during the pandemic, we were already, we’d already been doing that for so many months and everyone was doing that. Yeah, it was a very different experience on, and I think from that perspective Like I’m nervous about going out into public again, I’m like, Oh my God, it’s going to be hard because I have been insulated.

Right. Oh, totally. Yeah. 

Michelle: [00:15:23] Yeah. And that’s a great point. So I, you know, I was starting to talk about like, when some of that wears off and you’re feeling a little more available. But it, so let’s let me pause because it is important to say. Some people might feel like isolating and being really quiet and not talking to a lot of people.

Maybe somebody wants to journal. Maybe somebody else doesn’t want to journal. Things like looking through photos or reminiscing being with memories like. That all kind of textbook is a really healthy thing to do to, you know, help kind of process and keep that person or that circumstance alive and continue the relationship.

And for other people it isn’t helpful or it isn’t helpful yet. So, whereas some people might, I don’t understand these people, but they might want to be with a lot of people. They might want to be out. They might want some 

Tami: [00:16:24] laughing. Those might be extroverted people. 

Michelle: [00:16:26] I think those are extroverted. Yeah. 

Tami: [00:16:28] I know, because I will say that Michelle and I are both super introvert, so we’re like, Did you say go back to your base nature.

Okay. Is there a shell I can curl into? I would gladly do that on most days. 

Michelle: [00:16:44] Yeah. And it’s often going to be, you know, where do you get comfort? Where do you feel most at ease and at home? That will probably be what you naturally go to now. That’s not to say that’s a guarantee. You might find yourself as an extroverted person thinking like, Oh my God, I just really want to be by myself and then follow that, 

Tami: [00:17:06] like really welcome to the club.

Michelle: [00:17:07] And then at some point it can be helpful. Find a book, find a group get either so many Facebook groups for everything these days, even if it’s not an official support group, like we talked about before. Something that lets you know, this is so essential that what you’re feeling is natural, that you’re not crazy or weird that there’s no right way to do this.

Find the others even again, and we’re going to have resources for you for reading material books that we approve, 

Tami: [00:17:44] because it’s a thing guys, and we’re going to have, we’re going to have a whole episode. Yeah. We’re going to have a whole episode just on resources, podcasts classes. Somatic practices, breathing practice.

Like we will, you’ll be so resourced. You’ll be like, okay, I got it. It’s like a guide over here. Yeah. Don’t you worry that’s coming. Yeah. 

Michelle: [00:18:06] Yeah. So yes, so that, you know, you’re not alone. The other thing that I’ll kind of jump to, because I think this is such a great practice. That I teach on. And it’s also something that I’ve done in my own life.

A lot is to make a grief alter and grief alters are just an altar is simply an intentional collection of any number of items. And a grief alter is a way to honor the person or the situation or the thing. Giving it a place like you can give, it can be a couple of things. It can give your grief a place.

So your feeling, your experience, your emotion, it can be the place you go to, to emote, to rage, to whale, to right. To be with those memories. It can also be the place for your person or your thing. Give them a a special spot in your home or outside. So I have a whole thing on how to make a grief alter, and we can share that with 

Tami: [00:19:13] you as well.

It’ll be in the show notes. It’s a really powerful practice and Michelle of course has a little webinar on that. So we’ll put that in the show notes. So some things that we have found to be helpful. Are everyone’s wins, Everett self-compassion and if you don’t know what self-compassion is, I have an episode on that and it’s episode three.

And if you can get a hold of Kristin Neff’s book called that’s, right. Self-compassion that shit will change your life at any time. But man grief is a time where. It is so important to have this practice. So self-compassion has three parts. The first is being kind to yourself and treating yourself basically like your own best friend.

The second part is common humanity, which is we’re all in this together. We’re all flawed humans, every single one of us. And so give that person across the way a break. Also while you’re at it, give yourself a break. We’re all in it together. And then finally, the last piece is mindfulness, which is a fancy way of saying pay attention to when you’re being a Dick to yourself or to someone else.

And to go, I’m going to choose something different than because here’s the thing. Grief is it’s big and it’s completely natural. And it’s again, that sliding doors. This was your life before then there’s the crack. And then there’s the new door. Like you’re meeting yourself for the first time in a completely different way.

So to really bring that home, if you’ve never brought the self-compassion practice into your life during grief is such a, it’s a life-changing experience. What else would you say that would be of use 

Michelle: [00:21:08] here? I would say the other really big one is nature to be in nature in any way, and as much as you can.

So even if it’s, you know, if you’re a really urban and it’s just going to the city park if you’re suburban and you have a yard and then if you can, you know, going out to wild nature and structured nature I was obsessed with water. I’m still on my grief anniversaries. That’s what I want to do. I want to go be near water a river.

I mean, it could be a puddle for all I care puddle, sprinkler. 

Tami: [00:21:46] I know my tail. 

Michelle: [00:21:48] It’s just water is just, you know, it’s that emotion aspect for me. So that’s really soothing, but nature reminds us that things have cycles. There’s just something so soothing about being in nature, you know, like literally hug a tree, touch the dirt.

It can be really grounding and also just there’s like a rhythm that nature has that we have forgotten. 

Tami: [00:22:10] Yeah. And if you are unable to do any of that, looking at pictures of nature actually can get you there too. 

Michelle: [00:22:18] Yeah. Even a house planner. A 

Tami: [00:22:20] house plant bring the outdoors in. And what’s so funny is I was telling you, I think last week is after every one of my most significant losses, I lost one of my very first friend when I was 19.

I started swimming after my mom died. I took swimming lessons. What and then this time. Randomly an old Greek friend was like, Hey, I have this way for you to swim, come and swim at my house. And I’ve been swimming and it is so remarkably comforting. To be in the water and to move my body in that way and to really use my lungs in that way.

And you know, no one can tell if you’re crying, if you’re swimming, cause you’re already wet. It’s kind of like crying in the shower. Yeah. Or crying in the tub. Yep. Which by the way, I, and if I’m not in the swimming pool, I’m in the bath. Yes. Every 

Michelle: [00:23:20] day. Yeah, I think there’s also something so containing about water, whether it’s a pool or a tub or a Lake, like being held in that way, being the buoyancy as well as just that, that gentle pressure and kind of holding in and containing you.

Tami: [00:23:43] Yeah. Yeah. So we’re going to. Provide a checklist of, Hey, this is what you can do when the shit hits the fan. And that will be in the show notes. Do you have anything else that you want to add before we wrap up for today, Michelle? 

Michelle: [00:24:02] Would it be good to talk about a couple of things that don’t help?

Tami: [00:24:07] Ooh, I love that. I love the contrast. Yes. So we so. If we want to, we could say self care helps self-compassion helps. And what are some things that you would say are not helpful? 

Michelle: [00:24:22] Probably some of the things that we have been really well trained to do, or just, you know, seem kind of automatic to go to Oh, like any kind of addiction.

Alcohol is really unhelpful. Recreational drugs, really unhelpful. They can just take us deeper into that dark place where, you know, then we don’t have, our judgment is even more impaired. We feel really off the rails. It just exacerbates everything, even though it might have a little bit of that kind of numbing and subduing that we’re looking for.

The other side of it is just not worth it. So those are big ones because I think they’re kind of common. Oh, I don’t want to feel this. How can I not feel this? Stuffing it just not talking about it. If that’s something that would be helpful for you. Not everybody needs to tell the story and keep continue talking about it, but yeah.

Tami: [00:25:24] Can I have can I have an asterix there? Yes. 

Michelle: [00:25:27] Okay. 

Tami: [00:25:28] So there’s a fine line here. And the fine line goes like this. I urge you my friends to create some sort of talking point about what you will say when you say it. Because after my mom died, I found myself talking like to the postman. Yeah. And then I was like, Oh man, I just ruined that guy’s day.

And now the next time he comes here, I have to tell him a different part of the story because now I’m the crazy person. So what I finally did was like, I was like, not everyone needs to know every thought I’m having, not every person is privy to this, not every per, so it was like, I made a talking list.

Of what? It was like an elevator pitch for my grief, so that people wouldn’t be like, God, she was so weird when blah, blah, blah. Yeah. And, but it also helped me go, what do I want to share? And then save my more messy bits for people who as my, Hey Bernay ha here’s your shout out, had earned the right to hear it.

Yeah, that had been there for me through other things. They understood where I was coming from. Maybe they understood the relationship. They had my best interest, but I don’t need to tell the mailman. About all the things, because he happened to walk by. Totally, 

Michelle: [00:26:55] absolutely. But if you do it’s okay.

Yes. If you do, because I told everyone they’re fucking dog, like I had a post office experience. So apparently the company, the United States postal service, like the truth serum. Oh my God. Yes. I agree. And just so much forgiveness and permission. If you do that, there’s just something in us. In many of us, that’s blah, I just have to tell you because this happened and I’m still trying to make sense of it and maybe you can help me.

And if I tell you it might make it more real, right. 

Tami: [00:27:31] Or you’re like, Hey, I need to announce I’m different now. Yeah. I lost my person. I’m different. I lost my job. I’m different. Do you see how different I am? And they’re like, they’re backing away slowly. Like I do. Why does everyone tell me their stuff?

And you’re like you did bring me the mail today. 

Michelle: [00:27:49] Exactly. I mean, isn’t that what you do? But on the other side of that, again, like just completely stuffing it down. No, I’m fine. Whatever. And that’s generally not helpful for anybody either because that shit will come out some other way. That is a lot less desirable.

Tami: [00:28:08] I just had this vision of whack-a-mole and I’m looking at this list because you know, we have a list and I’m like, wow, this is a lot like what they say. These are all things that you shouldn’t do after you’ve had some anesthesia. If you’ve had an anesthesia, don’t operate heavy machinery, don’t make big life decisions.

Don’t sign contracts. Don’t do recreational drugs or drink. Or talk to the PA the mailman, 

Michelle: [00:28:36] tell him your life secrets. Let’s truly talk about making big life decisions, because this is such a common one. People will say I’m going to sell the house. I’m going to move out of state. I’m going to quit my job.

I’m going to change my job. Like it’s just, we talked about the cognitive function being a little different, like not a great time to be making really big changes. 

Tami: [00:29:01] Right, because you’ve just met yourself. You’ve just met your new self. Yeah. 

Michelle: [00:29:05] And a quest. So just all the other random things that might come up that you might wonder about I don’t know, is this going to be helpful or should I do this?

Or did that work? The question to ask always is what makes it worse because if. Talking to Sally every time stout, sorry, all the salaries, but every time Sally calls, do you feel like shit after that conversation, do you feel worse after talking to Sally? Then. Don’t talk to Sally, don’t angry in your calls, 

Tami: [00:29:41] my friends, and you don’t even have to wait for grief for this one.

Yeah. Just don’t pick up. 

Michelle: [00:29:47] Yeah. And it, so if you know, if you watch six hours of TV, did that make it worse or did it help if you go for a walk, did that help or did that make it worse? So that’s, and that might, it might change, you know, week to week. But that’s probably not that much. So that’s a really good gauge.

And that kind of goes back to the checklist you were talking about where you can just have field notes okay, clearly Sally’s off the list. Or you can put on your list of optional things to do, take a walk. 

Tami: [00:30:25] Yeah. I it’s so funny because there’s so many. Apparent. I’m like, I’m really revealing myself as a list-maker, but I think I really am naturally a list-maker it’s like I can talk to this person about grief, not talk to this person because I feel worse when we do that.

I eat this food. I feel better. I eat this food. I feel worse by the way, this does it make it worse? Question is like one for the ages. You could ask yourself this all day, every day, even when you’re not in grief. And then you end up with some really responsive self-care. So that’s this, Hey guys, we’re like 80 plus episodes in, but really what this entire show is about is being responsive to your own needs.

Yes. Amen. Right. And it’s those needs are going to change depending on what’s happening in your life. All right. So, Michelle, we’re going to link to your grief alter webinar. You guys read Kristin Neff’s self-compassion book. If you want the real skinny story, you can check out episode three of this very podcast, and we are going to create a checklist for early grief.

Anything to add before we say goodbye. 

Michelle: [00:31:44] I think we’ve covered it just, you know, self-compassion permission patients, which are big asks, so write them down so that you can remind yourself 

Tami: [00:31:58] Over and over. Absolutely. All right. Friends take good care. And until next week, remember that you matter too.