Who Stole My Happiness?

20 Things Happy People Do Differently (with a widowhood perspective):

The reality of grief is that at times, you think you will never be happy again-that this will stay with you forever.

But there are things that you can do to help you process your grief and invite peace and happiness back into your life OVER TIME.

You cannot just “decide” to be happy when you are grieving. The ONLY way out of grief is through it; however, you can use our take on these tips to set the stage for happiness. When you are ready to release the grief, we believe in and recommend the Grief Recovery Method™ lead by a Grief Recovery Method Specialist™ (Full disclosure: I am a certified specialist, but I became one because I use the method and it works.)

1. Practice the art of being in the moment. 
Enjoy what that moment has to offer. The past is gone and cannot be changed. The future and all its worries has not happened yet. Be present now and practice noticing the moment. This is difficult when you have grief and memories intrude, but you can allow yourself to gently move back into the present moment and reconnect once you have managed the moment.

2. If you love them, enjoy animals: 
Studies indicate the stress-relieving benefits of pets. Walk your pet or walk a friend’s pet. Volunteer at an animal shelter-some will let you volunteer to walk the dogs. Be around the unconditional love animals offer.

3. Invite laughter into your life
While the world expects the widowed to grieve, it is okay to invite laugher into your life. Watch an old-style comedy, whether it is the Three Stooges, an old sitcom, a comedy show, Monty Python. Go to standup comedy with friends. It is okay to laugh when you are grieving and you are not being disrespectful to your spouse by doing so.

4. Get esSCENTtial 
Research finds that the benefits of aromatherapy in relieving stress are real. Orange or Lemon add energy. To relieve stress, lavender, vanilla or sandalwood help bring peace. Many widowed have found relaxation by spraying their pillows with lavender.

Another tip is to soak in a tub with Epsom salts (if you want a scent, add a few drops of essential oils) and scented candles. (Health check here…always vet your health activities with a physician. Especially if you are a diabetic, check with your physician before you start soaking with the salts. Also, if you suffer from allergies, get that list cleared with your respective professional before you bring them into your world.)

5. Go to sleep
Sleep is one of the things that is most disrupted by widowhood and is absolutely essential for healing and happiness. Take naps if you need to and simply rest if you can’t go to sleep. See your doctor for a sleep aid if that is needed because lack of rest can destroy your ability to navigate the exhaustion of grief, your ability to handle your emotions and your ability to stay happy again. Grief is exhausting, both from a mental and physical perspective, so you may find over time you need more rest as you process your grief.

6. Ignore the stock market or other “uncontrollable”
Stock market and other uncontrollable factors can exacerbate our anxiety as widowed people. We are already dealing with fear-this is something you cannot control.

7. Music
Music can amplify our emotions or soothe them, so choose wisely. Rather than being prey to the radio (and unexpected triggers) have a friend create a mix of music that has a catchy tempo and major chords to lift your mood, and another track of a relaxing one to soothe it. In the early stages of grief, program your playlist so that you are not caught off guard by “your song” or a trigger playing on the radio.  This is a great task for a friend to create a playlist for you.

8. Seek Peace and Solace in Quiet
Grief naturally brings us to a place of quiet but we are not necessarily in a place where we seek solace and are soothed. Here are some tips to bring quiet back to the turbulence brought on by loss:

  • Visit Libraries, museums, gardens, and places of worship are all places that can calm, soothe, de-stress and unplug from the stress and exhaustion of grief. Practice being in the moment as you smell and watch the bees and butterflies go from flower to flower
  • Visit a meditation center to join with meditation (e.g. many Buddhist centers have scheduled meditation classes for a small donation)
  • Visit a National or state park
  • Relax by a brook or lake and watch the water flow
  • Relax with a favorite book, remember how the west was won, stop to smell the roses, or reconnect with your spiritual side.


9. Declutter 
It’s nearly impossible to relax and your energy is half (or less) when widowed. Decluttering will allow freedom, movement and new energy to flow through your room. Decluttering is a healing, renewing, energizing activity.

You need to find a balance; however. Don’t declutter your spouse’s things early. You will know when it is time. Don’t toss in a fit of agitation. Your spouse’s items are not breaking the law and your relatives are not entitled to railroad you into getting jewelry or watches. Wait a year or two before you distribute items. In the meantime, practice being without them by putting them in a tote in another location in the house for three or six months.

We like Flylady with her free home routine and organization system. www.flylady.net

10. Volunteer. 
Helping others enables us to give, which is essential when we are self-focused on our grief. We need both the vacation from ourselves and the ability to give and feel connected that come with volunteering.

11. Streamline. 
Eliminate activities that aren’t necessary and that you don’t enjoy. Note that this may change over time as you progress through your widowed journey. Our energy is decreased by grief, so accepting help than simplifying can free up time and effort for not only grief, but for happiness.

12. Spend time alone to relax and reflect. Although relationships are one of the best antidotes to stress and important for us to stay connected, sometimes you need time alone to recharge and reflect. During your alone time, learn about yourself and what your needs are. Relax. Do an activity that YOU enjoy or work in your grief journal. Build your own spirit and your own character.

13. Make a list. 
There’s nothing like writing down your tasks to release the stress of trying to remember everything. Lists help you realize how much you really do accomplish. They help promote happiness when the weight of remembering is on paper…and when your sense of accomplishment skyrockets as you see just how much you do! GO YOU! However, limit yourself to accomplishing six critical things a day, not sixty.

14. Walk mindfully. 
You probably already know that exercise is better than tranquilizers for relieving anxiety and stress, but when was the last time you took your walk and noticed the laughter of the children the park, the breeze whispering through the pines, or the smell of the flower garden as you walked past it?

Rather than drifting off into your private thoughts or listening to an iPod as you walk, notice where you are, what you feel against your skin, what you smell, and the sounds you hear–finding joy in the moment of the walk.  Grief takes us a away from the moment and we miss the gentle comfort of seeing what is in front of us.

15. Do one thing at a time. 
So often we fall into the habit of eating while we watch TV…and we never get the joy of the taste and texture of the food, nor do we pay full attention to the show. So choose to do one thing at a time and thoroughly find the joy in that one thing.

16. Give priority to close relationships and friendships that are positive.
Study after study has shown that the acceptance and companionship of a spouse, friends and family has positive benefits to the body and to the spirit. When you lose that close relationship of a spouse, you need to balance that in other areas. Loving and giving love, sharing experiences, and going through the journey of life together can make life happier and relieve the burdens.

17. Garden
There is something cathartic about tilling the soil, planting a seed, tending a seedling, watching it grow, and enjoying the benefits of the plant–whether that be a fresh fruit or vegetable, or a fully blooming flower. Soak in the rays of happiness!

18. Take care of your soul and nurture your spirit
In study after study, actively religious people are happier and cope better with crises. The correlation between faith and well-being can be seen both in surveys taken of the general public and in research on specific population groups. For example, a recent Gallup poll of Americans found that people with high religious involvement are twice as likely as those without to say that they are “very happy.”

So make the time for worship, prayer and spirituality and increase your day-to-day happiness!

This can be particularly problematic for widowed people struggling with the “why” of the loss of their partner. However, there are ways to tend to your spirit without being overly religious should you find that your religious tradition is not bringing you comfort at a point in your grief journey (you can always return later):

  • Relax in nature
  • Visit spiritual places that are outside of your tradition, perhaps a meditation center that will allow you to be quietly focused without being overtly religious
  • Speak to your religious guide (such as a Rabbi) about a grief group that might help you look at reconciling your grief with your religious tradition
  • If memories are tied to a particular location, explore for a time attending at another location that doesn’t have the same weight
  • Visit your place of worship outside of a traditional gathering, such as a service, to quietly reflect
  • Seek a volunteer opportunity in line with your tradition that allows you to give back with your community in a structured activity


19. Tune out the news. 
All the “bad news” today is enough to drive even the most optimistic person to depression, so choose to walk away one day and let the world turn without you.

This is true because of the nature of marketing news-an axiom is that bad news or fear sells (“If it bleeds, it leads” the evening report). When the “bad news” is dragging you down, choose happiness–unplug, change the news channel, and don’t pick up that newspaper (except to read the comics section)!

If you must keep up with the news, choose to read online news summaries versus viewing the news where you cannot control the triggers as easily.

20. Count your blessings.
Start a basic gratitude journal. List the moments you are grateful for in the day. Studies have shown when you focus on gratitude, it has a positive effect on your mental processes over time, because you are re-wiring the pathways because you are training your brain to perceive and process the positive on a daily basis.

You can do it! I believe in YOU! ~The Widow Coach

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