Life After Loss: Tiny Habits for the Bereaved and the Bereft*
Updated: Oct 18, 2021
During Elul I taught a short online course on Judaism, positive psychology and BJ Fogg’s Tiny Habits method for behaviour change. Janine (not her real name) emailed me after the first session with feedback along the following lines: “This all makes sense but I don’t think your talk of envisioning a positive future and making changes to habits applies to me, as I recently lost my husband after five precious decades together. I’ve had more than enough change and things just are genuinely hard. In the words of a helpful book I read on bereavement, ‘It’s ok that you’re not ok’. Can the Tiny Habits approach really work for me now?”
Of course, I agreed with the idea that overwhelming feelings of sadness, grief and hopelessness are completely natural and healthy after such a traumatic loss. At the same time, I wanted to explore how the Tiny Habits approach might be helpful to Janine, even in such difficult circumstances, so we arranged to speak on the phone a few days later. One of the first things Janine told me was that she had woken up the morning after our session with the idea of tiny behaviour changes on her mind. Although prior to her husband’s devastating illness she had been in the habit of reciting birchot hashachar, she had not done so in a long time. She decided to try just a minute or two of prayer. Over the next few weeks she applied the same ‘baby steps’ approach to tasks that had previously seemed overwhelming, and was pleased to see that she could make genuine progress, not just in beginning to tackle those jobs but, perhaps more importantly, in feeling just a little bit more hopeful.
Janine’s initial feedback inspired me to ask BJ Fogg and some of my fellow Tiny Habits coaches how they would have responded in a similar situation. BJ helpfully pointed out that the question is part of a much bigger context: with the toll the Covid 19 pandemic has taken, in terms of lives, livelihoods and other losses, the bereaved and the bereft are all around us. Bereavement and other significant losses can be devastating at the best of times, and we know that Covid has compounded the challenges that people face, including, in many cases, feelings of loneliness and isolation.
The coaches, BJ suggested, could help by offering an online session in which they would present the Tiny Habits recipes that have helped them and their clients get through challenging times. So that’s exactly what we’re doing. Andy Spyros, Jenni Miner, Marta Rozgoni and I will help you think about how to manage your emotional responses and your daily routines so that you can best weather the storm of this difficult period. We’ll offer a range of Tiny Habits recipes for important aspects of self-care, including nutrition, movement and sleep, and look at ways of overcoming the ‘brain fog’ and lack of focus that so often accompany the grieving process.
We’re delighted that Linda Fogg-Phillips, BJ’s sister and Director of the Tiny Habits® Academy, will be joining our panel of Tiny Habits Certified Coaches. Linda’s harrowing personal story (including the death of a son, the mental health illness of a daughter, and her husband’s diagnosis with early-onset Alzheimer's) is featured in BJ’s book Tiny Habits: The Small Changes that Change Everything. She is an acknowledged expert in ‘pearl habits’, the art of creating positivity out of challenging circumstances.
We are here to help you. The Zoom session is completely free and as a follow-up, Andy, Jenni, Marta, and I are also happy to coach you individually through the free Tiny Habits 5 Day Programme if you feel it could be helpful to you. You can use this popular email coaching programme, devised by BJ himself, to experiment with some of the Tiny Habits recipes we suggest in the session, or you can create your own with the guidance of your coach.
If you’ve lost someone or something (or know someone who has and would like to be able to help them), you’re not alone. Please join us on Monday 25th October at 7 pm (UK time) for a Zoom session on Tiny Habits for Loss. Register here.
* An earlier version of this post is available on my Tiny Habits blog.