Saying that death is a part of life is a lot like saying I understand why I get period cramps. Acknowledging the fact doesn't make it hurt less. Each loss is accompanied by grief, whether their death was anticipated or caught us all by surprise. This year has been rocked with the death of several loved ones. There are moments when I think of each of them, and feel like my heart is caught in a vice grip and the tears flow unbidden. Losing a friend or family member hurts to the core. Everyone reacts differently to death and employs personal coping mechanisms for grief. Here are some tips for coping with loss.
Coping with Loss
There are healthy ways to deal with grief and all it entails. I hope that these tips will help you with the five stages of grief.
Give Yourself Time
Grief is not linear. You have to allow your heart to drive the process. It's okay to not be okay. You need to give yourself permission to grieve at your own pace. It doesn't matter if someone else completed their grief process in two months or in two years. You and your grief are on your own timeline, and no one else gets to dictate your journey.
Take Part in Grieving Rituals
Memorial services and other traditions allow you to come closer with your family. Memorial services serve at least two purposes. First, they honor the person who has passed away. Second, they also allow everyone to come together and share their grief. Being in the presence of those who were close to your loved one may lend comfort. It may also help you to feel less isolated. Some rituals may be done to honor your loved one's wishes, and some may be done to honor those who are yet living. Regardless of the why behind the ritual, you can use the time to reflect and remember.
Lean on Your Faith
If you are a person of faith, lean on your faith during the difficult season of grief. I am personally a Christian and find my faith to be a great source of comfort when coping with loss. Participate in faith related activities that are meaningful to you. Prayer, meditation, going to church, or listening to worship can offer solace. Some people struggle with questioning their faith during the grieving process. Talk with your clergy or a trusted faith community member if this is the case for you. My friend, Steven Sewell, is a grief educator and has written several books that you may find helpful.
Express Your Emotions
Grief has a tendency to hold on to you if you try to bottle things up. It's important to express your thoughts and feelings. Even if you don't know what you are feeling. Refusing to acknowledge your emotions can lead to depression. Depression can lead to a whole host of health issues, and in some cases may even lead to drug or alcohol abuse. Grief counselors and therapists are trained to help you develop healthy ways to cope and grieve. If you're concerned that your grief is leading to clinical depression, take a depression test and talk with your care provider. You do NOT have to face your grief alone, and there is no shame in needing help.
There are several ways to preserve your loved one's memory. Many people find comfort in planting a tree or setting up a memory garden. Journaling cherished memories that you can read later is one way to remember the good times. Using a digital photo frame to display photos and videos may also be helpful. Children may find comfort in a memory bear. A memory quilt is a great option, as well.
Dealing with loss and grief are stressful in and of itself. Reducing stress, in whatever ways you can, is critical to emotional health and well being. A few things you can do to reduce stress include hiring someone to clean your home, get groceries delivered with Instacart, going for a massage, or even just drinking calming tea.
If your loved one died as a result of another person’s negligence and you want to take legal action, hiring an attorney can greatly reduce stress on you and your family. You'd need to speak with a wrongful death lawyer about your situation, to see if a case could be pursued.
Physical activity increases endorphins, and endorphins help you cope with pain or stress. Be gentle with yourself and do the physical activity that helps you. Whether you go for a long, quiet walk, or take a kickboxing class to work out your anger and frustration, it can help you process. It may even help you sleep.
Don’t Blame Yourself
It’s common for people to wonder what they could have done differently when a loved one dies. Wondering how you could have been a better friend or family member is normal. Give yourself permission to forgive yourself, for whatever you did or didn't do, and move on.