The loss of a loved one is often a difficult event. When we lose that person who was close, our grief can be intense. Intellectually, we understand that loss is a part of life. Yet, we can still be overcome by shock, confusion, overwhelming sadness, anger, and a host of other emotions. These emotions can make coping with grief a difficult task.
Everyone reacts differently to death and loss. There is no set amount of time that grief “should” be present. There is no certain set of stages that “have” to be gone through. Many people have read or heard about the stages of grief – Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance. However, these should not be seen as a process of going from one stage through all the others. In other words, we don’t all go straight through the stages from denial to acceptance.
Current research suggests we go through various stages at different times and may not spend any time in a certain stage. For example, the stage of denial may be skipped by one person and the stage of bargaining may be skipped by another. There is no set “method” of grieving. With that said, how do we find ways of coping with grief?
Take Care of Yourself
When loss occurs, we have a tendency to focus all of our attention on the loss. This is very normal. However, it can also be problematic. We have to remember to take care of ourselves even when others have needs. Effectively coping with grief requires that we make sure we are still getting rest, dealing with our own emotions, eating properly, and everything else that is part of taking care of ourselves. If we are not well, we can’t really help others anyway. Taking care of yourself is not selfish. It actually allows you to give more.
Accept and Talk About Your Emotions
All kinds of emotions can be expected – anger, sadness, frustration, and many others. Find a close friend, counselor, or other trusted person to talk to. This is especially important if you had a difficult or complicated relationship with the deceased person. Denying emotions is a sure-fire way to have a hard time coping with grief.
Realizing you are going to feel a variety of painful emotions is part of the process. Denying that you feel angry, sad, or any other emotion is a way to deny the loss had an impact. It did have an impact on you. Your world has been changed. Go ahead and accept those negative emotions and talk about them.
Perhaps you will make a donation in their honor. Maybe you will name a child after the loved one. You might paint a picture or write a story about the person. Whatever method you choose, find a way to celebrate the life of the person and the time you were given with them.
When You are Stuck…
There are a number of ways individuals can get stuck in their grief. Here are a few:
- Having a dependent relationship with the deceased
- Having a difficult relationship with the deceased
- Past abuse or other maltreatment by the deceased
- The death was violent or unexpected
- Death of a child
- Lack of a support system or friendships
- Having a history of depression
If you feel stuck in your grief, I would encourage you to seek the help of a counselor. Coping with grief can be difficult. It is often beneficial to seek professional help. Often, a counselor can help you in the process of coping with grief and finding new ways to build meaning in your life.
What ways have you celebrated the life of a deceased loved one? Share your experiences as a way to help others.