We are all very likely to have to cope with the death of a family member, friend or neighbor several times in our lives.
About 8 out of every 1,000 people in the U.S. die each year. Whether the cause of death is an illness, accident or something else we need to be able to cope.
The loss of a loved one can turn your life upside down. Read on to learn some helpful tips for coping with death and moving on.
The Right Way to Grieve
Any guide to coping with the death of a loved one that suggests that there is a right way to do it does not recognize how complex our responses to death can be. The circumstances of each death are unique. The relationships, personalities, beliefs, and needs of every individual are very different.
The challenge of coping can be eased by some suggestions. This guide may help you find your way through the difficulties of how to cope with death and dying. You may find it helpful to reach out to others or you may prefer to keep yourself to yourself until you are able to move on.
The emotions associated with grieve can be varied. It’s common for people to refuse to accept the fact of death. This denial of death in the face of certain evidence might seem strange but it’s one of several possible responses to death that are natural aspects of grief.
Other emotional reactions to death are feeling numb, feeling shocked or even that it is something to be ashamed of or to hide. Sometimes irrational feelings of guilt arise or an attempt to work out how you could have prevented the death.
You may have feelings of regret about things you have said or done or left unsaid or undone. You may feel angry about or towards the deceased person. Feeling low or even depressed is also possible.
Your feelings can be complicated by the circumstances of your loved one’s death. If it was a possible wrongful death you may want to see more professional guidance.
Grief is Natural
These feelings associated with grief are natural. They are shared by many people when a loved one dies. You may want to ignore these emotions but this can mean that you take longer to process them and move on.
You may try to distract yourself from these emotions by throwing yourself into work, caring for others or trying not to think about it. Grief is not only normal. It may also be necessary for you to cope with losing a loved one.
Take time to face your emotional reaction to death. A little time for yourself to deal with all the feelings and circumstances of death may be good for both you and for the other people around you that you love. If you can take some time off work or school, do so.
Sometimes there are physical symptoms associated with grieving. You may experience stomach upsets or pain, loss of appetite and trouble sleeping. If you have an existing illness it may get worse and you may be more prone to infections and medical conditions.
Failure to express your feelings of grief may mean that it takes longer for you to build up your resilience against physical ailments. The connection between emotional, psychological, and physical health is well illustrated in our response to loss.
Remembering your loved one can be a comfort to you in your grief and after you have moved on with life. Depending on the circumstances of their death you may wish to keep alive positive memories rather than distressing ones. If your loved one was ill for some time it may be that you prefer to remember happier times.
Having a keepsake or photograph can be helpful to prompt memories of good times. The painful feelings of grief are a natural response to the loss of an important presence in your life. These thoughts can help you cope with suffering.
You may be grieving alongside other people. They may cope with the death of a loved one in a very different way to you. What’s right for you may not be right for them.
Others may try to comfort you. Remember that they may find it difficult to say the right words or do what you need them to. They may be trying to help you and not coping very well themselves.
This is a time for tolerance and understanding but it may need you to try to communicate your needs. If you would like to talk ask them to listen. If you would like time on your own, feel free to ask for that too.
If people want to help in practical ways try to let them. Doing some cooking or cleaning for you may be helping them and it can give you some much-needed respite. Help with funeral planning can also be very valuable.
Sharing memories with others, being with other people who share some of your feelings and sharing the burden of necessary arrangements can be helpful. Grief can be a group as well as an individual process. A funeral that is a celebration of your loved one’s life can help you and others to remember the good things and prepare for the future.
Take Care of Yourself
It’s easy to stop thinking about your own needs while your focus is on the loss of a loved one. While you are coping with grief and the aftermath of loss you need to look after your own wellbeing. Poor physical health, for example, can have an impact on your psychological resilience and so make it difficult for you to cope.
Even if you don’t feel like eating, working out or sleeping it’s important to try to do these things. Pay attention to eating healthily and taking exercise and these two things will help you sleep better. Exercise such as going to your usual gym session or taking a walk can be very therapeutic for you during this stressful time.
Moving On After the Loss of a Loved One
When you are ready to move on you will need to get back into the routine of life. Sometimes you will find it difficult but gradually normality will settle in.
Special days and birthdays and anniversaries may be harder to cope with. Starting new traditions around those dates that are positive can help you. Remember happy times.
If you need further support after the loss of a loved one, seek it out from health professionals, counselors or school therapists.
Want to learn more about how to be happy? Check out our blog.