Loss and grief are devastating emotional experiences. These suggestions, offered by grief experts and those who have experienced painful losses themselves, are designed to help you get through the initial time period following the loss of a loved one.
Find a good listener
After losing someone close to us we often feel alone in the world and as if no one can understand the intensity of our suffering. Often it is helpful to share our feelings and memories with a person with whom we are close, which can help to alleviate feelings of loneliness. Talking about the loss, and about our loved one, allows us to organize our thoughts and relieve some of the pain we are experiencing. In addition, simply talking with someone can remind us that we are not alone and that someone else cares about us. Sharing your feelings with another person is the single most important thing that you can do for yourselves during this period of time. Many also find it helpful to join a support group and/or to professional counseling.
Help others help you
It is important that you tell those close to you how they can best help you. Despite their good intentions, often people just do not know what you will find helpful. Consider drawing up a list of chores or errands you need to have done in the event that family and friends offer to help. Consider asking a friend to accompany you on difficult errands related to your loss or to events that you may have previously gone to with your loved one. These moments can be especially difficult and it is best to plan ahead for them. But do not wait for someone to offer help. Rather, turn directly to them and ask them. Not only will you be grateful for their help, they will be happy knowing that they have helped you.
Recognize your feelings and learn what to expect
Knowledge is power, especially during tough times. Therefore, the more you know about the bereavement process the better you will be able to cope. Reading books on the subject, participating in support groups, and doing research online are all good ways to access information. This education can help you become more familiar with your feelings, know where they are coming from, and provide suggestions on how best to handle what you are experiencing.
Try to maintain a healthy lifestyle
Mourning is a physically exhausting process. In the first weeks and months following the death of a loved one many people experience a loss of appetite and may suffer from sleeplessness. Nevertheless it is important to try and eat well and get enough rest. Some people find that relaxation exercises help them during this time. It is also important to maintain your daily routine. This routine can provide a sense of stability and comfort during this difficult period of time.
Know that feelings of guilt are common
Following the death of a loved one many people feel guilt for things they either did or did not do. This sense of guilt can be especially strong in the aftermath of the death of a child, even when the person had no part in causing the child’s death. In other cases we may feel guilty because we feel we do not feel sad enough or mourn for a long enough period of time. The fact that these feelings of guilt are usually irrational does not eliminate them. It is important to understand that feelings of guilt are a normal part of the mourning process.
Avoid making big decisions
During periods of extreme loss our sense of judgment is impaired and it is best to postpone making any major decisions, such as moving or taking a new job, for several weeks, or even months after the loss of a loved one.
Consider maintaining or beginning a ritual or religious practice
Many people report finding great value and comfort in ritual and religious practice during periods of grief. Often members of the clergy, such as rabbis, ministers, or imams, may be good sources for support as well.
Be patient with yourself
The mourning process can take several years and may progress slowly. So try and be patient with yourself and avoid self-criticism. Allow yourself to cry: it is the soul’s healthy way of releasing pain. At the same time try and enjoy pleasant times without feeling guilty about it.
Get help from an outside source
Support groups for people who have experienced a similar loss, where you can share your feelings with others, can be helpful. If you are active in a religious organization, continue continuing your observance. Feeling a sense of belonging can be deeply comforting, and help in adapting to your loss.
Seek professional help
Grief is one of the most common reasons people begin therapy. Consider turning to professional help if:
* You want more time and space to delve into your feelings than those around you can offer.
* You feel your anguish is more intimate than you feel comfortable sharing with your friends and family
* You are unable to perform basic daily functions normally, even weeks after the event
* You are having suicidal thoughts and are considering hurting yourself
* You have begun to abuse drugs or alcohol