Tips for Dealing with Grief

Older father with arm around son When someone you love dies, you are faced with the difficult, but important, need to mourn. Mourning is the open expression of your thoughts and feelings regarding the death and the person who has died. It is an essential part of healing.

Every person’s grief is unique. No two people grieve in exactly the same way, as their experiences are influenced by a variety of factors. Those factors include the relationship they had with the person who died, the circumstances surrounding the death, their emotional support system, and their cultural and religious background.

As a result of these factors, a person should not compare their experience with that of other people or to adopt assumptions about just how long their grief should last. Each person should allow themselves to grieve at his or her own pace.

Making grief a more positive experience:

Talk about your grief.

By expressing your grief openly and sharing your grief outside yourself, healing occurs. Ignoring your grief won’t make it go away, talking about it often make you feel better.

Find caring friends and relatives who will listen without judging. Avoid persons who are critical or who try to steal your grief from you by telling you to “keep your chin up” or “carry on.” While these comments may be well-intended, you do not have to accept them and you have a right to express your grief.

Expect to feel a multitude of emotions.

Experiencing loss affects your head, heart, and spirit, so you may experience a variety of emotions as you work through your grief. Confusion, disorganization, fear, guilt, relief, or explosive emotions are just a few of the things you may feel. Sometimes these emotions will follow each other within a short period of time, or they may occur simultaneously.

As strange as some of these feelings may seem, they are normal and healthy. Allow yourself to learn from them, and don’t be surprised if out of nowhere you suddenly experience surges of grief – even at the most unexpected times. These “grief attacks” can be frightening and leave you feeling overwhelmed. They are, however, a natural response to the death of someone loved. Find someone who understands your feelings and will allow you to talk about them.

Allow for numbness.

Feeling dazed or numb when someone dies is often part of your early grief experience. This serves a valuable purpose as it gives your emotions time to catch up with what your mind has told you. This feeling helps create insulation from the reality of the death until you are more able to tolerate what you don’t want to believe.

Be tolerant of your physical and emotional limits.

The feelings of loss and sadness will probably leave you fatigued. The ability to think clearly and make decisions may be impaired and the low energy level may naturally slow you down. Respect what your body and mind are telling you and nurture yourself, get daily rest, eat balanced meals, and lighten your schedule as much as possible. Caring for yourself doesn’t mean feeling sorry for yourself but means you are using your survival skills.

Develop a support system.

Reaching out to others and accepting support is often difficult, particularly when you hurt so much, but the most compassionate self-action you can take at this time is to find a support system of caring friends and relatives who will provide the understanding you need. Find those people who encourage you to be yourself and acknowledge your feelings – happy and sad. Many people find an organized grief support group to be helpful.

Make use of ritual.

The funeral ritual does more than acknowledge the death of someone loved, it helps provide you with the support of caring people. Most importantly, the funeral is a way for you to express your grief outside yourself. If you eliminate this ritual, you often set yourself up to repress your feelings and you cheat everyone who cares of a chance to pay tribute to someone who was, and always will be, loved.

Embrace your spirituality.

If faith is part of your life, express it in ways that seem appropriate to you. Allow yourself to be around people who understand and support your religious beliefs. If you are angry with God because of the death of someone you loved, realize this feeling as a normal part of your grief experience. Find someone to talk with who won’t be critical of your feelings of hurt and abandonment.

Allow a search for meaning.

You may find yourself asking, “Why did he die? Why this way? Why now?” This search for meaning is often another normal part of the healing process. Some questions have answers. Some do not. Actually, the healing occurs in the opportunity to pose the questions, not necessarily in answering them. Find a supportive friend who will listen responsively as you search for meaning.

Treasure your memories.

Memories are one of the best legacies that exist after someone loved dies. Treasure them. Share them with your family and friends. Recognize that your memories may make you laugh or cry but in either case, they are a lasting part of the relationship that you had with a very special person in your life.

Move toward your grief and heal.

The capacity to love requires the necessity to grieve when someone loved dies. You cannot heal unless you openly express your grief. Denying your grief will only make it become more confusing and overwhelming, so we encourage you to embrace your grief and heal.

Reconciling your grief will not happen quickly. Remember, grief is a process, not an event. Be patient and tolerant of yourself and never forget that the death of someone loved changes your life forever. It’s not that you won’t be happy again, it’s simply that you will never be exactly the same as you were before the death.