Contributed by Michelle Hassler
Losing a loved one can feel like drowning. Like being submerged underwater, you experience intense pangs of panic, pain and hopelessness. You manage to break through the surface – gasping for air, disoriented and weak. Whether the loss is sudden or anticipated, seldom are you prepared to deal with the intense flooding of emotions that surge when you lose someone close to you. Everyone copes with grief differently. Some people boldly or loudly express their pain, while others quietly slink through the hours hiding an all-consuming hurt. Knowing how to deal with grief after a loved one passes will help you to find a life raft, get back on your feet, and begin to navigate life again. Here, we’ll try to help you navigate the waters of dealing with grief.
Memorialize and Reflect
Taking the time to memorialize your late loved one could be the emotional release and resolution that you need. Attending a memorial service or ceremony will allow you to find closure and take the time to give appreciation to the life that was lost. Simply writing about your loss in a journal, creating a photo album filled with cherished memories, or writing a letter to the deceased could provide an outlet for closure and peace. Activities such as planting a tree in memoriam or making a donation to a cause in their honor are positive ways to give tribute to their life. If possible, be inclusive. Sharing in this experience with close friends or family members could turn out to be a healing for an entire family or community.
Seeking support may be the last thing you want to do. However, if you are suffering emotionally, you need to accept support to work through your emotions. Accept kind gestures that may be offered to you even if you feel like you do not need them. If a friend offers to cook you dinner or watch the kids for a few hours, take her up on it. You may not even realize that you need to take time to process what happened. Meeting a friend for coffee and engaging in conversation (that may or may not involve your loved one) may be the type of therapy that you need. There are support groups that you can join in your local or online community for more formal support on how to deal with grief from others who understand. If you need someone to talk to or are having trouble balancing your responsibilities, ask for help. Do not let your pride get in the way of seeking assistance that you need and others are often happy to give.
Take Care of Yourself
After experiencing a loss, it is normal to be overwhelmed. Daily tasks may seem arduous and difficult to handle. You may suddenly have extra responsibilities added to your plate. It is important to remember to take care of yourself. To be functional, clear-headed, and avoid burnout, you need to remember to take care of your own health and individual needs. Make sure you taking care of your body: eating healthy meals, getting enough sleep, and moving your body to blow off steam and release tension. Carve out time in your day to do something that is good for your soul such as reading a book, talking to a friend, or taking your dog for a walk.
Find an Outlet
Another coping mechanism for how to deal with grief requires finding an outlet. Engaging in a productive way to focus your energy is essential as you adapt to a new life without your loved one. Adopt a new hobby, sign up for a yoga class, join a book club, or learn how to knit. Taking up golf, starting a running program, or planning and nurturing a garden to fruition are all positive ways to re-engage in your life. Some people benefit from alone time to clear their minds, while others flourish when spending time with friends. If you could benefit from companionship, ask a friend to join you or participate in a group setting. Spending time doing something for enjoyment will not only help the healing process, but will enrich your personal life.
It is important to remember that though it may take time, things will get better. You will always miss your loved one, but life will get easier and things will return to a normal state – or rather, a new normal. You should seek help from a mental health professional if the grief is overwhelming or you are having difficulty functioning in your day-to-day life. Though everyone is on their own timeline when dealing with grief, you will come out the other side renewed, strong and most importantly – okay. Remember, the best testament to honor a life cut short is embracing your life and living the best way you know.