coping with grief

Coping with Grief

We all experience grief with the loss of someone we love. There are no textbook right or wrong answers on how to deal with grief and loss, but there are healthy ways you can go through the process.

Grief is a natural response to loss. It’s an emotional response and suffering when something or someone we love is taken away. This emotional pain can sometimes be quite overwhelming and people can feel a wide range of emotions like shock, sadness, disbelief, anger etc.

Grief can be such a powerful emotion that it can even disrupt our life and physical health, causing sleep deprivation, eating disorders or even hinder our ability to think straight. These are all common reactions and unfortunately the bigger the loss, the more intense grief can become.

The grieving process is a highly individual experience and everyone handles it differently. The way we grief is determined by external and internal factors like your personality, coping style, faith and how significant the loss.

The grieving process is something that takes time and shouldn’t be rushed or dismissed. Some people start feeling better in a few weeks, some in a few months, but one thig is certain. There is no “normal” amount of time for grieving. You should pace yourself and let the process unfold on its own.

Saying goodbye

There are not a lot of things in life as difficult as saying goodbye to a dying loved one. During that time, you should be focused on expressing love and reassurance and hopefully these tips will help both you and your loved one to come to terms with goodbye.

It is very difficult to know when a terminally ill patient will pass away. So in order to avoid later regrets, make sure that you DON’T WAIT and say the important things while there is still time.

Honesty is the best policy is something we hear a lot throughout life. People that are dying, often have the urge to share their feelings, fears and it’s best to do that with someone who can acknowledge those emotions and appreciate them.

Offering reassurance should be something you do instead of arguing about the condition of your loved one. Reassure them that you’ll be there for them and that you love them. If they, for example, want to talk about dying, don’t deny them that. Instead, listen to what have to say and reassure them about any concerns.

It’s a well proven fact that when someone passes, their sense of hearing is the last sense to go. And often, in the final hours, people tend to become unconscious. So make sure that you talk to them, read them stories or sing songs.

It’s true that loosing someone you love is sad and hard, but not every moment has to be filled with darkness and negativity. It’s perfectly normal (and preferable) to share funny stories, jokes and laugh. This will remind both you and your loved one that you shared some good and joyful times.

Stages of grief

We’ve all heard that there are five stages of grief:

  1. Denial – When we refuse to accept what is happening to us.
  2. Anger – When we feel outraged that this happened to us and don’t understand why or who is to blame.
  3. Bargaining – When we try to exchange something in our live (give promises that we will do or won’t do something) in order to avoid the inevitable.
  4. Depression – When we are too sad about the loss and grief so we can’t do anything.
  5. Acceptance – When we finally make peace to what’s happened and move on.

Going through some or all of these stages is perfectly normal. It’s part of the healing process. However, contrary to beliefs, you don’t need to go through all of these stages or even in this order in order to heal. Some people don’t even go through these stages and still manage to resolve their grief.

Supporting someone who’s grieving

When someone is grieving, they experience a lot of emotions like anger, sadness, depression and guild. Those that grief often feel isolated because their emotions can be so intense that others don’t know how to approach them to offer support. And even though that providing support to your friend / family member who is grieving can be uncomfortable, that shouldn’t stop you from trying.

In order to effectively support your grieving friend/family member you should first and foremost understand the grieving process. Know that there’s no right or wrong way to grief, that grieving might involve some intense emotions and that there’s no specific time frame in which someone has to grieve.

The second thing is to know what to say. You can acknowledge what has happened to your friend/family member, express your concern (say you’re sorry), let the grieving share their emotions and if necessary, to sit it total silence and just ‘be there’ for them.

When it comes to talking, there are however certain things that you should avoid:

  • Saying that this is all part of God’s plan.
  • Trying to emphasize things to be thankful for. There will be a time when they will focus on that, but not right now.
  • They are in a better place right now. This is something that might contradict with the persons beliefs so it’s best to stay away from it.
  • It’s time to get on with your life. Moving forward for some people means ‘forgetting’ about their loved ones. Also, moving on with their life will come naturally once the grieving process unfolds.
  • Statements that start with ‘you should’ or ‘you will’. Since they sound too directive, you should try using phrases like “have you thought about…” or “you might try…”

Practical Support

After a loss some are able to eventually go back to their daily routines, while others don’t yet have the strength in order to deal with everyday things. One additional way you could support your grieving friend/family member is to:

  • Do some of their errands for them e.g. grocery shopping.
  • Prepare some type of food and drop it off.
  • Assist with funeral arrangements.
  • Take care of household chores.
  • Look after pets (if they have any).
  • Accompany them for a walk or to a support group meeting and so on.

Grieving is a natural process after we loose someone we love. Everyone goes through this process differently and there’s no right or wrong way to do it. It’s important that we have the right ‘tools’ in our ‘toolbox’ so we could offer the best support for our friends and family members that are grieving.

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