Coping With The Death Of A Loved One
Grief Can Be Overwhelming
When someone you love dies, those left to mourn often feel a confusing set of emotions and reactions.
The death of your loved one can be an overwhelming, frightening and painful experience. You deal with your loss through the process of grief. Grieving is natural and expected. Over time, it can help you accept and understand your loss.
How you will grieve depends on many factors: your support system; the circumstances of the death; the response by family members and friends; the nature of the relationship with your loved one; religious or cultural beliefs and customs; and your coping skills.
No two people will grieve in the same way. However, survivors often find it helpful to speak with others experiencing loss. There are common reactions and experiences that may prove useful to share.
Normal grieving allows us to let a loved one go and keep on living in a healthy way. It’s important that you be allowed to express your grief in your own way. The length and intensity of the emotions you go through may vary from that of other people you know.
Grief can feel like a roller coaster. You may feel better for a while, only to become sad again.
Your Responses To Grief
Your first response may be shock and disbelief. You may say aloud, “I can’t believe he’s/she’s gone. This can’t be happening.”
The loss of a spouse, parent, or child may be more intense than the loss of a cousin or great-grandparent. But there is no single pattern for shock and disbelief.
After the shock wears off and you accept that your loved one has passed away, you may feel anger at your loved one or at others involved, such as doctors, other healthcare workers, relatives, or the person responsible for a sudden death such as a car accident.
After the funeral or memorial service, as the days and weeks go by, you may be disorganized, have trouble remembering, thinking, and doing daily activities. This can last for weeks or months. You may feel depressed, distracted, or detached.
You may find yourself withdrawing socially. You may become restless and anxious at times, not feel like eating, look sad, feel depressed, dream about your loved one, lose weight, have trouble sleeping, feel tired or weak, become preoccupied with death, search for reasons for the loss, dwell on mistakes that you made with your loved one, feel guilty for the loss, feel alone and distant from others, express anger or envy at seeing others with their loved ones.
You need a lot of emotional support during these weeks and months. Finding support can be the key to your recovery and acceptance of the loss.
Family members, friends, support groups, community organizations, or mental health professionals can all help. Don’t turn down their offers. Accept as much help as you can, as soon as you can.
Factors That Can Affect Your Responses To The Death Of A Loved One
The grief experience may be different when the loss occurs after a long illness rather than suddenly after a heart attack, stroke, or car accident.
When someone is terminally ill, family, friends, and even the patient might start to grieve in response to the expectation of death. This is a normal response called anticipatory grief.
If your loved one had a terminal disease or condition, you may already have begun grieving before your loved one passes away.
Anticipatory grief can help you complete your loved one’s unfinished business and prepare for the actual loss. But it might not lessen the pain you feel when the person dies. Usually, the period just before the person’s death is a time of physical and emotional preparation for those close to them.
At this stage, you may feel the need to withdraw emotionally from your loved one who is ill.
Many people think they are prepared for the loss because death is expected. But when their loved one actually dies, it can still be a shock and bring about unexpected feelings of sadness and loss. For most people, the actual death starts the normal grieving process.
Everyone reacts differently to death and employs personal coping mechanisms for grief. Most people can recover from loss on their own through the passage of time if they have social support and healthy habits.
If you had a difficult relationship with your loved one, your response to the death may be more intense, with feelings of guilt and anger over unresolved issues.
If you lost your loved one as the result of a crime, your emotions may be directed at the perpetrator for causing the death. This can interfere with your acceptance of the death and your healing through grief.
If your loved one died as a victim of a car accident, you will want to consult an attorney right away. Your local “Attorney Big Al” can help recover money damages for the loss of your loved one, and payment for medical bills that may have occurred in trying to save your loved one’s life.
What Should I Do To Cope With My Loved One’s Death?
The American Psychological Association (APA) recommends that you do these things:
- Talk about the death of your loved one with friends and colleagues in order to understand what happened and remember your friend or family member. Allow your friends to help you.
- Accept your feelings. People experience all kinds of emotions after the death of someone close. Sadness, anger, frustration and even exhaustion are all normal.
- Take care of yourself and your family. Eating well, exercising and getting plenty of rest will help you get through each day and move forward.
- Reach out and help others dealing with the loss. Helping others will make you feel better as well. Sharing stories of your loved one can help everyone cope.
- Remember and celebrate the lives of your loved ones. You could make a donation to a favorite charity of your loved one, frame photos of fun times, give the person’s name to a baby or plant a garden in memory. What you choose is up to you, as long as it allows you honor that unique relationship in a way that feels right to you.
- Take a trip to a place you’ve never been. Traveling can help you expand your perspective and continue to find happiness. When you’re grieving, it can feel like there is nothing else going on in the world. You forget that the world is filled with beautiful things. A trip, whether short or long, can help you refocus your attention and resume living after the loss of your loved one.
What Can I Do To Help Someone Who Is Grieving?
Ask what can be done to help. Someone who has experienced the loss of a loved one may need assistance with daily tasks, but won’t ask for help. You need to offer to help with tasks such as phone calls to funeral directors, acquaintances, and credit card companies, or offer to babysit young children or care for pets.
Listen. Listen without making any judgments. Survivors may need to speak with someone about what they are feeling. Be available to listen not only immediately after the loss, but occasionally thereafter, and especially on significant dates and holidays.
Provide information and support. Find out if there are appropriate and available support groups in the survivor’s area. If the criminal justice system is involved, investigate services available to survivors through the system and the appropriate person(s) to call for further information and assistance. If there are legal issues, offer to call prospective attorneys. Your local “Attorney Big Al” can help if your loved one has been the victim of an accident or a crime.
Call your local “Attorney Big Al” at 1-800-HURT-123 if your loved one has been the victim of a car accident or of a crime. We can help. We care.