How to Cope With Death
When a family member or friend dies it is a very traumatic and emotional time for everyone involved and can be a life-changing experience and threatens to overwhelm you at times. While grief is a natural process of life, you should not try to handle it alone as we are not equipped to do so. It is a process that needs to be worked through in order to heal and move forward in your life. Sadness, depression, confusion and numbness are universal feelings of grief, but everyone will grieve in their own way.
When someone in your immediate family dies, it can be a crippling affair. Losing a spouse can be especially hard as it usually falls on the spouse to make funeral arrangements and this can lead to both physical and psychological exhaustion. When a child dies before the parents, it can have a lasting effect on the rest of the family. Siblings may attempt to rebuild their lives quickly, while parents may never recover completely. Support groups and counseling can be invaluable.
If someone you know is dealing with a death, the best thing you can do for them is be supportive. Offer them a sympathetic ear that will listen or offer to help by running errands or cooking a meal. Do not stand back and do nothing, your presence alone may be the best thing you have to offer.
Signs of Grief
- Tightness of throat and chest
- Pain in heart area
- Panic attacks
- Sleep disturbance
Helping a Child Cope with Death
The temptation for adults is to protect children from death by concealing it from them. This can be damaging if the child hears about it from another source and feels they are being lied to. Children need to grieve just as adults do and should be surrounded by feelings of understanding, warmth and acceptance. Children may have trouble expressing their feelings. In order to help them, allow them to participate in the arrangements, gatherings and ceremonies if they are comfortable with them but do not force them if they are not. Be sure to explain everything that is happening and why in a way that they can understand and relate to. Listen to them and recognize their fears, wishes and thoughts. Remember children have short attention spans and may not be able to sit through long services. Non-family attendants at services and gatherings may be a good idea.
Tips for Helping the Grieving Process
- Find an empathetic person to talk to and spend time with
- Share your tears and anger with others
- Find some time alone for perspective but avoid isolating yourself
- Reach out to others
- Be sure to take care of your physical needs
- Physical activity can be a great emotional energy outlet
- Lighten your schedule
- If needed, attend counseling sessions or self-help groups
- Remember crying is a healthy physical and emotional release
- Keep in mind everyone grieves differently
- Be patient
- Value your memories
- When special occasions are looming be sure to plan ahead how you will spend your time and establish personal priorities
- Anger is normal and will subside
- Try to postpone major changes for at least a year
5 False Assumptions about Grief
Number 1. Grief should be handled alone.
By reaching out to others and sharing your loss with loved ones, you can actually regain your normal life and start to move forward. Try to find empathetic people to talk to.
Number 2. Life prepares you for loss.
Experience of loss prepares you more than life itself. Grief is a tough process that takes work and is different for everyone. In order to heal you need support, understanding and perseverance.
Number 3. Grief should be finished within one year.
While grief will last at least one year as you experience birthdays, anniversaries and other special occasions for the first time alone, it can also take time and work to move forward. Grief is a process and can take longer for some people than others.
Number 4. Friends and family will understand.
Each person's grief is different according to their relationship with the deceased. Even if you lost the same person, they will not be to you what they were to another family member. For example if you lose your mother, your father loses his wife and you children lose a grandparent. Each member of the family may respond to this grief in a different way.
Number 5. When the pain of grief subsides, so do the memories of the deceased.
Memories can actually come back clearer after the pain of grief has passed and healing allows you to enjoy the memories more fully.