Dealing With Death, Loss and Grief

The death of a loved one ranks among the most severe traumas we encounter in our lives. The sense of loss and grief which follows is a natural and important part of life. It is not a sign of weakness, but rather healthy and appropriate.

Bereavement may cause some short or long-term changes in your family and other relationships and may cause you to be — at least temporarily — closed off from others.

Factors That Help To Resolve Your Grief

  1. Accept How You Feel
    Death and loss hurts. Why pretend that you’re not experiencing terrible inner turmoil? Your emotional reactions are a natural response to the death of a loved one. However, there is no correct emotion to experience and there is no prescribed way to mourn. Accept the validity of your feelings.
  2. Express How You Feel
    It is not enough to recognize your conflicting emotions; you must deal with them openly. A feeling that is denied expression is not destroyed; it remains with you and can erupt at inappropriate times. Acknowledging the pain when you feel it is much better for your long-term emotional health.
  3. Grieving Takes Time
    Allow sufficient time for the grieving period to run its course. The process is never the same for any two people. Don’t compare yourself with others in similar positions. Heal in your own way and in your own time.
  4. Children Need To Grieve
    They should not be shielded from tragedy. Death is a crisis that should be shared by all members of the family. Children too often are forgotten by grieving adults. When a loved one dies, children often suffer the death of two people: the one who died and the parent or parents who are too absorbed in their own grief to notice their youngster’s needs.
  5. Don’t Cut Yourself Off
    If you stay alone too much, your home will become a protective barrier that keeps you from facing your new challenges in life. You need to interact with the world. You might start with routine chores, like shopping, which do not demand too much exertion and concentration. At the same time, don’t over do it. Review your priorities. Stick to what is important and necessary now. Don’t worry too much about what’s down the road. Take one step at a time outside your home.
  6. Allow Your Friends In
    Talk to a friend. Share your feelings. Let the right people know that you need support and feedback. They cannot bring you comfort unless you allow them to enter your sorrow. Holidays, birthdays and anniversaries are especially difficult times to be alone. Plan ahead to spend these days with caring and understanding friends.
  7. Support Groups
    At some point you may be disappointed in the reactions of your acquaintances and even your close friends. Death is probably frightening to them. They may feel awkward in your company. You must now learn to accept people’s differing reactions to death and realize that not everyone will meet your expectations. That’s why self-help groups have been successful in providing necessary emotional intervention through the crisis of death. People in these groups understand your fears and frustrations; they have been there before. Contact the Social Work Department of your local hospital for information on nearby bereavement groups.
  8. Counseling
    You may need more than the warmth of a close friend or understanding of a fellow sufferer. A professional counselor who is not emotionally attached to you may be more effective to assist you in viewing your problems in a clear perspective.
  9. Take Care Of Yourself
    You need people. You also need moments of solitude to find yourself. Why not walk in a quiet place, paint a picture, read a book or take a long leisurely bath. Your faith may also help you to face and survive the inevitable moments of despair. For many, religion offers a philosophical base in the lonely encounter with helplessness and hopelessness.
  10. Try to Reframe Your Experience
    Death ends a life, not a relationship. Because of your separation, there will always be pain. As you are healing, the pain becomes fainter. In the words of Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, you have the “ability to turn a painful and negative experience into something positive and creative.” Resolve to live as your beloved would want you to live, love as they would want you to love and serve others as they would have wanted you to serve.

Published by

Dr. Gnap

Dr. Gnap is a family practice physician and behavioral medicine specialist in suburban Chicago.  Dr. Gnap developed the Inner Control™ Program in 1970 and has worked with thousands of people to improve and correct medical, emotional, behavioral and learning problems including performance.  He started the Inner Control program because so many patients asked, “what more can be done along with traditional treatment methods?”

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