Loss is a natural part of living and as we get older, loss becomes more prevalent. Over the course of time, lifelong friends, relatives and significant others pass away. The death of a loved one can create tremendous grief that interrupts our lives. Mourning a death, even when it is expected, can be a time of intense emotion. A person may experience numbness, sadness, anger, pain, fear, guilt, loneliness and irritability. All of these feelings are normal and a part of the process of grieving. There is no right or wrong way to mourn and we have to allow ourselves to go through the process. Just as we must give ourselves permission to grieve, we also must give ourselves an opportunity to cope. Coping with grief is important to overall wellbeing and continuing onward. Author Anne Roiphe explains that, “Grief is in two parts. The first is loss. The second is the remaking of life.”
Coping with death is vital to maintaining mental and physical health. In addition to taking an emotional toll, grief can cause fatigue, digestive issues, trouble sleeping, loss of appetite, concentration problems and difficulty making decisions. Mourning can also seriously tax a person’s immune system. Existing illnesses may worsen or new conditions may develop. This can be particularly worrisome for older adults who are prone to have weaker immune defenses and stress response. Some older people never fully recover from a loss and experience severe health declines.
There are many ways to effectively cope with grief and accept a loss. Seeking out a support network can be tremendously beneficial to coping. Compassionate family members and friends can provide comfort and understanding as well as listen to concerns. Sometimes, joining a grief support group can be an opportunity to connect with people who have experienced similar loss. Group participants share their feelings and learn how to manage grief from each other. Check with religious groups, local hospitals, senior organizations, funeral homes or your doctor to find support groups in your area.
Many people after the loss of a significant other, experience social isolation. After years of being part of a couple, interacting as an individual may seem awkward or even frightening. Engagement in social activities can be therapeutic for grief. Communication with family and friends strengthens connections and combats feelings of loneliness. Visits and keeping in touch via the phone or online are a good place to start engaging with others. Also, look at your areas of interest and try to make a commitment to planning activities on a weekly basis. For example, if you like the outdoors, you can plan a weekly walk in the park or join a volunteer group if you believe in the importance of giving back.
Finally, it’s important to take care of yourself while grieving. Loss can bring many changes, but make your health a priority. Maintain regular contact with your healthcare provider and be sure to eat a balanced diet and get plenty of rest. Be aware of the danger of developing a dependence on medication or alcohol to deal with your grief and avoid harmful habits such as smoking. Be patient and give yourself time to adjust and try not to make major life decisions too quickly. Connect with your emotional health by making time to meditate, pray, read religious or spiritual books or listen to uplifting music. Give your feelings an outlet by talking to others or keeping a journal. Most importantly, reach out for help when you need it. If your grief seems like it is too much to bear, don’t be afraid to seek assistance from a professional. Regular talk therapy with a grief counselor or therapist can help with accepting a death and moving forward in life. You can consult your healthcare provider for a recommendation,
Sometimes, we have to cope with grief that is not our own. We may have parents, children, friends or other loved ones that need support after a death. If someone you care about is dealing with a loss, you can help them through their grieving process. Here are a few ways that you can assist a grieving loved one:
- Share the sorrow. Allow them — even encourage them — to talk about their feelings of loss and share memories of the deceased.
- Don’t offer false comfort. It doesn’t help the grieving person when you say “it was for the best” or “you’ll get over it in time.” Instead, offer a simple expression of sorrow and take time to listen.
- Offer practical help. Baby-sitting, cooking and running errands are all ways to help someone who is in the midst of grieving.
- Be patient. Remember that it can take a long time to recover from a major loss. Make yourself available to talk.
- Encourage professional help when necessary. Don’t hesitate to recommend professional help when you feel someone is experiencing too much pain to cope alone.
Adapted from: © Copyright Mental Health America. August 27, 2019
Learning how to move on from grief is a process that takes time and effort. However, it’s important to supporting the quality of life. The goals of coping with grief are not to stop feeling a sense of loss or to forget about a loved one who has died. Moving forward is acceptance of our feelings and memories while creating a way to continue our lives.