Time heals all wounds, a familiar saying and reality because the intensity of any tragic event does diminish as time passes. Coping with the loss of a loved one is an obstacle that will happen to anyone at anytime and as the American Psychological Association suggests, one of the hardest challenges that we face.
Research shows that most people, with a social support system and healthy habits, will come to terms with a loss, though it may take months or longer.
There is no normal time and most do not pass through the steps of the grieving process at the same time. We tend to try and push ourselves forward too quickly because of life responsibilities to work and family. Working through shock, confusion, anger and sadness takes time; we need to be gentle with ourselves in the process.
- Accept your feelings and do not deny opportunities to express them. Talk with your support system, clergy and loved ones who can help you through the myriad of emotions that you will be experiencing. Even those beyond your immediate friends can lend an ear; just listening creates the confirmation you need to feel renewed.
- Take care of yourself by not missing meals, not overeating and exercising. Sleep is essential during coping. If sleeping is disturbed by dreams or insomnia, talk to your doctor. Have one day a week to do something special for yourself whether it be a steak dinner, a shopping trip or even buying your favorite coffee.
- If you are a writer, journal your feelings of loss. Sometimes our worst tragedies bring out our best, creative talents. Put together a scrapbook of family photos depicting the relationship you have lost. Write a memory book and if children are involved in the grieving process, do this as a family moment. If you are a musician, write a song, play their favorites and share with others. Do not isolate with the thought that no one will understand.
NewYork Life offers a guide how parents and adults can support their children that grieve.
- Children learn about dealing with grief from their parents. The adults who surround them, whom they admire and love, are whom they will mirror. It is very important to show your love in explaining their questions. But if the task is too difficult, you may want to have someone assist you.
- Simple facts are the best way to deal with death. Do not assume that they know. Even toddlers can understand that death is a physical concept and that it happens to everyone at some point.
- Check with them to see if they understand. You can share your religious beliefs but make sure it is not abstract. That children understand that the physical body dies but the soul or spirit lives on in a place we cannot see.
- Sometimes, children feel guilt after a death occurs. Small children believe that everything is magical and they can make things better. We prompt children to make wishes for something they want but it is important that when death happens, they are not responsible even if they had a bad thought. Older children wonder if they could have prevented the death in some way shape or form. Constantly reassure.
- Allow them to express their anger, especially if it is in a spiritual form. This is a natural coping mechanism; avoid being too critical. However, limits should be set to help avoid inappropriate behavior from occurring – such as hitting or putting themselves in dangerous situations.
- Children should be offered the opportunity to attend a funeral or memorial service. But let them decide whether or not to attend. If you cannot be with the child, make sure another adult is there with them throughout the service that can answer questions and provide comfort.
The loss of someone close will never be easy regardless of your age and experience. Developing financial strategies such as securing life insurance in the event of death will not make the pain of grief dissipate, but at least you can make sure that your bills are paid and your loved ones are fed as you cope.