Life After a Loss
Grieving is a natural response to loss. It touches the whole person — body, mind and spirit. In your grief, you will discover ways to return to life, while still carrying the memory of your loved one with you. Be kind and patient with yourself. It takes time and effort to heal.
Each person has his or her own timetable and style of grief. You may struggle with several feelings at the same time. The depth and duration of each experience is different for everyone.
What Might You Experience?
You may experience any combination of the following symptoms:
Heaviness/pounding in chest
Tightness in throat or chest
Feelings of emptiness
Loss of meaning/direction
Doubt about your beliefs
Feeling of "Why me?"
If the symptoms above cause you concern or last for a long time, talk to your doctor or provider. Remember, it is always good to ask for help whenever you feel you need it.
What Can You Do?
- Express emotions freely as you feel the need. Crying is an acceptable and healthy expression of grief.
- Eat a balanced diet, rest and exercise.
- Avoid the use of drugs and alcohol. They may stop or delay the normal grieving process.
- Whenever possible, put off major decisions (moving, changing jobs, etc.) for at least a year.
- Talk about your feelings and your loved one. Others then will know it is O.K. to do the same.
- Take slow, deep breaths to help you relax. It will remove tension from your body and mind and relieve stress.
- Write in a journal to help you process your thoughts and feelings. The death of a person close to you is a very painful and difficult experience. Journaling may help you to sort out your feelings.
- Laugh. Laughter, as they say, is the best medicine. It makes you forget for a while and produces endorphins, which are your body’s natural way of producing pleasure.
- Choose relaxing activities such as massage, yoga or meditation. Ten minutes of quiet moments can help clear your mind. Stretching your muscles through yoga will give you a sense of peace, and a massage can leave you intensely relaxed.
- Make time to do something that gives you pleasure. It doesn’t have to be expensive or time-consuming to produce benefits you can feel. Listening to music, gardening, shopping, walking with a friend, or seeing a movie all provide you with the same effect.
- Join a support group. Sharing with a group of peers can help you talk through your stressful times. For some, the support from others is all they need.
- Consider how your faith or spirituality can provide inspiration and enlightenment. If it’s important to you, going to church, even if you haven’t been in awhile, may provide solace. If taking a walk on the beach gives your life meaning, then make your way to the shoreline, even if it does involve climbing a few mounds of snow to get there.
- Seek and accept help. When people offer assistance, accept it. They might offer a suggestion that worked for them that you may have overlooked.
- Take care of yourself. The stress of a loss quickly drains a person’s energy and emotional reserves and affects their health and well-being. Grief can compromise the immune system and increase the risk of illness.
- Volunteering is a great opportunity to become involved in the community and interact with people. Volunteering may also provide a sense of purpose and fulfillment and is a way to help others in need.
What Can Family & Friends Do?
- Just “being present” is a way to communicate your willingness to listen. Support is most needed after a few months.
- Talk about the one who has died. Sharing stories and feelings are helpful in the grieving process.
- Offer to help prepare meals, help with childcare or make phone calls.
- Be mindful of difficult days, such as anniversaries, holidays and birthdays of the person who died.
How Do Children Grieve?
If you are old enough to love, you are old enough to grieve. Grieving children experience physical symptoms. They also undergo rapid changes in thoughts and feelings. Children’s behavior may regress to an earlier period of development, such as bed-wetting or tantrums.
No two children grieve in the same way. It is normal for children to grieve in “doses.” Children may express feelings of grief and then their attention is quickly carried to another thought such as playing or reading. This is a normal part of the grieving process for children and should not be viewed as a child’s lack of grief. The best way to learn about a child’s grief is to listen and observe over time. Give them care, support and age-appropriate information. Since children will experience many of the same symptoms as you, share thoughts and feelings with them.