You can’t stop someone from leaving this world. It’s inevitable.
But you can, however, learn how to cope with the death of a loved one. Perhaps you haven’t fully processed the death of a loved one, or you’re still in the process of recovery.
Whatever it is, we’re here to help. We understand the pain you’re feeling in your heart, so we rounded up some of the best ways on how to deal with losing a loved one below.
Helpful Ways On How To Deal With The Death Of A Loved One
1. Build and maintain healthy habits
When it comes to coping mechanisms after losing a loved one, it’s easy to fall into unhealthy habits like getting wasted every night, partying all weekend or start smoking a cigarette even if you never smoked one before.
Do. not. be. that. person. 🙅♂️
You might eventually collapse and fall flat on your face one day without you even realizing it! Instead of starting new unhealthy habits, consider incorporating good habits such as exercising 3x a week or meditating every morning.
These little habits will all add up, and your body will thank you later!
2. Seek support and talk about it, but only when you’re ready
Be honest. How many times have you answered this when someone asked you how you are feeling?
It’s only natural to hide your sadness and pain, but in the long run, you’re only hurting yourself and others around you.
By talking about your feelings to your loved ones once you’re ready, you’ll be able to kickstart the gears towards a better healing journey.
Schedule a weekly hang out session with your friends and family. Drop a text or call whenever you need someone for comfort.
Just don’t always be by yourself, and reach out to your loved ones whenever you need them. You’ll be happier that way, and feel less alone when dealing with it.
3. Put yourself a priority and take care of your needs
Have you been taking care of your health ever since it happened? Chances are, you’re probably on your bed most of the time, barely eating anything.
Stuffing yourself with good food 🍲 and making sure you take a shower 🚿 on a daily basis are some of the best ways when learning how to deal with the death of a loved one.
Gather all the strength you have in you, and fulfil your needs, whether it is eating pancakes for dinner, getting a well-needed spa session or a good ol’ cuddling session with your beau.
4. Find new hobbies
Grief can lead you to question life itself or your purpose in this world. The best way to overcome this? Start by getting a new hobby. Not just one, but a few!
Try out something that you’ve never done before like learning how to play an instrument, pick up reading or journaling ✍️
When you’re wondering how to cope with the death of a loved one, finding things to do keeps you busy and occupies your mind so you’re not drowning in your own thoughts.
You could find new hobbies to occupy your time with or….
5. Continue to do the things you love
Always loved to bake during your spare time, but stopped after not knowing how to deal with the death of a loved one? We’ve all been there.
We tend to put a halt to the things we love to do after losing a loved one because we’re unsure of what to do. But having to deal with a traumatic experience should be a reminder that life itself is short!
Go out there, and keep doing the things that make you happy! We only have one life to live – so we might else well make the most out of it and be happy. You deserve it.
6. Allow yourself to be vulnerable
When we lose someone, no one would know how to cope with the death of a loved one, especially if it happened out of the blue with no warnings whatsoever 😕
The first thing we do is that we don’t allow ourselves to grief, cry or be sad.
Let. those. tears. out! 💧
If you need a good cry or in need of a loud screaming session when you’re feeling angry, release it all the way even if someone else could hear you.
Know that it’s normal to feel the way you’re feeling right now after losing a loved one. Trust us, you’ll feel way better afterwards 😌
7. Be kind to yourself
Everyone grieves differently and at their own pace. Whether it takes you a few days, 6 months or a few years to get over the death of losing a loved one, please know that it’s totally fine.
There are no rules on how long you should grieve.
Be patient with yourself while you’re healing. It’s not easy to move forward in life after losing a loved one, so be gentle and kind to yourself 💓
Don’t force yourself to simply get over it, even when others are pressuring you to move on. Let them naysayers be, and just take all the time you need!
8. Seek professional help
If talking it out with your friends and family isn’t ideal, talking to a stranger who’s trained to help those who are grieving would be the best choice.
Professional counsellors are able to teach and guide you on how to cope with the death of a loved one so your healing process would progress further.
And don’t worry, the experience of counselling isn’t as scary as you think! In fact, it could truly help you cope with your loss in a much healthier way.
9. Cherish the happy memories
How to deal with the death of a loved one when you only think of the bad, negative memories? It’s pretty much impossible to move on if that’s all you can think of.
Take the time to cherish and remember the happy moments. Celebrate their life and keep the spirit up by celebrating special occasions like their birthdays or death anniversaries.
Instead of putting all your focus on their death, try to remember all the good deeds they have done and how they managed to make your life worthwhile.
10. Start dating on SugarBook
We all know that when you start to look for some sort of companionship, it could really help you to get over your hardships after losing a loved one.
Hence, you could seek support through a mutually beneficial relationship with people on Sugarbook !
Having someone being there for you on your own terms could really help when you’re not sure how to cope with the death of a loved one. You could go on fun dates with them to take your mind off things too!
Because sugar dating is all about providing happiness and comfort that goes both ways, you’ll find yourself healing without even knowing.
|Check out: 12 Signs You Are Ready For A Relationship|
While everyone has their own preference on how to deal with the death of a loved one, joining Sugarbook could be the best decision you’ll ever make.
We’re not saying within a blink of an eye, your hurt and pain will all be gone! We’re no magicians, but we do know that time heals everything. Having someone to be there for you when no one else can really ease your heart and mind.
And with that, we’re ending with a small note: no matter how you choose to cope with the death of a loved one, always remember the pain is temporary. You’ll feel better with time 🥰
Which emotion may buffer us against death-related anxiety?
Posted March 20, 2013
“True joy is a profound remembering; and true grief the same.” – Clive Barker, Weaveworld
Death presents two of the greatest quandries facing humanity: how to cope with losing the people closest to our hearts and how to contend with our own inevitable demise. As anyone who has been confronted with either of these challenges first-hand can tell you, it sometimes seems miraculous that the rest of humankind marches on – dissecting tv show plots, complaining about the weather – when these issues are at the fore. Even when they’re not front and center, they lurk in the background, haunting us with their possibilities, cultivating worry and unease.
What might assist us in combating this death-related anxiety? Is there anything in our emotional arsenal that might come to our aid?
Nostalgia is an intriguing emotion. On the one hand, nostalgia can be intensely positive, imbued with a rosy glow of familiarity and belongingness. On the other hand, it can be intensely negative, accompanied by longing and loss and frustrated desires. Indeed, research indicates that when people are asked to characterize nostalgia, they pinpoint both positive (love, sharing, rose-tinted, warmth) and negative (sad, yearning, heart-wrenching, missing) elements, with the positive elements tending to win out.
mia bella madre
So nostalgia itself may be an emotion that is both negative and positive. What if we are confronted with sadness related to death? In the context of an existing state of sadness, does engaging in nostalgic reflections make us feel better or worse?
Nostalgia, mortality threat, and existential meaning.
Recently in my own lab, student researcher Ryan Glode and I have been exploring whether nostalgic versus ordinary event memories have differential impacts on a sad mood state. Participants all watch a sad film clip in which a mother loses her young daughter to leukemia, and are then randomly assigned to reflect on either a nostalgic or an ordinary event memory. Preliminary results indicate that when you examine how people’s moods change from right after the sad clip to right after the memory reflection, the nostalgic folks recover less from their feelings of sadness compared to the ordinary event recallers. Examining the content of their memories, this is perhaps unsurprising – many people in the nostalgia condition choose to recall times of family togetherness right after a loss of a loved one, or to reflect on warm times leading up to such a loss.
Compellingly though, the people engaging in nostalgia also experience slightly greater increases in happiness compared to the ordinary event recallers. So while the sadness from the death-related clip lingered, they nonetheless were feeling more happy at the same time- in essence, nostalgia was associated with feeling both better AND worse.*
A compelling body of work by social psychologist Clay Routledge and colleagues suggest that the reason nostalgia may work in this way – making us feel better despite having negative elements – is that it increases our sense of existential meaning. Waxing nostalgic anchors us in a life filled with socially meaningful events and relationships, even if these events and relationships happen to be in the past. His research suggests that nostalgia may increase positive mood, self-esteem, perceptions of social connectedness, and buffer people against death-related anxiety.
The importance of context
As is true so often in psychology, context is critical. There are likely circumstances in which nostalgia works against us. For instance, if you are mired in memories of the past and pining for “the one who got away”, these reflections are likely to dull your ability to appreciate the one you’re with. But if instead you dwell on the glint in your college roommate’s eye as you led her onto the dance floor at your wedding, or on a favorite aunt’s delighted shriek as she plunged into the cold waters of the Atlantic to win a family game of Steal the Rocks. these nostalgic reflections may in some small way blunt the keen sorrow that these loved ones are no longer in your life. They may also relieve a bit of the existential horror intrinsic to being mortal. Someday you too will pass on – but you will live on in the memories of your loved ones, who will recall your times together with both the warmth and the ache of nostalgia.
*If you’d like to hear more about this research, attend our poster (Poster Session IX, Board 19) at the Association for Psychological Science’s annual convention in Washington D.C.
If you’d like to learn more about nostalgia, check out Clay Routledge’s own post on nostalgia here on Psychology Today.
Just for fun: there is also a large body of work examining nostalgia’s role in advertising/marketing. Click on the image below for a clip of Mad Men’s Don Draper explaining the power of nostalgia in advertising.
Hepper, E. G., Ritchie, T. D., Sedikides, C., & Wildschut, T. (2011). Odyssey’s end: Lay conceptions of nostalgia reflect its original Homeric meaning. Emotion. doi:10.1037/a0025167
Routledge, C., Sedikides, C., Wildschut, T., & Juhl, J. (2013). Finding meaning in one’s past: Nostalgia as an existential resource. In K. Markman, T. Proulx, & M. Lindberg (Eds.), The psychology of meaning (pp 297 – 316). Washington DC: APA Books.
This article was co-authored by Ken Breniman, LCSW, C-IAYT. Ken Breniman is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Certified Yoga Therapist and Thanatologist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Ken has over 15 years experience of providing clinical support and community workshops utilizing a dynamic combination of traditional psychotherapy and yoga therapy. He specializes in eclectic non-denominational yoga guidance, grief therapy, complex trauma recovery and mindful mortal skills development. He has a MSW from Washington University in St. Louis and an MA Certification in Thanatology from Marian University of Fond du Lac. He became certified with the International Association of Yoga Therapists after completing his 500 training hours at Yoga Tree in San Francisco and Ananda Seva Mission in Santa Rosa, CA.
There are 7 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page.
This article has been viewed 28,615 times.
Believe it or not, you can become more at peace with death, whether it is the idea of your own death, a loved one’s death, or a pet’s death. You may also become more comfortable with the circumstances of someone else’s death, such as suicide, disease, or old age. When dealing with your anxiety, return the present moment to help calm your mind and your body. Start meditating and talking about death with other people. Reflect on your beliefs and your spirituality as a source of support and meaning. A therapist is always a welcome source of support and help if needed.
My dad passed away unexpectedly a few years ago, and this year it hit me hard. I’ve been learning how to deal with death, and wanted to share my experience.
I know this topic isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but part of posting consistently every single week is that…sometimes I have to write about what is going on in my head.
This blog is an outlet for me—so thanks for letting me share.
When my dad passed away, I was attending weekly therapy sessions for a while. I found it extremely helpful, but its not always very affordable. BetterHelp is an affordable therapy option and takes place online. So, if you need help working through grief and you’re not sure where to start, then they might be a resource for you.
In-person therapy is really powerful, but I tried BetterHelp online therapy and gains some benefits as well.
Read my review of BetterHelp here. (I may receive a commission for purchases made through the links provided on this post at no cost to you.)
Additionally, if you’re interested in support but can’t afford any type of therapy, see what options might exist for free in your area.
Backstory: Learning to Love Myself
Before my dad died and I needed to learn how to deal with death, I’d been through a lot of other experiences dealing with grief in general.
When I was 14, my dad left my mom. That is quite literally what happened, as he just packed a bag one day and said he was leaving. At the time, we were all very confused. On the outside, things seemed fine to me. But over time I learned that he’d struggled with alcohol abuse and depression and many years and while that wasn’t why he left, it definitely contributed to the internal change in him that made him want a change.
I empathize with him and what he was going through with 10 years of hindsight, but when I was 14 it was very traumatic and confusing.
Fast forward and somewhere around 10 years ago, I attended a pretty intense women’s conference where I had the opportunity to dive into a deep issue. My twin sister and I were estranged at the time, and I thought I’d be doing a lot of work around my relationship with her. But instead, I started getting all these feelings and anger towards my dad bubbling up. It was the first time I realized how angry I was at what he’d done, and the first time I expressed that anger.
I also had a powerful epiphany about the fact that it didn’t matter if he or anyone else ever stopped loving me—because I was going to love myself. And it didn’t matter if anyone left me ever again—because I would never leave myself.
^^^ That might be a pretty complex topic. Maybe I’ll talk about that more in another post.
Trying to Make Amends with my Dad
A few years after this conference is when I started going to therapy. and I had the realization that I’d wronged my dad (and others) by holding various resentments. I decided to try to make amends with my dad and try to repair our relationship. To be fair, the distance wasn’t one-sided. My dad was always distant with my sister and I, and I think he just didn’t know how to relate to us.
When I tried to apologize for my part, he wouldn’t hear it. He put his hand up, didn’t let me finish, and the conversation ended there.
That was…a bummer. But I also decided I could love him from a distance. I grieved the fact we may never be close and I accepted that things were what they were and it was ok.
My therapist asked me after all of this happened:
If your dad died today, is there anything you wish you’d said to him?
And after thinking about it, I confidently said “no”. I hadn’t learned how to deal with death yet, but I’d grieved the fantasy of what I thought out relationship could be, and I was at peace with that.
My dad and I had enough meaningful conversations that I felt like I knew him better than I ever had before. I wanted to be closer to him, but realized he wasn’t capable and accepted it. And I truly felt like we had both done our part to be our best to each other and practice self-care.
My Dad’s Sudden Death
It wasn’t a year later that my dad had a severe heart attack while riding his motorcycle. They said that he was probably dead before he even hit the ground. And while that sounds traumatic, it also means that its likely he didn’t have time to suffer, and for that I’m grateful.
My dad’s church let my brother and sister and I fully determine how the service would go. My sister and I sang songs we’d written together, we each shared stories about him. It was really wonderful, and very sad.
But it was also a precious time to me. The time sent with my brother and sister planning his service, remembering how silly he could be, going through some of his things with my step mom. We all laughed, and cried.
I stopped going to church after he died (I finally gave myself permission), and found a new support system as well, and it became a really meaningful time of change in my life.
How to Deal with Death
One thing I’ve come to realize and appreciate about myself is that I often don’t have feelings in the moment. It’s like my emotions have a delayed reaction. So, it took me a long time to learn how to deal with death.
When I was 14 and my mom told me my dad was leaving, I almost laughed out loud. It sounded so absurd.
I didn’t grieve his leaving and the changes that happened aa a result for 10 years.
And I think when he passed away, I experienced the same thing. I had some sadness in the moment, but a lot of my sadness and grief has come in waves since then.
And this past weekend on father’s day, I experienced some of that delayed grief.
I’m honestly not entirely sure why. Maybe it’s because I’ve been through so many changes. Maybe its because this last year has been really hard.
How do you deal with death, the loss of a loved one when the pain is so strong? How can you let go of the people you once loved and still love so much? How can you accept the fact that you will never see those people ever again?
How can you accept the idea of loss, of death?
It’s not always easy to let go of the people who are so dear to us but it doesn’t have to be hard either. Looking at things from a different perspective can help us experience miracles in our lives, can help us understand life and death, and can help us realize how everything happens in perfect and Divine order.
7 Ways to Deal With the Death of a Loved One
1. Life is stronger than death
This beautiful and powerful quote says it all:
“Love is stronger than death even though it can’t stop death from happening, but no matter how hard death tries it can’t separate people from love. It can’t take away our memories either. In the end, life is stronger than death.”
2. Ignorance and fear of death overshadows life
We come to this world alone and we leave alone. And the same applies for every single human being on this Planet.
Accepting the idea that nothing lasts forever and dwelling upon it as frequently as possible will help us deal with the death of those close to us and why not, with our own death, in a really positive and peaceful manner.
“Thinking and talking about death need not be morbid; they may be quite the opposite. Ignorance and fear of death overshadow life, while knowing and accepting death erases this shadow.”
3. We are Spiritual Beings having a human experience
Death is not the end. As human beings, we are taught to trust more in those things that can be touched, felt, smelled, and seen. But there are things that can’t be seen and they too exist.
There is a world out there that is not visible to the naked eye. A very powerful world, a world that we all originate from and a world where we return the moment we leave our physical bodies.
“We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.”
Teilhard de Chardin
4. Returning to our Source
Just imagine how in the first 9 months of life ,when you are in your mother’s womb, you are being offered all the nourishment you need. All the love and all the care that is necessary for your growth and survival is being offered.
Why wouldn’t the same thing apply after death?
“Each separate being in the universe returns to the common source. Returning to the source is serenity. If you don’t realize the source, you stumble in confusion and sorrow. When you realize where you come from, you naturally become tolerant, disinterested, amused, kindhearted as a grandmother, dignified as a king. Immersed in the wonder of the Tao, you can deal with whatever life brings you, and when death comes, you are ready.”
5. Death is part of life
We should celebrate the loss of a loved one just as we celebrate the birth of them. I am sure that the people who were once on this planet, the people we loved and still love so much, would want us to remember the many beautiful and precious moments we spent with them and focus on that and nothing else.
Would you want your family to be sad and unhappy once you leave this world, or would you want them to continue to enjoy life and treasure every moment they have left on this planet? Think about it…
“Death is beautiful when seen to be a law, and not an accident – It is as common as life.”
6. Accept and embrace your grief
When somebody you love leaves this world, you feel like the end of the world has come. And if you think about it is a lot like the end of the world. The end of the world as you know it; the end of the world for you and this beautiful person.
Now you will be living in a completely different world. A new world where they will no longer be part of your life, at least not physically. But that doesn’t mean they are no longer with you.
It’s okay to cry.
Feel the pain, embrace it, live it and when you’re ready, know that it’s okay to let go so you can heal and continue living your life.
“There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are messengers of overwhelming grief… and unspeakable love. ”
7. Let go
Grieving is part of the healing process and it’s okay to be sad, it’s okay to cry but keep in mind that life goes on. And if you can’t find the inner strength to let go and come back to life you will miss many precious moments with many of the people that are still alive and who want to share their love with you.
It can be really dangerous to dwell in the pain for too long. And if you get stuck, not only you will miss out on life, feeling depressed and unhappy, but you will also create a lot of pain for the many beautiful people that are still present in your life.
Letting go doesn’t mean you forget about them. It just means that you’re ready to continue your journey and live the life you came here to live…
“There are things that we don’t want to happen but have to accept, things we don’t want to know but have to learn, and people we can’t live without but have to let go.”
I wrote this piece when my grandfather passed away in the hope that it will bring some peace and comfort those who are dealing with the loss of a loved one. I didn’t even have time to see him before he died. He was such a beautiful soul, always happy, always cheerful and always full of jokes.
I really loved him!
I always enjoyed being around him because of his pure and radiant energy. When I found out that he left this world, a feeling of peace, immense love, and a sort of bliss came over me. I was not saddened but rather at peace, because deep down inside I knew he knowing that he found peace and joy as he has returned in the arms of his beautiful wife – my grandmother, who died many years ago.
R.I.P grandpa and thank you for sharing your beautiful presence with us all. I know you are watching over us all and I am really grateful for all the beautiful lessons I have learned from you.
If you know other ways you can deal with the loss of a loved one in a positive manner, feel free to share it bellow, chances are that many people will benefit from it.
When you’re young, the distinct pain of grief may be felt with the loss of a beloved pet. Sometimes years go by, though, before a family member or close friend dies.
Losing someone close to you for the first time is overwhelming. The grief is an unexpected cascade of treasured memories intertwined with feelings of incomplete, unexpressed emotions. In “On Death and Dying,” author Elizabeth Kubler-Ross described the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.
Denial is the first stage that will hit you when someone you love dies. It opens the door to what is to come.
Kubler-Ross and David Kessler, in the book’s new edition “On Grief and Grieving,” explain that denial comes first to help you survive the loss. During this stage, “the world becomes meaningless and overwhelming. Life makes no sense. We are in a state of shock and denial. . We go numb.” Really, we just want to run away.
Denial must be met head on though, because it starts the grieving and healing process.
“Do your best to remain self-aware in the face of the emotions that will surge,” says Virginia A. Simpson, a Sacramento, Calif., bereavement care specialist and author of “The Space Between,” a book about caring for her dying mother. “Acknowledge that thoughts such as ‘I can’t handle this’ or ‘I’m not strong enough’ are just a story you are telling yourself.”
Expressing feelings, negative and positive, is important. “You can’t avoid the enormity of the situation,” says Judy Rosenberg, a Los Angeles-based clinical psychologist. “Along with the death of a person comes the death of precious memories and feeling of incomplete, unexpressed emotions. . Expression allows you to heal and move on.”
Spiritual counselor Audrey Hope said she walked in circles at her office for hours after receiving news of her sister’s sudden death. She then expressed her rage and grief by lying on a table and screaming off and on for three hours, she said.
If you are able, being at the bedside of a dying friend or family member can help blunt the pain of denial. Although the paradox of denial is that it can keep you from being there, being part of the dying process can help you through the other stages and lead you toward acceptance.
“Because most people are intimidated by the dying process, they tend to leave the bedside before they have said their final goodbyes,” Rosenberg said. “When death is not appropriately grieved, you bear the burden of feeling incomplete. This sense of incompletion can show up as guilt, nightmares and a general feeling of suppressed emotions.”
The unexpected loss of someone you love calls for true courage. Chicago therapist David Klow believes that while many people might shrink from the unexpected experience, they would benefit by remaining open to it and “leaning into the feelings.”
“Rather than fighting through the feelings, it helps to stay with them and let the feelings guide how you might say goodbye,” he said. “Most people worry they will become too overwhelmed by emotions (but) being able to feel what we are going through in the moment actually allows for a healthier grieving process.”
To help prepare them for the loss of a loved one later, kids can benefit from learning about loss not related to death early on. Learning how to deal with leaving one school for another, losing a friend who moves away or breaking an object that had special meaning can help create understanding of grief.
“Those experiences help us learn to cope with a loss,” says Kriss Kevorkian, a Los Angeles-area thanatologist, a person who studies death and dying. “When losing a loved one for the first time, the best thing to do is ask (yourself) how you coped with other losses in your life.”
“In our society, we’re often told to ‘get over it,’ which is just about the worst advice ever,” she said. “Sit with your grief, find the meaning in it through appreciating that fact that you have loved ones that you care for.”
There’s no way to avoid grieving, Kevorkian says. It will come no matter how much you try to resist. “Allow it to unfold,” she says. “Grief . teaches us to appreciate life and those we love. Instead of pushing it aside, embrace it and learn to truly be grateful for every day.”
Simpson, the bereavement care specialist, offers this advice when you are at the bedside of a loved one who is dying:
1. Consider that being present at the end of someone’s life is a sacred honor, a privilege and a gift.
2. Accept that you may be scared and that it’s OK.
3. To alleviate your own fear, focus your attention on the person you love. Touch them, speak to them, sing to them, thank them.
4. Don’t worry if you cry.
5. Don’t be concerned about knowing the right thing to do. There is no single right thing. Just show up, pay attention, tell the truth and don’t be attached to the outcome.
I was supposed to be ready when my mother died in 2008 from metastatic breast cancer. I was supposed to be ready to say goodbye. After all, she was in her seventies and had been ill for quite some time. I was not a child or even a young adult. At my age I was supposed to be ready. My mother’s cancer had been diagnosed four years earlier, so I was supposed to be ready. Her cancer had metastasized and her prognosis was very poor, so I was supposed to be ready. Her health had been rapidly declining before my eyes and she was living out her final days in a care facility, so I was supposed to be ready. My family and I knew the end was coming, so I was supposed to be ready.
But I was not.
Society gives few messages and the ones that are given seem mixed about how to “appropriately” grieve for parents. In his book, When Parents Die: A Guide for Adults, Edward Myers states, “Loss of a parent is the single most common form of bereavement in this country. Yet the unstated message is that when a parent is middle-aged or elderly, the death is somehow less of a loss than other losses. The message is that grief for a dead parent isn’t entirely appropriate.”
After all, the death of a parent is the natural order of things.
When a parent dies, we are supposed to be prepared for this normal life passage, or at least be more ready to accept it when it happens. We are expected to pick ourselves up, close the wound quickly, and move on. We should not require much time to get over it.
Again, the death of a parent is the natural order of things.
However, just because the death of a parent is common place and is the natural order of things, this does not mean a person can or should be expected to simply and quickly bounce back. On the contrary, the death of one’s parent(s) is extremely difficult for most if you have had a good relationship with your parent(s) and even if you haven’t. In fact, sometimes the latter makes it even more difficult due to unresolved issues or conflicts.
When a parent dies, it can be unexpectedly devastating and cause considerable upheaval in even an adult son or daughter’s life. The magnitude of this loss can take you by surprise and helpful resources are not that plentiful.
Here are a few suggestions for coping with the natural order of things, or when a parent dies:
1. Don’t expect to be ready for the natural order of things; you won’t be.
2. Never let anyone belittle this loss, make you feel guilty for grieving deeply, or hurry you through your grief. You are entitled to feel all of grief’s intricacies and all of grief’s intensity.
3. Grieving for a parent, like all grief, can be exhausting emotionally, physically and spiritually. Be kind to yourself.
4. This work of grief takes time; the process must not be hurried. And it is never entirely over.
5. Even as an adult, don’t be surprised by feelings of abandonment and uncertainty that you experience.
6. After they are gone your parents will continue to be a part of your life, just in a different sense. You will always be their son or daughter.
7. Grief does not end. Rather grief comes and goes. And then it comes again.
8. If you feel the need, seek out support from others who’ve been there, a friend who cares, or a professional who can help guide you through the work of grief.
When a parent dies, yes, it is the natural order of things.
But taking time to grieve for them should be as well.
Have you experienced the death of a parent?
Have you ever felt pressured to hurry through grief?
Read more at Nancy’s Point.
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Chris Raymond is an expert on funerals, grief, and end-of-life issues, as well as the former editor of the world’s most widely read magazine for funeral directors.
James Lacy, MLS, is a fact checker and researcher. James received a Master of Library Science degree from Dominican University.
Carly Snyder, MD, is a board-certified reproductive and perinatal psychiatrist who combines traditional psychiatry with integrative medicine-based treatments.
While the sudden, unexpected death of a loved one can unleash a torrent of anguish and grief, a family member or friend who departs from the living over days, weeks, months or even longer can prove just as traumatic for survivors because of anticipatory grief — the sadness felt in advance of the death.
Tips for Coping With Anticipatory Grief
Here are a few of the emotional challenges you might encounter as you attempt to cope with the impending death of your loved one, and suggestions to help you deal with them.
Regardless of whether you are serving as a caregiver or not, knowing that your loved one's time is limited will take a toll on your physical and emotional strength. People can only live effectively in a "state of emergency" for a short period.
While that length of time will vary depending on the person and the situation, once that limit is reached, the mind and senses will begin to shut down as a self-preservation measure. This can manifest itself in many ways, including:
- An overwhelming need to sleep
- Lack of concentration
- An emotional “numbness” or detachment
It is important to understand that these feelings are perfectly normal and do not mean you are cold or unfeeling. Eventually, your body and mind will recover, and you will feel normal again — until something else triggers a state of heightened emotional response. You should expect to experience such waves of feeling and to view the times when you shut down as necessary and healthy.
That said, make sure you also get enough sleep, eat properly, spend time with other family members or friends, and can recognize the signs of caregiver burnout.
Death is a difficult subject for most people to talk about, and particularly so when we must bear witness to the protracted death of a loved one.
Because we feel uncomfortable, we often begin making assumptions in our head about what our loved one does or doesn't wish to talk about concerning their impending death, such as, "If I express how much I will miss him, it will make him feel worse," or "I won't say goodbye until the very end so she and I can find some happiness in the time remaining."
The net effect of such internal conversations is often that nothing is said, which can actually make a dying person feel isolated, ignored or alone.
As difficult as it might feel right now, open and direct communication is the best way to interact with a dying loved one. Let him or her know that you would like to talk about how you are feeling, as well as what you can provide during the time remaining in terms of support and comfort.
Once the honest conversation begins, you might discover that your fear of having this conversation was overblown.
When someone we love is diagnosed with a terminal illness, it is very easy to focus all of our attention and energy on the patient almost to the exclusion of our own needs. The strain caused by caring for a dying loved one — particularly for those providing a significant amount of the care — can often lead to caregiver stress as the physical, emotional and even financial impacts take their toll.
While it might seem unthinkable, caregiver stress can lead to feelings of resentment, anger or frustration toward the dying patient — and those feelings often trigger a profound sense of guilt. If left untreated, such emotions can seriously complicate the grief one feels after the patient dies, putting you at risk of depression, thoughts of suicide or post-traumatic stress disorder.
If you exhibit signs of caregiver stress, you should immediately talk to your family or friends and say, "I need help." Ideally, someone can assume some of the responsibility that you have shouldered, even temporarily, in order to give you a break and alleviate some of your stress.
If that is not an option, then consider a more formal type of respite care, such as an adult day-care facility or hiring an in-home caregiver, in order to give yourself the break you need.
While it might seem difficult to force yourself to let go temporarily, you will return more refreshed and energetic and provide much better care to your dying loved one.