Coping with Grief and Loss – 1. Get Support

Practical help

One month, even one week, is long enough feeling unwell, out of sorts and unable to cope  but grieving the death of a loved one seems to go on for weeks on end.  Just when you are at your lowest and need rest to recuperate it is a time when extra responsibilities come your way – arrange a funeral, care for others who are also bereaved or maybe just nosy and want to know what happened.  There may be a will to search for, legal matters to resolve, property to sell or otherwise manage.  This is stressful.  You need help.

You can pay for a solicitor to undertake many of the necessary tasks but may later regret the cost, the time taken and the lack of a personal touch.  Now, more than ever, you need trusted family and friends who understand you and are willing to help.

Lean on family and friends

A key factor in healing from loss is having the support of other people.  Do not grieve alone.  Even if you have difficulty talking about feelings now is the time to do so.  Sharing your loss makes the burden of grief easier to carry.  You may end up in tears and feel embarrassed and unmanly (yes, it is men who find this particularly difficult) but wherever the support comes from, accept it and do not grieve alone.  It will usually come from family and close friends but they themselves may be grieving and not recognise your need.  Sometimes, people want to help but do not know how, so tell them what you need – whether it is a shoulder to cry on or help with funeral arrangements.  Sometimes help comes from unexpected sources.  It may be an acquaintance who has been through grief themselves and knows what it is like.  Then there are people who are particularly empathic.  They notice a need and instinctively know how to help.  However it happens, connecting to others will help you heal and will assist you to cope with the necessary administrative responsibilities that need prompt attention after a death.

Draw comfort from your faith.

If you follow a faith, it may have established mourning rituals that you can take part in.  Spiritual activities such as praying, meditating or going to church to a service or alone, can offer consolation and support.  Some churches have facilities for a candle to be lit as a symbol to accompany prayer.  Others have trained listeners who are available for prayer, listening or provide a shoulder to cry on.  Look out for churches that make a point of offering prayer or have a ’pastoral worker’ (an alternative but similar title may be used).  Such workers will be trained as bereavement counsellors and should prove particularly helpful.  An increasing number of churches now hold ‘Bereavement Courses.’  These are not intended for the initial phase of bereavement but instead are designed to help those whose loss occurred months or even many years previously.

It is a normal part of grieving to question your faith or express doubt about God so such times as these when you need God’s presence and comfort are the times when it may be hardest to accept this.  This does not mean you are losing your faith; this doubt is a normal part of grieving.  Experienced counsellors are aware of this so turn to someone you trust and seek their help.  Allow them to pray with you and comfort you with Scripture.

It is an interesting observation that though people of faith may question their beliefs when grieving, many people who do not seem to have any religious beliefs turn to God, start to pray and may visit a church when grieving.  This happened nationally when Princess Diana died so tragically in 1997 and when Fabrice Muamba, a professional footballer collapsed in 2012 during a match due to cardiac arrest.  Newspaper headlines, footballers’ T-shirts and news programmes all cried out, ‘Pray for Muamba.’  That is how grief may be expressed both personally and communally and the journey toward healing is developed.

Join a support group.

Grief can feel very lonely, even when you have loved ones with you.  Sharing your sorrow with others who have experienced their own loss can help.  To find a Bereavement Support or Divorce Recovery Group in your area, contact your GP practice or search the internet.

It is not advertised as such but help in managing grief is one reason for having special interest groups.

Do you get teased, mocked or bullied because you have red hair, a facial disfigurement or some such?  Join a support group.  Ease your grief and stress by swapping stories.  It will improve your self-confidence and you will learn how to anticipate, defuse and address future adverse approaches.

Are you out of work?  Join a Job Club.  Share stories, support each other, learn from each other.

Many chronic illnesses such as diabetes, different types of cancer and strokes have support groups.  It is a godsend to know you are not alone, others have faced the issues you face.  There are people at last who understand the grief of losing health and being confined by the limitations of your illness.  Even after surviving the grief of developing the condition there are the ongoing stresses of coping and anticipating difficulties.  It is wearing.  Your energy and enthusiasm for life drains away but now there is a source of advice, tips, encouragement, and understanding to help you survive and overcome.

Talk to a therapist or grief counsellor.

If your grief feels like too much to bear, speak to your GP about getting help.  It is not weakness to ask for help, rather it shows maturity and insight.  If you worry that your employer or colleagues will think less of you for seeking help bear in mind that someone who lacks the insight and wisdom to care for themselves can hardly be considered a suitable person to care for the health and wellbeing of others and be responsible, for example, for a multimillion pound business.  It has been only in the last few decades that it has become accepted that business people should look after their health.  So it is normal now to have regular physical health checks and go to the gym regularly either at home or when away on business.  As you look after your physical health so you should care for your emotional health.

Use social media for support.

Memorial pages on Facebook and other social media sites have become popular ways to inform a wide audience of the death of a loved one and to reach out for support.  As well as allowing you to impart practical information, such as funeral plans, these pages allow friends and loved ones to post their own tributes or condolences.  Reading such messages can provide comfort for those grieving the loss.  However, be aware of the risk that you may receive cruel or abusive messages if you use an open page.

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