The recent passing of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh has touched many people. The loss of a loved one is never easy and we all grieve in our own way. When someone passes away, life as we know it is forever changed. Even when we know that the end is imminent it is still a shock when someone is well and truly gone. Sadly, for many of us, this is a lived experience but it is never easy or welcome.
So how can you learn to deal with the loss of a loved one? There are certain things that you can do to minimise the emotional impact of losing a loved one.
Here is a list of 3 useful things but you can do to manage the loss of a loved one:
Don’t avoid feeling the emotions
It is common to want to avoid feeling strong emotions especially if they will be unpleasant. Many people try to busy themselves and hope that this will help them avoid the pain of losing a loved one. In essence, the trauma still impacts a body. It is only through addressing the grief and sadness that we can begin to heal and move on permanently. When we suppress negative emotions they just get buried and return in some other form. This could be in the form of anger, bitterness, or resentment at life or others.
When you are brave enough to sit with those unpleasant feelings, have a good cry, and focus on the person you have lost, you will be processing those emotions in a more effective way. Bereavement is a process that requires time and no amount of avoidance can spare you from pain and sadness in the long term.
Feelings are neither right nor wrong, they just are. Sadness, loneliness, fear, confusion, anger—these are among the many feelings you may experience, and they are completely normal. Emotions are often raw early in the grief process, but it is important to express them.
So take time out and be around others as well. We all grieve in different ways but insure that you don’t withdraw completely from the world. Avoidance is a common defense tactic but it only works for a short time.
Stick to your own time schedule
Experiencing bereavement is a very personal process. There is no recommended time limit and it’s important to take as long as you need to come to terms with your loss. When we have experienced the loss of a loved one, we need to just to life if in a different format. If you have lost someone very close to you that was integrated into your daily life, it can take longer to heal. When you will have a strong emotional connection with someone, not only do you miss the strong emotional connection but the loss of their physical presence will be intensely felt initially.
We get used to relying on someone for our needs – emotional, physical, and practical. It really is a case of you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone. Our brains need time to process the strong chemical reactions that bereavement brings.
When you’re grieving, a flood of neurochemicals and hormones flood your brain. There can be a disruption in hormones that results in specific symptoms, such as disturbed sleep, loss of appetite, fatigue, and anxiety. When those symptoms converge, your brain function takes a hit.
Look after yourself during the loss of a loved one
Whatever you do, don’t neglect your self-care. It’s easy to do this when you slip into ‘survival mode’ when you experience the loss of a loved one but this can push you into slipping further away from healthy functioning. Get outdoors, attend to your hygiene and try to eat well, and get enough sleep.
When you neglect your self-care you increase your likelihood of depression. This behavior promotes a feeling of hopelessness and a sense of giving up. Be strict with yourself about your self-care. With so much sadness, you can at least still ‘fill up’ your positive reserves by taking long walks, reading, sleeping, and speaking to others if you need to talk. Self-care feeds your soul and nourishes your brain. It helps your brain reset and provides safety and comfort for your physical and mental health.
People underestimate self-care but research shows that those who engage in self-care (especially during anxious or stressful times) tend to fare far better than those who don’t. It’s a no-brainer.
While the causes of stress differ from person to person, the effects are the same when stress builds up. These can include insomnia, restlessness, fatigue, upset stomach, muscle tension, irritability, social withdrawal, substance abuse, and a lack of motivation. There can be long-term effects, too, from obesity to cardiovascular disease to mental health issues like depression and anxiety.
Fortunately, there’s a proven way to help ward off stress due to the loss of a loved one: self-care.
- It improves cognitive functioning and helps you stay focused
- Replenishes your resources
- Improves motivation
- Improves resilience to bereavement, grief, stress and anxiety
Focus on activities that encourage you to zone in on your senses, such as breathing exercises, aromatherapy, or massages. You could also do things that make you happy, like crafting, going to the movies, or taking a walk.
Additional self-care tasks could be ones that assist you in mastering a skill, connecting with others, and accepting your emotions. You could engage in spiritual activities, like praying and meditating, and there’s perhaps no greater stress buster than physical activity.
Self-care may sound like a selfish luxury, but it’s anything but. Self-care gives you the energy to pursue the things that really matter—and that’s a great use of your time.
The loss of a loved one is one of the hardest experiences to survive but there are many positive things you can do to cope and get through to the other side where you can finally smile again.
If you find that you are struggling you can always get in touch for bereavement counselling. Please contact me via email or use the contact form on this site.