Everyone has their own ways to cope with grief and none of us are the same. What works for one, might not work for another. But here are 10 of the best and most positive ways that I have found works for me and for many of the people I have helped.
(Elizabeth Postle, author of this site was a nurse, and health practicioner for 45 years).
When the going gets tough, the tough get going............
There is a funeral to arrange. Are you going to let the funeral directors do it all for you? Do what you think your loved one would have wanted. Keeping busy helps. Think about your loved one. Do it for them, not yourself. Choose the service or celebration they would have wanted. Find some lovely music, some comforting and uplifting poems. Make it a beautiful and memorable occasion – a celebration of their life, rather than a sad and sombre funeral.
You decide. Opt out and you may regret it later. It would be so easy to sit in the corner and wallow in self-pity, but this is your loved one. Get on with it. Do it for them.
Talk over what’s going to happen. Discuss what the loved one would have wanted. It takes your mind off yourself, eases the pain. Organise the caterers, the flowers. Choose something really special to make the day a lovely memorial.
“What role was there for me to play now? I was a widow on an empty stage. My next role was one I would have to write myself.” Virginia Lloyd
It’s very easy to go into self-pity mode. It helps no one, especially you. Yes, have a cry when a lovely letter or note of sympathy arrives. But, plan your days, work out what needs doing. You will be amazed at how quickly the days go by when you keep yourself occupied and busy.
You may be on the verge of tears a lot of the time. So what? Or you may be so numb with shock that you feel like you are on auto-pilot for months. You might not be able to cry. It’s all normal.
You may suffer a lack of confidence or an attack of anxiety even if you were previously a very confident organised person. Take each day at a time, organise your affairs slowly and your confidence will return. Read about coping with grief anxiety.
Whatever happens to you, keep a list of things to do each day. Keep busy with family, friends, groups you belong to, or even join a new group. Organise outings.
One of the best ways to cope with grief is to get plenty of sleep. It may be easier said than done though. While some may want to sleep all the time, others may find it really difficult.
Try to get plenty of sleep, but don’t be afraid of lying awake remembering. Try to direct your thoughts to the happy times. Have a glass of milk and a banana and drift off again. Be wary of reaching for the sleeping pills too soon. They might make you feel like a zombie and slow down the natural process of grieving.
You may be awake at night. Read, make a cuppa, write emails to friends or write in a journal or diary. You can get to sleep again later or have an afternoon nap. Try not to worry about a change in sleep pattern and don’t focus on negative thoughts when you are awake in the night.
“Laughing is our window into sanity”. Stephanie Ericsson
There will be tears, but many laughs too.
Some people think it is disrespectful to a lost loved one to laugh. Don’t take any notice of them. Surely the loved one would want you to be happy not sad. Allow yourself time to have fun again.
Laugh with friends, don’t allow the self pities in – this is not fair to your loved one who would want you to cope and be happy. It’s not fair on your family and friends either.
Learn to laugh at being a wimp! Accept that you are not super-human. You are allowed to grieve and be upset, but do try to think positive and remember all the good times. It would be easy to sit in the corner and hide away. It helps no-one, least of all you.
Keeping your mind and body active are great ways of coping with grief. Keep ahead of household and family jobs. Take control of your finances and administration tasks. Do try to organise your own affairs as it gives you purpose and control. But if it’s too hard perhaps give a family member power of attorney so they can help you.
When you let household chores and financial affairs slip behind, you can soon feel that you are not managing and inadequate feelings take over. Remain positive, be tough with yourself. Get on with things and you will find that things get easier. By keeping yourself busy you will be happier and satisfied that, yes, you can cope.
If you have a job, keep working, do the best job you can and put on a cheerful face for your colleagues.
Be careful not to get so busy that you use it as a way to totally block out your grief. Schedule in some time for yourself to process your thoughts. There are various ways of doing this - either with a journal as we mentioned above, or by listening to some meaningful music, or maybe doing a meditation or self-hypnosis session.
Enjoy your hobbies and private times. Maybe you now you have the time to read, do all those things you kept putting off.
Keep busy, help neighbours, volunteer for charity shops or hospital shops. Go into schools and help children with reading.
Have a look at my list of activities to get you out and about and enjoying life again.
Do get plenty of fresh air and exercise and make sure you eat a nutritious diet. It’s so easy to neglect your health and not bother. You will feel much better if you watch your health and it helps you to cope.
Read our page on how grief affects health and maybe have a go at yoga which is very beneficial when coping with grief.
Don’t rush any important decisions like whether or not to move house. You need to give yourself time to consider these issues.
Yes, there will be times when you cry, times when you laugh hysterically, but the main consideration is to take each day at a time.
Don’t leave too many days unplanned, as this allows you to mope alone.
Yes, allow yourself time to grieve. It will come over you in any case at the most unexpected moments. Let it in and let it pass.
If people ask how you are, answer, “Fine”, even if you are not. It’s amazing how much better it makes you feel.
Have one or two close friends you ring when you feel low and want a good cry.
Have a few friends to ring to go to a movie or a meal when you want a laugh or just company.
If you are not feeling periods of normality and being able to cope with at least some everyday tasks after a few weeks, you may need help. Don’t be hard on yourself. Grief recovery can be difficult. If you are struggling, talk to a friend or a grief counselor. Have a look at my advice on how to choose a counsellor or a friend to talk to. There are grief support groups in most towns. Ask your doctor, hospital or library for the contact details. If there isn’t one close by, why not start one of yourself? Or have a look at the online grief counseling service we recommend below.
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Our free downloadable and printable document "The 10 Most Important Things You Can Do To Survive Your Grief And Get On With Life" will help you to be positive day to day.
The 10 points are laid out like a poem on two pretty pages which you can pin on your fridge door to help you every day!
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