Grief is a very personal journey. Some people scream and run down the road of grief. Some people avoid going forward. Some people hide in the bushes along the way, but come out and make small steps forward when the fear isn’t as controlling. Grief can be a term used to encompass other feelings, like guilt, remorse, anger, and fear. Putting one foot in front of the other can seem like too difficult a task to accomplish. But not dealing with grief is the most damaging situation of all.
Not dealing with grief means you are stuck in your feelings. You can put things out of your mind and stay busy, avoid talking about it with anyone, but sooner or later, the grief will be expressed. If the grief is not dealt with, it can show itself through physical symptoms of sickness and disease, emotional symptoms like depression or anxiety, and mental symptoms like feeling life is surreal and “foggy.”
Men, especially have a hard time with feelings, because from a young age they are taught to toughen up and deal with problems without feelings. Men, especially, need to grieve the loss of a loved one by talking to others about it, dealing with the memories, and finding help and support to move forward. We have a family friend who lost his wife at a young age, and then just gave up on living. Within six months, he had died of a heart attack. Grieving oneself to death is very possible, and it only multiples the pain of the other survivors.
If someone you know has lost a loved one, you may find yourself at a loss of what to do to help. Lana Swan, a mother who lost her sixteen year old daughter, said the most helpful things people did for her were offers of concrete help (like babysitting, picking up groceries, helping with bills, etc.), sharing memories or pictures they had of her daughter, invitations to go with them to dinner or the movies, offers to come by and visit (just to allow her to talk or have a hug when she needs it), keeping lists of thank you cards that need to be sent later (addressed and stamped, if possible) and help with planning the funeral. Just offering to help when called is not enough.
If you yourself are grieving the loss of a loved one, realize this is not a solitary experience, and it can’t be dealt with totally alone. Everyone needs to talk through their feelings in order to express them. If you can find a grief support group in your area, go. Call your local hospice for information about resources in your area. If you have a clergyman or counselor you can talk to, by all means enlist their support. Don’t shut yourself off from family and friends, even though you may feel like being alone is easier.
Don’t make any big decisions right after a loss. Dealing with the grief while making financial decisions or moving plans is a bad idea. Many times people realize later they wish they had waited to make major decision when they were in a healthier mental state. Don’t let others pressure you to make decisions now, no matter how well-meaning they may seem.
Allow yourself time to mourn. Allow yourself to cry. After some time has passed, if you find you are still not moving forward through the grief, you have to ask yourself if you are promoting your recovery or promoting your pain. Finding the will to go on without someone we loved can be difficult, and even seem impossible. But remember- your loved one would want you to go on and live your life, to be happy and productive. Don’t let their death be the reason for you to stop living your life. Make their life and memory live on through the experiences you have and the people whose lives you touch.
Accept help when offered. If someone offers their support, take it. If they offer to bring by a meal, accept it. It may help them as much as it helps you. If there is something you know you need, whether it’s taking a pet to the vet or learning to balance your checkbook, ask someone you trust to help you. Now is not the time to let pride get in your way.
Take care of yourself. You still need to eat three healthy meals a day and have nutritious snacks. You need to get sufficient rest. You need to get out among other people. You need to lean on your own spiritual beliefs. Don’t feel that your being happy in any way diminishes the importance the death has had on your life. And don’t feel guilty for having good days. Above all, be honest with yourself. You know yourself better than anyone else. Do what you know you need to do to honor your loss and still move forward in your life.