Healthy Social Relations and How to Build Community Networks That Support Them

Research has demonstrated a link between social isolation and morbidity and all-cause mortality. Socially isolated persons are at the highest risk for a variety of diseases and fatal health outcomes, and social integration directly influences the onset, progression, and recovery from illness. This association has been shown for diverse physical health problems, such as the common cold, cancer, HIV infection, cardiovascular diseases, and cardiovascular reactivity.

Social relationships impact physiological systems, which in turn, impacts morbidity and mortality. In a review of studies of social relationships and physiological processes, researchers found strong evidence for beneficial effects of relationships on aspects of the cardiovascular, neuroendocrine, and immune systems.

Familial ties as well as emotional support are important dimensions in protecting people from damaging pathophysiological processes. Loss and bereavement, for instance, are followed by immune depression, which compromises cellular immunity. This, in turn, reduces overall host resistance, so that the individual becomes more susceptible to a variety of diseases, including infections and cancer.

Furthermore, research on relationships associate emotions with biological development of the brain and the neurological system. Social relationships are closely linked to a variety of psychological processes including feelings of distress, depression, loneliness, and other emotional states. Studies show that social relationships encourage health behaviors that prevent the onset of illness, slow its progression, or influence the recovery process.

Physical exercise is closely linked to social integration and social relationships. Perceived support by family and friends can help in developing the intention to exercise, as well as initiation of the behavior.

Social relations occur within communities, and building community requires five basic social structures. Organizations that attend to the five structural components below will form a sustainable community, and conversely organizations that fail to address these components will inhibit the growth of community.

Intermediate Size. The structure must be small enough for people to experience them (provide a “sense of community”) and large enough to provide incorporation into the larger societal structure.

Presence of Significant Primary and Secondary Interaction. The organization must provide both a primary (directly personal) and well as a secondary (access and reference to a larger group) interaction.

Key Institutional Setting. The members of the community must view the community services as central, and to some degree essential, to their well-being.

Relative Stability. The structure must endure over time.

Concreteness. The structure must maintain relevance by incorporating people with whom a significant number of community members interact and identify with.

Seven Ways to Tap Your Spiritual Traditions and Beliefs to Manage Grief

One of the most important resources to turn to when mourning the death of a loved one is the spiritual core beliefs and traditions you have been exposed to. Many mourners have told me about using their spiritual practices to find meaning and eventual peace of mind in trying to integrate their losses into their suddenly different worlds.

In particular, spiritual beliefs help to bring comfort, and in many instances, a sense of relief and meaning to the loss of loved ones. Here are seven ways to plumb the depths of your beliefs to find peace and ultimately the motivation to begin the process of acceptance of the death.

1. Meditate on the belief that the people who come into your life to help at this time, the meaningful things you read, the unexpected things that just seem to come out of nowhere and give comfort, are the Universe, God, or a Higher Power knowing you are in need and remembering you. Look for ways that Your Higher power tries to connect with you. If you look, you will find. Many choose their Higher Power to be their therapist. Believe your Higher Power is with you, especially in time of need.

2. Love has long been considered a most powerful force for dealing with the fear and worry that are common responses when mourning. Love protects. God, the Universe and your Higher Power all work through love. That’s why our support networks are so useful. You will also feel better if, even as you are hurting, you show love for others through service. Create a routine of caring.

Focusing on how to love in separation–a critical spiritual task–will also keep your loved one alive in your heart as you begin the major task of accepting his/her loss. It will give you a spiritual boost. And, most important of all, love yourself without limits. Be good to yourself. Give yourself a gift every day.

3. Use traditions and rituals as vital supports in dealing with transitions. You can create new rituals for starting each day, remembering your loved one, or trying to establish a new habit or routine. Rituals stabilize and help us connect. Perhaps you may want to start a tradition of celebrating the deceased’s birthday or special anniversary.

4. Read what the various holy books say about the legitimacy of sorrow. Don’t deny the pain. Many divine figures grieved. Jesus grieved. Give yourself permission to grieve as long as you feel it is necessary. Embrace your grief and allow it to run its course. Be assured that your grief is not only normal; it is the only kind on the planet, because each relationship is one of a kind. And, don’t avoid legitimate suffering. It will cause even more suffering in the final analysis.

5. Many people believe in the doctrine of The Communion of Saints. It is essentially the belief that deceased loved ones who go to heaven can be prayed to and intercede to God for survivors on earth. I often tell mourners there is nothing wrong with talking to the deceased loved one, or praying for a sign that the loved one is in a better place. If you don’t get an answer right away, don’t feel your Higher Power hasn’t heard you. Be patient and persist. Believe that you will be heard and never abandoned.

6. If you believe in a spirit world, afterlife, or heaven then you can also dwell on the following possibilities. Possibility is what hope is all about.

A. Your loved one knows what you are going through.

B. Your loved one can help you now more than before.

C. You can ask for ideas on how to deal with a vexing problem.

D. The deceased loved one assumes there will always be a relationship with survivors.

E. Grieve with the conviction and remind yourself that you will be guided through your ordeal.

F. Some day their will be a reunion.

7. Pray for the wisdom to make the right choices. Coping well and good grief are all about wise choices. For example, when will you intentionally start new routines, when will you freely express what you are feeling, when will you take a break from your grief, when will you employ self-care on a regular basis, and when will you start loving in separation are all based on the power of choice. For months or years your choices will pave the way for integrating loss into life. Pray as you would talk to your best friend. Cry out for help. Ask for strength, but seek wisdom to choose.

We are mysterious beings who clearly have a spiritual yearning. Be open to how your everyday spirituality (kindness, active caring, compassion, we are all connected) can play a major role in bringing comfort and new meaning into your life at this time of great turmoil. Talk to others who have similar beliefs and allow your intuition to become part of your decision making process. You possess the ability to grow through your great loss and find inner peace.

Creating an Online Memorial Website Can Help With Grief and Bereavement

Coping with the loss of a loved one and the grief that ensues can be overwhelming and sometimes difficult to manage. Death is one unavoidable certainty that we can expect in one’s lifetime but that we rarely think about on a regular basis. So when it does occur, we are sometimes unprepared. This can cause a lot of stress in a person’s life, and they may not know how to deal with it.

Bereavement from losing a loved one can be one of the most stressful events in a person’s life. Stress, especially if persistent in nature, can affect a person’s well-being and lead to serious health problems that may disturb multiple organ systems. The digestive, immune, cardiovascular and nervous systems may all be afflicted and lead to potential life threatening conditions such as bleeding ulcers, chronic infections, depression, diabetes, and heart disease. If a person does not address their grief and the stress associated with it, it may alter their overall health status for the worse.

With the advent of the internet, more people are using online means to seek out social support and facilitate the grieving process. One such medium is an online memorial website, where people can create a profile to commemorate a deceased loved one. Memorial websites can help to honor the legacy of loved ones through contributions from other people from around the globe. Photos, videos, and messages are some of the features that can be shared by family and friends and thus a place to preserve these memories for future generations to enjoy.

Online memorials have become a beneficial platform for those in mourning by allowing access to support from family and friends. Sharing meaningful memories of the deceased with others can help to initiate positive emotions. Research has shown that conjuring positive emotions and a strong social support network during times of grief can help reduce the effects of both chronic and acute stress, as well as allow a person to recover from grief faster.

Benefits of creating an online memorial:

  1. It can give unlimited access to a support network of family and friends from all over the world.
  2. It can help bring out positive emotions and, therefore, reduce stress and heal faster.
  3. It can be a place to preserve favorite memories of a loved one through shared comments, photos and videos.
  4. It can allow a bereaved individual to discuss their feelings, at any time of the day, with people who may be dealing with a similar grief.
  5. It can be a place to create a family tree to be passed on to future generations.

It should be noted that in certain circumstances, such as with a sudden or traumatic death of a loved one, how a person copes can vary from person-to-person. At some point, there may be a need for professional intervention.