Grief and Loss: Helpful and Unhelpful Strategies to Coping With the Loss of a Loved One

Although it’s said there is no right or wrong way to grieve, I prefer to say that there are in fact helpful and unhelpful ways to grieve. To transform grief we need to take action. If we do nothing and expect the pain to go with time we will still experience it years later. If we take action that is unhelpful, then we will still experience pain later on.

Unhelpful ways to grieve consist of using drugs and alcohol as a way of moderating the pain. Whilst in the short term these might help us forget, it is only temporarily. Once the effects of the drugs or alcohol wear off, we are still left with the feelings we’ve been trying to hide from.

Telling everyone that we are fine and trying to continue on as if nothing is wrong is another unhelpful way to grieve. You don’t need to spill your heart out to anyone but simply acknowledging that you are not OK but doing your best allows you to start transforming your grief. Our worlds become shattered after the loss of a loved one. It is our right to acknowledge that something is wrong and that we don’t know how we are going to cope.

Pushing emotions away is another unhelpful way to grieve. Again, acknowledging emotions is not about spilling your heart out to anyone, it’s about admitting to yourself that you hurt and you do feel that emotion. It is about giving yourself permission to feel the pain so that you can let it go. When we don’t acknowledge our feelings we tend to indulge in things like eating too much, watching too much telly, using drugs and alcohol and even overcompensating with too much exercise.

The most helpful way to make sure that you can cope with the loss of a loved one is to make sure that you have a great support network in place. This can be family or friends. You might not want to talk and share your feelings with them but just knowing that they are there to tell you they care and/or give you a hug can make the world of a difference.

If you need more support you can get yourself a grief counsellor or coach. Sometimes having someone impartial to listen to you in a non-judgmental way can make all the difference.

Another helpful way is to take action. After loss we might feel like taking to our beds and not eat nor drink as we sit with our pain. This won’t help us. Getting up and eating something, going for a walk, picking up the phone to speak to someone are all actions that can help move us forward after the loss of a loved one.

As you read this reflect upon the things you have been doing since you lost your loved one and ask yourself are they helpful to you or unhelpful? Then ask yourself what do you need to do more the same of and what do you need to do differently?

Loss and Bereavement: The Support Services for Families With Children With Brain Tumors

There are many thoughts that run through a person’s mind when they learn that their child or sibling has been diagnosed with a brain tumor. What will my child’s life and my life be like now? How will this affect me? How will our family survive such a trauma? These and a million other questions come to mind when your child is diagnosed with a brain tumor. Many parents and children feel grief towards a life that was lost and these feelings can occur whether or not there was a death. The life you were planning for yourself or your child may no longer be possible and you have to cope with all of these new feelings while still managing day to day life, a daunting task.

Perhaps more devastating is the actual loss of a child. This experience is heart breaking and life altering for parents, siblings, other family members and friends, as it does not follow the proper course of life. The process of grief differs from person to person. Grief is a very subjective emotion and depending on the age and the relationship a person had with the child, their reaction to the loss will take on a variety of forms. For many, however, it is a long and painful journey, and it causes some to feel alone and forgotten by others who go on with their lives.

There are many new emotions and unexpected feelings that accompany the loss of a child such as, anger, guilt, abandonment, depression, etc. Though there is no way to completely quell all the feelings that occur with losing a child, there are support services and networks of other parents to help you cope with such a tragic loss. The support you can receive from others also dealing with a loss helps you understand that you are not alone and many, if not all, of the feelings you may be having are normal, in a way and this type of support is immeasurable.

Many are not aware of the different avenues you can take when seeking support. The social workers at many organizations are available to help you determine what services will be the most appropriate in helping you and your family manage all of the psychological and emotional difficulties that are associated with losing a child.

“The feeling of connecting to other parents is that sense of knowing that you are not alone.” -quote from a bereaved parent

These organizations typically offer many programs including a Loss, Grief and Bereavement Program for families who have lost a child. Their goal is to support families through this difficult experience by connecting them to other bereaved families, providing supportive services, and offering therapeutic and educational information. We know everyone has his or her own unique way of grieving. It is for this reason that we offer different forms of support to address varying needs and ages.

What Anyone Can Do to Help a Mourner

What can you do to help someone you care about who is mourning a major loss in life? What do mourners need from those in their support network in order to cope with the stress of grief, and find the courage and strength to deal with all of the changes imposed by loss?

Here are three actions you can take to be of immediate assistance and help on the long journey of adapting to the new environment that has to be faced.

1. Be there. It seems at first blush that the obvious thing anyone should do is go to the side of the mourner. However, many people hesitate, sometimes out of fear or thinking that others will be there. What is important to consider is that, in the final analysis, only the mourner answers the question of who should be there. If you are a friend, your presence alone will never be forgotten. You do not have to say much. Being around and accepting the pain fills one of the most important needs of the mourner–recognition and validation of the loss and what the person is going through.

Allow the mourner to be in charge and take your cues from what he/ she have to say. Loss is always a part of a story that has to be told, especially when mourning. Let the mourner do this at his/her pace. Your greatest challenge as a caregiver to the bereaved is to deal with the silence and let silence play its role. In this vein, all too often caregivers try to say something in an attempt to break the silence and ease the pain, when their presence and not anything they say, speaks volumes. Nothing you can say will fix it. Share the mourner’s pain.

2. Do the chores. Be proactive and look ahead at what the mourner would have normally been doing if the loss had not occurred. Think about the responsibilities that one may have despite a loss. Who is most dependent on the person who is mourning? Are there others at a work place that should be informed? If there are children involved, consider what you can do to lighten the burden on the mourner in terms of caring for their needs.

Doing the chores is not an easy as it sounds. It frequently takes much time and effort for several days. You may also need to enlist the help of members of your own family or friends of the mourner. Sometimes the chores may include doing something with the mourner. Or you may sense you should play a supportive role in funeral planning or going to the funeral home with the mourner.

3. Don’t quit early. It is not uncommon for caregivers to feel that their assistance is no longer needed. Some caregivers grow tired of the ordeal. After a couple of weeks have gone by, many mourners report that those who have been most helpful tend to reduce contact. At first, this seems quite normal. However, it is just at this time when the mourner is often in most need of human contact.

If the loss was the death of a loved one, having to face the ordeal of living without the deceased, begins to be more stressful. Bills, new responsibilities, financial evaluations, new roles or demands often deluge mourners who at the very least need someone that will listen to their continued difficulties. Also, the false belief by many in the general population that grief is a short two or three week stint and the mourner should be getting back to normal, encourages pulling away and reduced contact.

In reality, the need for human contact never ends–for all of us. For months, a very special interest has to be taken in those who are mourning, sometimes up to two years. It is especially important to inquire how the person is doing in relation to the new surroundings that he/she is trying to adapt to. This should include being willing to talk about the deceased, especially when the mourner brings up the subject.

In summary, make every effort to push yourself to be around the person in pain, especially if you realize he/she wants you there. This is difficult. It is not easy to watch one that you care about suffer. Yet, the reassurance that the mourner receives by your presence is of immense value. This is especially true many months after the loss, as most people think the person is “doing so well,” when in fact every day is filled with hardships. Let the person know you are still there and aware.