Ways to Cope With Bereavement

Most traumas, including the death of a spouse are potentially shattering experiences. These events can disrupt the survivor’s social, emotional, and cognitive worlds. Although there has been frequent mention in the literature that traumatic situations cause people to talk about their experiences most evidence has been anecdotal. When someone within a social network dies, members of the network are naturally drawn together. During the grieving period especially within the first few days or weeks the survivors socially share their emotions and memories with each other.

Many of the discussion topics surround the individual who died, of course, but funerals and grieving rituals often include the social sharing of other personal and family histories. Although researched conducted to date has not found compelling evidence that social sharing leads to emotional recovery, our data suggested that it may serve several other important cognitive, psychological, and social functions.

Analysis and Recommendations for Steps to Handle The Loss of a Spouse in the First Year. The roles we have within our social networks are not often discussed or clearly defined. One of the ironies of having a spouse die is that we openly discuss the person, our feelings about him or her, and become conscious of that person’s influence on us. As far as it applies to bereavement, the death of a loved one generally introduces chaos in people’s personal universe, which may end up in denial and in alteration of the sense of reality. When bereaved individuals socially share the loss of a loved one, the contribution helps to give both the death itself and its consequences more reality.

A widow has to go through a lot when her spouse dies especially when she is very young. The death of spouse very often challenges our beliefs of a coherent, predictable, and controllable world. The overwhelming emotions which result from such challenges often drive individuals into a state of cognitive business. They slip into a cycle of ruminative thinking trying unsuccessfully to figure it all out. Based on research, it is hypothesized that social sharing helps to undermine this cognitive business cycle. This leads to predict that emotional memories that were not shared would be associated with higher cognitive needs than emotional memories that were shared. This function of social sharing is also very relevant in the context of bereavement.

Experiencing the death of a spouse, often shatters people’s basic beliefs that they live in an orderly, understandable, and meaningful world. As a result, individuals frequently search for some meaning or try to make sense out of their negative experiences. Finding meaning in the loss of spouse is thought to be one way for dealing with and adjusting to the event. Through the use of social sharing, people can contribute to give both the death itself and its consequences more sense and meaning.

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References:

Stroebe, W., Stroebe, M., Schut, H., Zech, E., & van den Bout, J. (1997, June). Must we give sorrow words? Paper presented at the Third International Conference on Grief and Bereavement in Contemporary Society, Washington, DC.

Watson, D., & Pennebaker, J. W. (1989). Health complaints, stress, and distress: Exploring the central role of negative affectivity. Psychological Review, 2, 234-254.

Wortman, C. B., & Silver, R. C. (1989). The myths of coping with loss. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 57, 349-357.

Never Let Go- How to Hang On to Hope When Mourning

Does everything look hopeless? No future? No place to turn for the help you really need deep within? Is there anything that can make a difference in the way you feel? Despite the image and meaning you carry right now when you see the word hope, trust the following: It is a sure-fire way out of your emptiness and despair. You simply need to turn it on.

Hope is often considered to be a will-of-the-wisp, an often talked about, but hardly practical factor in dealing with the various problems of life. This belief is spawned by the fact that hope is little understood, and it seems to work best when you don’t realize it is behind your positive behavior.

So what can you do to generate hope, keep it alive, and use it in dealing with your great loss? Consider the following.

1. Start the process of building and maintaining hope by never forgetting the following advice from William James, the eminent psychologist, professor, and author: “The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.” Paste his quote where you will see it often. What you think is the cornerstone of hope.

2. Hope is first and always a choice. We all forget that thoughts are extremely powerful in the way they affect the mind and the body. Right now, make the decision to choose one hopeful thought. Here it is: I am starting the process of getting through the darkest night of my soul. You don’t have to know how at this moment, only that you are intent to be on the move through it. Keep saying to yourself that you will prevail.

3. You can start generating hope right now by seeking connections. There isn’t a psychiatrist alive today who would not tell you how critical it is to find connections in your life, especially at this time of loss. Make every effort to be with the most loving people you know; they are filled with hope. Go to them if they are unable to come to you. Their presence alone will be a hidden source of hope that on an unconscious level will help you immensely.

4. Hope is all about possibilities. No matter what the nature of your great loss, there are always possibilities for dealing with it and sources to tap into for the information needed. You can uncover many possibilities by finding a quiet place and writing them down as you examine alternatives. You will find even more by doing the same thing with a best friend, a counselor or a clergy person. The possibilities are always out there; finding them is the work of grief. And it is fueled by hope. Keep making a pervasive search.

5. You will also find hope in one of the least suspected places–a grief support group. It takes courage to come to a support group. Once there, you find others with similar struggles. Your hope level rises as you see them confronting their pain and gaining. You will feel a palpable hope emerging when, after four or five meetings, members begin to ask if anyone in the group would like to go to dinner after the meeting. A bond has been formed and hope is the hidden motivator.

6. An infinite source of hope is another connection: your awareness of and belief in a power greater than the self. You may call this your Higher Power, God, Allah, the Almighty, the Absolute, the Great Spirit, or the Universal Source. However you view this Power, it is an eternal connection to hope. It is there for you to turn to and ask for wisdom and strength, even if you have been lax in your commitments.

This Power is always with you, in the darkest of nights, and especially if your spiritual progress has been slow. It may also manifest in a vision, a sense of divine presence, or an Extraordinary Experience involving your deceased loved one.

Hope requires practice if it is to provide its fruits in time of great need. Therefore, you must take action and reach out to connect whenever you sense that hopelessness is creeping into your life, especially at this difficult time of loss. And then make the search for hope come full circle. Review each day how you are progressing in loving, serving, being kind, and strengthening the connections to your social network. All of these will instill hope in your life as you cope with your loss.

What You Can and Cannot Control When Grief and Loss Occur

No one is immune from the suffering and pain that accompanies the death of a loved one. The grief that ensues is fraught with many ups and downs which sow confusion and stirs deep emotional feelings.

Frequently, over time, many mourners experience normal reactive depression. This is a common response when someone we love is gone or something that is cherished is taken away. It often features sleeplessness, a sense of hopelessness, a feeling that nothing can be done to change the condition, and thoughts that life is not worth living.

Yet, much can be done if you change your focus away from hopelessness and helplessness to the power inherent in what you can influence and control. You cannot control the past. You can’t control relentless change. You can control how you respond to the present and plan for the future. What can you control to stop the downward spiral when it begins to grow? Here are seven things to consider, any one of which can break the back of sadness and reactive depression, and begin to ease the deep pain of loss.

1. You control the empowerment of choice. Adjusting to the death of a loved one or any other major loss is dependent on the choices you make. And there are always many choices that have to be made on a daily basis. No one can take away your choices. Will you be determined to make it through your loss and reinvest in life or live in the past? That is a major choice at the start. Will you choose to interact with others, perhaps in a support group or at least with loving friends, or isolate yourself? You need the ears of others to talk about your depression. Never forget the power you possess to decide what direction to take.

2. You control your commitment to self-care. Remember your old self is gone. You are not going to be your old self again. That’s what major loss does to us. It’s a new you with new routines and new ways of looking at the world and your place in it. You must feed that growth. With the absence of the companionship and emotional support of a loved one, it is essential to take special notice of how you meet the need to be nurtured. That is part of your new routine. Treat yourself with great respect and care. Eat healthy. Walk. Take a daily stress break. Give yourself a respite from sadness.

3. You control how you structure and organize your time. Having a plan for each day, especially the special days you know will be difficult, like birthdays and anniversaries, is essential to the task of preventing additional and unnecessary suffering and depression. Lee Iacocca, the American Industrialist said, “The discipline of writing something down is the first step toward making it happen.” You can eliminate unnecessary suffering by thinking ahead and seeking wise counsel. You alone control what you do with each hour of the day.

4. You control the depth and meaning of your spiritual life. The scientific evidence is increasing that having a strong spiritual life is associated with good health and longevity. It can especially help you cope with the loss of a loved one. You can control the way you build on your faith in a power greater than the self and seek the support that power provides. As part of your daily plan, include spiritual practices of prayer and meditation. Practice daily gratitude. Ask for a sign that your loved one is okay in the afterlife. Look for others who share similar spiritual beliefs as part of your support network. It will help as you adjust to a different environment and a new you.

5. You control how you use your money and schedule pleasant events. Learning how to cope by yourself also means controlling how to spend your money to include pleasant events. Again, giving yourself a treat without feeling guilty, is part of recovery and adjustment. Make a list of the things you like to do and turn to them as a way to balance your day or to focus attention away from dwelling only on sad events. Keep your list handy and add to it as you remember or discover new activities that allow you to reinvest in life. Use it as one of your lifelines.

6. You control who you will choose to strengthen old friendships with or start new ones. These are also some of the people who will be part of your support team as you do your grief work and make the changes demanded of your new life without your loved one. Always look for positive people to add to your social network. Reduce contact with those who are negative and toxic until you are stronger. Good solid friendships are as important as any medication or vitamin you can take. Take special care to build strong interpersonal relationships.

7. You control the attitude you will foster. Life is your attitude (think on that). Thoughts and beliefs-both of which are choices you make-are the underpinnings of attitude. You can reshape your attitude, thoughts and beliefs, to deal with any situation which brings inevitable grief into your life. Embrace the lifelong need to be committed to doing the things you dislike doing in order to grow through and adapt to change. Or as many life coaches put it, you have to leave your comfort zone. Attitude is everything in adapting to ongoing change.

All of the above takes time and a plan. Start with little tasks first and build on your successes. Do something first that has a high rate of completion like, I will speak first to the first three people I meet today. Start developing those positive routines that will become habits and realize you alone have control over how you will adjust to your great loss.