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How To Cope With The Death Of A Loved One

Monday evening when I opened up my laptop to finish some work before I retired for the evening, I could not believe the news headline that popped up on my homepage about the tragic death of Robin Williams. I was so jarred by it, I actually let out a shout and with eyes welled-up, I ran to my husband to tell him what I had just read online. First thing he said was, "he's still young..." but when I said that it appears to be suicide - there was silence, and immediately you could feel the pall that came over us. Any time I hear of unexpected sudden deaths, they bring up so many sad emotions for me as I've had more than my fair share of coping with the sting of death. I am reminded of how I felt when I lost my mother who died suddenly (in less than 24 hours) when I was barely twelve years old, the loss of siblings, and recently a friend's husband who had just found out he was sick, but lost the battle to cancer within a matter of three weeks. Even though one is ever aware that sooner or later, living in this be-darkened world, anyone can be hit by some type of life's bitter moments. That includes even those who seem to have it all. Still you can't help but feel bewildered every time you hear such shocking news.

As a young child, I remember the depth of loneliness and grief I felt was so heavy for me that I simply couldn't accept the reality of what had happened, which resulted in me feeling that life was not worth living without my mom (that's a long story in itself - maybe for another time some day). In fact, for years thereafter, not only did I cry every day but I was constantly wishing and waiting for my mother to come back home. Understandably, no two people grieve in precisely the same way. Some shed tears openly, some do not mourn immediately - especially when death has occurred suddenly. Others might prefer to be left alone to mentally sort things out. It's quite common to find oneself in a frozen like state where you pretty much stop functioning for a while. I was there for a very long time. Now I imagine faced with the suicide of a loved one can leave you racked with guilt and can be intensified if it had been a strained relationship. But one thing to remember is that dwelling on all the coulda, shoulda mental battles will only intensify the grief. Rather ask yourself this, What human is granted full control over the actions of another human? The suffering that the person was trying to escape - and the horrible way that he or she ended it - were not yours to prevent. Painful as those memories may be, the fact remains that you did not cause your loved one's death.

As years went by and with my mother never returning. I had a choice to make. You know, one of those "at a crossroad moments"- to either give up on life completely or accept some help from new found friends who became better than any blood family would ever be to me. In order to avoid taking my life, I had to eventually learn how to cope with the grief one day at a time. Here's what helped me on the road back into a normal routine:

~ Grieve Over Your Loss. Let yourself grieve! Get it out of your system (suppressing your feelings can affect your health adversely). It will relieve you. Remember that there is no “correct” way to grieve. You don't have to feel compelled to meet some “deadline” at which point you think you should feel better.

~ Take Care Of Yourself. For me, grief became like a bottomless pit to the point of becoming worn out by despair. Grief can exact a heavy toll, both physically and emotionally leaving you feeling terribly tired. Get proper rest, and eat nutritious foods. Make sure to pay particular attention to your physical health. Admittedly, you may have little desire to eat, much less to shop and to cook, or even leave your house. Nevertheless, neglecting nutrition can leave you prone to infection and illness, and that will only aggravate your distress. At least try to eat in small amounts to maintain good health. Engage in a small amount of exercise, even if it is only walking. Physical activity can get you out of the house. Furthermore, moderate exercise triggers the release of endorphins, chemical substances in the brain that can make you feel better.

 ~ Accept Help From Others. This may be particularly important when a spouse has died. Perhaps there are a number of tasks that he or she cared for, and now those tasks are left unattended. For example, if your spouse handled financial matters or domestic chores, you might, at first, find it difficult to take care of those matters by yourself. In such a circumstance, the advice of tactful close friends can be of great assistance to you. Don't shun their offers to help. Accept them.

~ Allow Yourself To Recall Happy Memories. Try to recall happy memories of the times you shared with your loved one, perhaps by looking at photos. True, remembering those occasions might be painful at first. In time, though, these memories may help you to heal rather than cause you to hurt. Every once in a while, I take out the only two photos of my mom that I own to remind me of what she looked like and to look at her fashionable outfits. They always put a smile on my face.

~ Keep A Journal. That was one of my best coping mechanism. It also saved me from going to a therapist. Wondering, what might you put in it? When you’re sad, describe how you feel and what you think may be at the root of your sadness. A month later, read what you wrote. Have your feelings on the matter changed? If so, write down what helped you. But it doesn't all have to be bad. In it you could also write about your pleasant memories. Writing certainly provides you with a healthful outlet for your emotions. It may be easier for you to put your feelings into perspective when you see them on paper. 

~ Avoid Isolating Yourself. This was a very difficult one for me as I had grown accustomed to living an isolated life as a child, but with persistence along with gentle coaxing, my newfound friends helped me to not remain socially isolated. Little by little, as I accepted invites to go out and welcomed the visit of friends, it helped distract my mind and afforded me the opportunity to slowly pour out my feelings to close empathetic friends. It was truly free therapy, which helped tremendously. So do not isolate yourself from others, thinking that you will be a burden to them. On the contrary, association with others can be like a bridge that helps you cross over from grief to acceptance.

~ Last But Not To Be Underestimated - Prayer. At the end of the day, that is what truly really helped me to face each day in a more positive mental state. Praying to God is not some sort of emotional crutch. It is real and vital communication with the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation.

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