How to Cope With Grief After the Loss of a Loved One

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How to cope with grief? Yeah, you read that right…a nasty but necessary question all the same.

Coping with grief after the loss of a loved one is indeed, one of the most stressful ordeals you have to face at some time in your life.

Further, the pain of grief could be excruciating; even threatening to turn traumatic at times.

In the never ending upheavals of life, this loss of a loved one leaves an indelible mark, thrusting us into the complex realm of grief. 

However, there is hope for the grieving. This comprehensive guide is a compass for those traversing this challenging landscape, offering insights, strategies, and the comforting assurance that healing is possible. With healing, your personal development will take a major boost.

Read on for an understanding of self-discovery and resilience as we explore how to cope with the profound sorrow that accompanies the departure of those we hold dear.

How I coped With Grief After Losing My Mother

When two years ago today on 14th November 2021, I received a distressing call from my sister Virginia with the glum news of my mother’s passing on, I was devastated.

My world became a blur. How could she depart so unceremoniously? She was 72 and I had dreamed of having her well into her 90’s. Just like my grandmother who lived to be 90. But alas, it wasn’t to be.

Death rejoices at hitting us when we least expect it. Well put, death is a thief!

We just had a family get together three weeks earlier on 20th October, where she seemed jovial and hearty. Little did we know she was saying her farewell.

The events following the death of my mother Margaret, passed on as if in a haze. From taking her to the morgue, shopping for the casket, and finally laying her to rest… all seemed so unreal. 

Like most people, the final blow came when I put the soil in the grave for dust to return to dust. Never to see her again! The tears flowed freely.

It took me many months to come to terms with reality. The tears may keep recurring in my lifetime.

My late mother, Margaret Gathoni

How did I cope with grief, you may ask.

The grieving process was lessened by the support of friends and family to whom I owe much gratitude.

From the time I went to pick her in her house, people had already gathered, especially those from her church. And they remained there till the last day. I would see people [most that I didn’t know] assist in one way or the other- hovering in and out of the house. Without their prescence, I would not have made it through.

I’m glad that the ordeal passed.

How to Cope With Your Grief

Over to your grief now and how to cope with it.

Here’s a look at the turn of events following your immediate loss and a look at possible solutions on how to cope with your grief.

Immediate Effects of the Loss

Different people react differently. Most commonly, there’ll be:

Disbelief in Coping With a Loved One’s Loss

This will especially be so if the death was unexpected. You will not act the same way if your 90-year-old grandpa dies in the hospital as opposed to your 20-year-old son who dies in a motor accident.

The latter will bring a total shock.

No Reaction 

Some people will be numb and initially express no feelings till the truth sinks in. It takes time to process the bad news. It takes even more time to come to reality. Allow yourself all the time you need.

Weird Reaction

While some people will wail, others laugh. Yet others will stare into space with a dazed expression.

Whatever your initial reaction, these are the foremost effects that come with the loss.

· Shock and anxiety. You may feel sick, nervous, empty, anxious, and nauseous. The stomach feels hollow. The world may feel as if it is spinning. Everything comes to a standstill.

· You feel sad and lonely; like everyone has deserted you, even God. In that state, you think of nothing- your mind becomes blank.

· Depression may slowly creep in. You feel a sense of anger and guilt, especially if you blame yourself, thinking there is something you could have done to keep that death at bay.

Secondary Effects of Coping With Grief

As the first phase passes, other serious conditions may thereafter start manifesting.

These include:

· Heart problems. There may arise symptoms related to a heart-attack syndrome. These, however, could be temporary. You may experience shortness of breath and some chest pains.

· Lowered immunity. Intense grieving may bring touches of flu and colds. Particularly, people grieving in old age are most prone to this. They may fail to produce white blood cells which may result in infections.

· Aches and pain. There are enormous amounts of stress hormones that get released when one is grieving. These always bring about aches and stiffness in the body.

· Digestive disorders. When you are grieving, these disorders may show in two forms.

i) Appetite loss. You feel nauseous and therefore feel disinclined to eat anything.

ii) In another case, you tend to eat huge- binge eating.

· Unhealthy coping modes. You will likely indulge (and over-indulge) in unhealthy trends such as:

i) Drinking alcohol.

ii) Smoking.

iii) Drug use.

iv) Having difficulty concentrating.

v) Thinking of hurting self.

· Sleep disorders

People who are grieving experience bouts of insomnia. While asleep, they have bad dreams and nightmares. It is likely to hear the voices of the dead person and see their vision.

· Spirituality put to test.

You may feel deserted by your Deity. You will get flashes in your mind asking- But why me, God? Why did you allow this to happen? Why now? And why him/her?

Ways to Cope With Grief

To some, the knock is hard and takes time to get over. After that, t’s likely to become a cycle and the symptoms could get long-term.

These practices may help alleviate the pain and make the loss more bearable:

· Cry as much as you can. This therapy helps emotions to go and it’s a great relief.

· Time. Give yourself time and space. Time is a healer though it may take different shapes for different people.

· Discuss it with your close friends and family. Connect with helpful people who share the pain. With time, the pain will ease.

· Engage in meaningful exercise. You can take the simplest of exercises for instance, walking and yoga. Meditating will be healthy to keep bad dreams at bay.

· Seek professional help if you find yourself in the following circumstances after the loss:

i) Not willing to do anything. If you find yourself lazy and inactive and not willing to change, you obviously need help.

ii) Wanting to harm yourself; having suicidal tendencies.

iii) Continued sleep disorders, insomnia, eating disorders, and not being willing to socialize.

iv) Negative emotions such as anger and desperation.

v) Not stopping blaming yourself for the death.

Last Thoughts on How to Cope With Grief

After grieving, it’s time to move on. Embrace change and adjust to life without the loved one.

However, try not to make any major decision for twelve months after someone passes on (e.g remmarying if its your spouse who died).

It’s also probably the best time to return to your hobbies.

Do the things you love.

Try and preserve the memories of your loved one in your chosen way. Shift your focus from the loss and celebrate the positive memories that you shared.

As we conclude this guide on navigating grief, remember that healing is a unique, ongoing journey. By acknowledging emotions, seeking support, and honoring memories, you’ve embarked on a path toward resilience. 

Embrace the process of healing, knowing that, although the pain may linger, the capacity to find light amid the shadows is a testament to the enduring strength of the human spirit. 

Lastly, as you move forward, may each step be a reminder that love, in all its forms, transcends even the deepest sorrows.

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