Dealing with Grief

When my father passed away last year, the most difficult thing to deal with was the grief…and I’m still dealing with it. Do you have any suggestions for how to deal with this powerful emotion?

Amy in Georgia, 44

When my sister passed away, I didn’t shed a tear because I was so focused on playing the caregiver role. Three months after she died, I pulled my car over to the side of the road and cried as deeply as I ever have for thirty straight minutes. There I was, thinking, “I’m a pro, I teach this, I said all the right things to my family,” and then it hit me. So I know what you’re going through. You’re in charge of allowing yourself to heal. You may heal slowly or quickly, but healing will come.

No amount of pre-planning can eliminate the grief or loss associated with the death of an elder loved one…and it shouldn’t. Grief is an important part of death. You need to allow yourself to feel it. Grief is often internalized though thoughts and feelings, but you may also express grief in words and tears. We were given tear ducts to relieve the stress and pressure of our lives. Use them.

Allow yourself to grieve, and then do something that makes you feel good. Go to a movie, shop, watch a ball game, or get a massage. You must allow yourself the time to heal. You may heal slowly or quickly, but healing will come, especially once you allow the grieving process to run its course.

How do you comfort the people who are left behind? What are the right words? I suggest talking about an aspect of your elder’s life that was most impressive. Focus on the positive. Emotions will come and go in waves. It’s OK, in fact it’s recommended that you allow yourself and others to express feelings and thoughts, whatever they may be. But when death is imminent, focus on the details that you need to handle as the caregiver.

Beware of depression setting in. Many family members, especially the caregiver, can become depressed after the loss. Be aware if you find yourself overeating, not eating, drinking too much, chain smoking, or any other such behavior. Grieving is hard work, so be sure you do not cut the process short. Get some sun. Share your grief with someone you can trust. Grieve in a way that feels right to you, not necessarily in a way that others have suggested. A crisis can be overwhelming if you look at all aspects of it at once. Take it one minute, one hour, one day at a time. If you think a professional could help you, arrange for an appointment immediately.

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