The Road to Recovery After Bereavement

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I am witness to the grief and overwhelming sadness of having to lose a loved one – a brother. I was broken, angry, guilty, depressed – and much more. I could only imagine how more magnified those emotions were felt by my parents. Like most parents, mine never thought their son would leave this world ahead of them, and acceptance of that fact was one of the most difficult ordeals that they had, perhaps even until now.

According to Tali Yuz Berliner, Psy.D. “Individuals may avoid discussing the loss as well as avoid people or places that are associated with their grief. This experience can put an individual in a vulnerable position with regard to their mental health.” Yes, The demise of a loved one almost always leaves us stuck in depression and grief, and some of us remain that way because we do not know how to move forward. However daunting it may be, we soon realize that we must get up and overcome the stage of bereavement to follow the road to recovery – because life must go on.

Moving Forward

Moving on is part of the stage of loss that goes along with acceptance. It is the time when one has come to a realization that their loved one is gone and we are left only with vivid memories of them and their life with us. As for me, moving forward means realizing that my brother is no longer here to joke around with, to fight with, and to share stories with. I still miss him, though, sorely, but I had found healthy and helpful ways to remember him and move forward at the same time, and I’m going to share them here.

Keep yourself busy. Initially, you’re going to have to dump yourself with work to keep your mind off your loss, and believe me, it helps. If your job entails you to report to the office by 8 am, leave the house at 7 if you’ve been awake since dawn. You’d be more productive working than depressing over something that cannot be undone. If you’re a home-based mom like I am, write your heart out. Work when you’re done taking care of your family. If nothing comes to mind, search for a new recipe and make it for supper. Do something worthwhile. “Understand that grief comes in waves. It is natural to feel numb at times and “normal” at others. You might continue to grieve for months or years. It is okay.” says Ashley Curiel, PsyD.

Keep in touch with old friends. I had a friend who lost her boyfriend of two years – from a heart attack. They were supposed to get married in a few months. She was devastated and she went away for some time. She kept in touch with me when she learned about the tragic death of my brother, and it was such a blessing that we reunited and rekindled our friendship. We helped each other heal our hurts by talking about them, crying over them, and attending worship service together. Sometimes it feels much better to be with people who have gone through what you’ve gone through.

Source: bfwh.nhs.uk

Live, and I mean just that. Continue living life with the fond memories of your loved one always in your heart. I have learned to talk about my happy memories with my brother among my friends and family. To be honest, tears still start to show, but only because I miss him, not because I have not accepted his death. It is only but right for us – along with those who have experienced sadness and grief from bereavement – to live our lives and make it worthwhile, because death comes for us, too – for all of us.

“The experience of losing someone we love is a process most everyone endures in a lifetime.” –Annie Vaughn, MA, LMHC

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Healing Strategies to Cope With Bereavement

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It is without a doubt one of the most stressful events in the life of an individual to lose a loved one from a sudden or mysterious death. To the observer, the pain and loneliness is there but can be dealt with easily, especially if it was ‘a good way to go.’  But to the bereaved, it is more than just the pain. It is the thought of not having to see or touch your loved on forever. Feelings of shock, anger, seclusion, sadness and confusion get all mixed up from within, and there is hopelessness that the wounds can never be healed.

As time goes by, the pain and the sadness lessen, usually when you have gone through the denial, anger, and depression stages of grief. Amidst the mourning, you are now able to open your mind to helping yourself with some essential healing measures to cope with bereavement.

Moving Forward

How to Move Forward

Karen Doll, Psy.D., L.P  writes, “Contrary to the beliefs of some, crying is an important component of mental health and wellness. The benefits of crying are often unrecognized, overlooked and under- appreciated, as it can be good for us both psychologically and physiologically.” Cry if you want. Getting in touch with your feelings is a good way to release the pain and sorrow. It lightens the body and soul, giving space for healing. Knowing how you really feel is the first step to knowing how to handle these feelings and turn them around positively for you. Share your grief with a brother, a sister, a friend. Let it out.

Help others move on. You are not the only family member who is suffering – the whole family is. So try to find solace in the stories that you share with the little ones, the past family dinners that were special for everyone, the unforgettable get-togethers. Laugh about them and relive their memories by talking about them. Help lessen the hurt of others. As the saying goes, “To ease another’s heartache is to forget one’s own.”

Source: verywell.com

“To quell overwhelm, engage in an activity that you enjoy, such as listening to music, reading a book or taking a walk. And consider how you can solve the stressors that triggered your overwhelm in the first place” Marla W. Deibler, PsyD said. Engage in physical and mental activities. Get out of bed and get moving. Exercise is known to have beneficial effects on many things, and reducing stress and depression are among these benefits. It drives motivation and strength to keep going. Try dancing, yoga, meditation, or swimming. If you’re not up for the challenge yet, find more relaxing activities like getting a manicure, a massage, or going to a movie. You think they’re a waste of time but believe me, they’ll go a long way and they’ll make you feel much better.

The appetite won’t be as great, but eating healthy does wonders for the mind and body. Remember the importance of consuming the right types of food during your grieving process. Fruits and vegetables are great mood boosters that help reduce stress. Getting enough sleep also decreases anxiety and depression. Sleeplessness is not uncommon when you are grieving, and it will persist for weeks or months. Sleep aids may help but are not advisable to be taken regularly. You should also try to avoid caffeine at night.

Believe that the sorrow and pain you are suffering will go away. There’s no telling when, but the sooner you accept your loss, the better. Healing starts in the ability to think you can heal. Hold yourself together and be strong for the other members of the family. Tell yourself and tell them that they may have lost a big part of your lives, but you are not dead. Live.

“Having few or no supportive relationships can increase the risk of depression in both men and women.” Ben Martin, Psy.D. said. With that, try joining an online community and support groups who share the same sentiments and understand what you’re going through. You might be surprised at the number of people around the world who carry the same burden that you do. 

If you think that you or your family cannot move forward on your own, seek professional support. Psychologists and mental health therapists are skilled in assisting individuals who have not come to terms with the death of a loved one. They can work with you in managing your emotions and picking up the pieces so you can restore your life slowly but surely.

Source: lullabytrust.org.uk

Conclusion

Often, when we lose someone we love, we yearn for that last conversation, that last opportunity to make up and say sorry for things not done, for that final goodbye. Yet most deaths come like a thief in the night – mysterious, cruel. The only comfort is in accepting that all of us will go anytime. They just went ahead.

Let’s take it one day at a time. Believe that there will be better days.

How Parents can Cope with the Loss of their Son

Source: morningjournal.com

The death of someone, though it is a natural phenomenon, is something that you and I will never get used to experiencing. When my parents lost their first-born son, my oldest brother, it was as though everything went blank and the world stopped revolving. The pain was too much to bear, and looking at my parents made the hurt worse. As a family, we had to seek help from a minister and a therapist to guide us through the grief process. Now, I would say we have managed to live life with a purpose, though it wasn’t easy at all. We still think of him and miss him and wish he were around. However, things have settled and the family has accepted the inevitable fact. Here are some of the things that my parents did to cope with the loss of their son.

Ways to Cope

Express Yourself. My parents were not very expressive people, but they learned to become one when they wanted to lighten the burden. They often invited friends and family to visit and do get-togethers. It allowed them to talk freely about how they were, how they felt and how much they missed my brother. Crying was one of their best ways to express, especially my mother, who was the more sensitive one. They were also advised to write in a diary about their journey towards acceptance, and it has managed to ease a lot of hidden guilt and blame from within them. Parents do blame themselves at times for the death of their children simply because they feel responsible for them, no matter how old they are.  As Erika Miley, M.Ed, LMHC explains the benefits, she writes; “Allowing yourself to be sad and cry means you are not numbing those emotions that you perceive as negative emotions. When we numb selective emotions, we are actually numbing all of them. Allowing yourself to cry will allow for you to experience joy, happiness, and all of the other emotions we are meant for.”

Source: democrateandchronicle.com

Maintain Routines. Since my brother died, it had become a family tradition to celebrate his birthday and father’s day in the cemetery, a routine that I believe had helped my parents ease the pain and manage the emptiness they felt. I think it had to do with being able to talk to him while they were there, looking at his photos and praying for him. During the first two years, we would go there twice or thrice a week, just to grieve, and it did help us. Doing chores also keep the mind forget about the loss for a time. My father goes to the farm everyday, where he can think about business and how to keep it going, mentally and physically. It has become his form of exercise.

Accept the painful reality. The hardest thing for a parent to do, that I know now. It was mental and emotional anguish to see them fight the battle of having to grieve but still having to survive for their other children. Jodi Clarke, MA, LPC/MHSP once said, “It is common when coping with loss to feel so desperate that you are willing to do almost anything to alleviate or minimize the pain. Losing a loved one can cause us to consider any way we can avoid the current pain or the pain we are anticipating from loss.” The saying ‘this too shall pass’ is such a cliché but it is something to be remembered everyday in order to accept the painful reality. The sooner parents learn to accept, the better they will be able to cope. The support of family and friends are also truly essential and valuable. It is one of the most effective ways to heal, better than antidepressant and antianxiety medications. They tried taking Xanax and another popular brand but it only dulled their mind, made them oblivious of what they were going through.

A Lifetime Challenge

“The experience of losing someone we love is a process most everyone endures in a lifetime.” Annie Vaughn, MA, LMHC stated. But I believe that overcoming the death of their children is one of the challenges that parents will always be going through. They may have successfully coped with the loss and have lived with it, but they will never get over the fact that their children – their son – went ahead of them. Their joy now is in the hope that their son is in a better place, and that the family will continue to be there for each other, perhaps not to fill the emptiness but to keep that space for him and to celebrate his life while he was here.

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Treasuring The Objects

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The passing of a loved one is a sensitive subject that this article will not touch on but rather what to do with the possessions afterwards. Do you keep everything in a box; or A cardboard one that you keep in the closet a disregard that seems kind of disrespect? How about a glass one that you put up for all to see that makes for an awkward/creepy conversational piece? Well, that depends on the item and the sentimental value that it has to you but read one for a future detailed discussion on this.

What’s To Treasure

Unquestionable

*Anything with a story

This is slightly different from sentimental value gifts because this is a story that you want to share which opens a world of possibilities. Perhaps put this item on a glass pedestal somewhere or in a frame where all can see it. Do you want to reduce your precious items to a conversational piece? If not then read on.

*Sentimental Value

Not everything has a story that we are willing to share outside of family or a therapist. Items with sentimental value are better in places where there are the least amount of guest such as your bedroom, and it is up to you entirely about how much that you want to discuss this topic. The same goes for the item below.

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*Burial items

These things without any expectation that you should never feel guilty or weird about keeping. 

Questionable

*Jewelry

One of the things that you should never put away in the box is a gift. This goes doubly so when your parents care enough about this to wear it often. Trible so if this was something that has been passed down from family member to family member.

*Estate and Land

Property and land are two of the hardest things that we can give up as a person. We aren’t the one who sweat, blood, tears, and time that went into that land, so it feels horrible to think that we have the inability to run it the family business. Would you want to see your parent’s hard work goes to waste? Well, that is up to you or other members of the family.

What’s NOT To Treasure

(As long as this list does not conflict with the Unquestionable list then it is better just to get rid of its entirety):

*Bodily Objects

How can you justify keeping your parents body in any form or fashion? The only plausible way that you can have your mother’s body parts is in a jar or mummified in a way that is decorated.

*Bloody Ones Too

No explanation is needed here.

*For Profit, Not Running

This is quite the opposite because granted all of the things that are under Questionable with fit here too. Jewellery in most case, outside of the exceptions, should be sold because your parents mostly wore them for vanity. Property and Land is a much harder then to quantify.

The Boxing Stage

Now the most difficult stage for anyone is deciding what goes and what stays. This is just what we are going to call this time of our life the “Boxing Stage” since this both refer metaphorical and physical removal of your sacred items. Now, this does not always have to be in a sense that you just box something away to forget about it but quite to the contrary. Think about the items that are questionable list above. All of these elements are tradable for profit because more likely than not your parents made an investment for their children sake. One of the best investments that you can make these days are in jewellery, property and land. Now if these things are too hard to part with there are two solutions: keep it yourself or give it to someone you trust. We all don’t have time in our day to run a business or tend to an acre of land so why not sell it to rid ourselves of our parent burden? These are things that we all must think about at some point in another, and only we can make a final decision one way or another.

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The Stages of Grief and Loss

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It has been a year since your father passed away, but still the anguish and loneliness creep in and you continue to grieve by hibernating in the corners of your room or playing busy with work, or simply crying yourself to sleep most nights. You might think, “Will I ever get over my Dad’s death? Will I ever be happy again?”

 

Losing someone we love is one of the most difficult things that we can ever experience. Though death is a natural phenomenon, that fact is easier understood than accepted. It can never be dealt with just like that. But as the saying goes, this too shall pass, and it will. But then sometimes you wonder if the pain is ever going to end. How long is the normal way to grieve? Can you do something about it?

The process of grieving is something that we cannot control. Not everyone grieves the same way you do, and they may have different channels to their grief, but healing from the pain of losing someone comprises different stages. You will do well to be aware of these stages so that you can come to terms with your emotions and finally be ready to let go of the pain.

Understanding the Stages of Grief and Loss

  • Denial. Feeling numb is the best way to describe how you are at this stage. You kind of don’t feel anything, or perhaps you try not to feel anything. You are shocked at what just happened, can’t believe you lost your loved one. This is a person’s way of blocking himself from getting hurt, which actually is more helpful than destructive at this point, as it allows only as much pain as we can handle. It is through denial and isolation that we are able to survive the emotional turmoil of realizing that we have lost our loved one.
  • Anger. Reality is now slowly sinking in, and the anger follows suit. You start to question why you had to lose your loved one, why it had to happen, why you of all people. You feel hopeful and useless. You shout at your kids, your other family members, your friends, and you are furious at yourself. You know now that there is nothing you can do but grieve for your loss. Like denial, anger is a natural feeling, a natural part of the process of grieving. You are even allowed to be angry at your loved one who died. As Tali Yuz Berliner, Psy.D. elaborates, “Experiencing a significant loss such as losing a loved one, a pet, a relationship, or a job can bring on feelings of grief that can be extremely overwhelming. Typical feelings associated with grief include sadness, anger, guilt, numbness, and confusion.”
  • Bargaining. Technically, to bargain is to negotiate. This stage of grieving still follows the technical definition of grief in that when we are at the brink of losing someone we love, we tend to negotiate and say, “If you’re going to let my dad survive this, I won’t ever talk back at him. Just please save him.” When you’ve finally lost him, you feel defeated, and regrets sink in and you think, “What if I was able to bring him earlier to the hospital,” or, “If only I spent more time with him.” Clearly, at this stage, the coping is still defensive but the death of the loved one is slowly being dealt with and understood.
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  • Depression. “Depression is a serious and tricky illness. Unfortunately, it can also go unrecognized for a long period of time” That’s according to Dr. Kurt Smith, LMFT, LPCC, AFC. But with grief, this type of depression is intermittent and is something that one feels when he has gotten over the denial, shock and the anger. Therefore, it does not come right away but is something can occur anytime of the day, week or month and can last for a long time. Usually, depression sets in when you have realized that your loved one really isn’t coming back ever. Depression could be the longest – and the loneliest – phase in the process of grieving. You’ll know you’re depressed when you’ve lost your appetite, constantly anxious, can’t sleep at night, and always crying. 
  • Acceptance. “Acknowledge and accept the feelings: The first step is to learn to bring the feeling out,” says Roya R. Rad, MA, PsyD. In the fifth and final stage, acceptance, you have now come to terms with the death of your loved one and you know you can’t change anything, not even if you did the best that you could. Here, you are able to slowly move forward despite the pain and loneliness. You will try to live with the truth that you will never see or touch your loved one again. This phase also involves role adjustments and reorganizations, transfer of roles to other family members now that the head of the family is gone, for instance. Acceptance may take a long time, or it may be short, depending really on how you deal with your loss, but it is in this phase where you feel much lighter, much happier.
  • Each of us has different ways of going through the stages of grief and loss. Some don’t go through them chronologically and some go back and forth. In reality, no one truly knows the depth of the pain and hurt you are feeling, and these five stages can be your guide for emotional and mental support. Try to open up when you can, so you can grieve earlier and coping will be easier. 
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Dealing with Depression After the Loss of a Loved One

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Depression vs. Grief

Robert Allison, MA, LPC used to say, “Depression is more than an emotion or a state of mind, it is really a process. It is a combination of thoughts, emotions, and behaviors.” Of all the painful experiences that we go through in life, one of the most devastating is the death of a loved one. We may deal with the loss in different ways, but the emotions are the same – sadness, anger, anxiety, hopelessness. It is just too heartbreaking. Sometimes, though, the grieving process lengthens and becomes long term, and the individual suffers complicated grief. When this grief is so intense that it affects his day-to-day activities, he has possibly gone into a depressive state, which causes more negative emotions.

Major depression after grief evokes a feeling of worthlessness and incompetence. Individuals who are in a depressive state are constantly stressed and sad, unlike those who are only grieving where their negative feelings fluctuate. They have more difficulty getting over the loss of their loved one and they will even begin to hate themselves. Additionally, grieving people may not like to socialize very much in the process but they do acknowledge and welcome support. That is what you do not see with those who are depressed, as they try to avoid any attention given to them from their friends and their community.

Help in Dealing with Depression

According to Dr. Chantal Gagnon PhD LMHC “The choice of which treatment for depression to choose should be a collaborative decision between you and your therapist, and depends on your personality, your preferences, and the type of depression you have.” Yes, the loss of a loved one can be traumatic and if you feel that you can no longer deal with it on our own, you must seek help from a mental health therapist or a psychologist. You’ll need to find one when:

·      You can no longer feel like doing anything when you wake up

·      You are constantly blaming yourself for your loved one’s demise

·      You want to end your life

·      You are no longer interested to see or talk to anyone

·      You don’t pay attention to the rest of your family and think that nothing is worth living

These signs are risky and if you feel that you have most, if not all of them, it would do you well to ask for help immediately.

However, if you think there is hope for recovery and you are willing to help yourself, try some of these measures in dealing with your depression.

Take time to cry and talk about the pain. Many people, especially men, have ingrained in their minds that crying makes them look weak. They believe that they are not entitled to vent it out through their tears because it would make them more vulnerable. Wrong. Crying releases the sadness and the heaviness of the heart. It actually makes it easier to breathe a few minutes after crying. It relaxes the body and the mind, just as talking to someone does. When you feel like you want to be alone but your anguish is intense, try to talk it out with a friend or family member. Problems actually become easier to bear when they are shared. “Part of the human experience is to engage in cycles and varying emotional intensity. The next time you feel the urge to engage in a good cry, try to let go and consider how it could benefit and help you.” A reminder from Karen Doll, Psy.D., L.P.

Learn a new skill or polish an old one.  Learning something interesting encourages you to focus on things other than your loss. Enroll in cooking or baking classes. Make a garden in your home. Join a club that involves interacting with different kinds of people. If you’ve been physically active, try to continue your previous routines, the ones that inspired you to look good and feel good. Depression is something that is not very easy to deal with and doing something constructive will definitely alleviate some of it.

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Sufficient sleep is crucial to the life of a depressed individual. Getting six to eight hours of sleep at night is a general recommendation for everyone. There have been studies suggesting that short-term sleep deprivation may actually help reduce symptoms of depression. Depressed individuals were advised not to sleep in the middle of the day so that they were able to sleep early at night, and this method has produced some successful outcomes, enabling individuals to sleep well through the night, as daytime ‘power naps’ make it difficult for most individuals to sleep smoothly during the evening. Sleep aids would also help but not always encouraged for everyone.

Do not depend on alcohol, drugs or nicotine. Constant sadness sometimes leads you to drink too much to make the burden easier to forget, but alcohol abuse has destructive long-term effects that only aggravate the depressive symptoms. You think it can help because it dampens the emotions but we know too well that it does more harm than good. Too much drinking and smoking will definitely cause new problems to tackle in the future.

Bereavement groups are a great option to find healing. When you realize that there are other people who are suffering like you do and are sharing their pains and loneliness with you, you learn to share yourself with them and in the process you are easing your own pain and suffering. Together, you will find ways to alleviate the negative emotions, help each other go through the process of grief, and ultimately walk away from the darkness that is called depression.

Source: wisegreekhealth.com