Coping: Dealing With Loss of a Loved One

Brandy Ramirez has experienced the death of many loved ones. She lost her almost 2-year-old niece to malpractice, her father to cancer, four cousins to suicide, and her grandparents to old age. Because of all the death she experienced, she said she considered herself an “expert” at coping with death. She believed that her strength and ability to “move on” and no longer feel shocked at the idea of death made her so. However, she wasn’t an expert.

Ramirez, like many Americans, failed to effectively cope with the loss of her loved ones through the grieving process. As a result, she had a breakdown two years ago when she and her family experienced a tragedy that involved a close-to-death experience with her then 2-month-old twin granddaughter, Alana. The pain she felt over the previous losses and this tragedy caused her to have an emotional breakdown.

Unfortunately today, many people fail to grieve properly after the loss of a loved one.

The Myths of Death and Reality of Grief

Many people who suffer loss never seek help from experts, support groups, or through expert literature, primarily because of misconceptions related to the grieving process.

In “Coping With Grief and Loss: Understanding the Grieving Process,” experts at HELPGUIDE.org outline the myths many people who experience loss believe. These myths include the following notions:

  • Ignoring the pain makes it go away faster.
  • Being strong in the face of loss is key.
  • Not crying means an individual doesn’t feel sorry about the loss.
  • Grieving takes one year.

As experts reveal, ignoring the pain that comes with death creates long-term problems, so families must go through the process of coping with their loss. Also, using a brave demeanor or avoiding crying to show strength keeps families from coping effectively. Crying, feeling scared, angry, etc. are normal emotions people feel when they lose a loved one, and by expressing these emotions, family members properly engage in the grieving process. Additionally, everyone has their own way of showing grief. Some people internalize their grief. Therefore, failing to cry at a funeral doesn’t mean an individual doesn’t feel pain. Everyone copes with loss differently, and there’s no specific time table involved.

Avoid Coping Alone

According to the American Psychological Association, loss is a part of our natural process, but we can become absorbed with shock and confusion. As a result, we may experience prolonged periods of sadness and depression. Research shows that most people do what Ramirez did and fail to properly take progressive steps to dealing with death. Although some people can cope with death through resiliency and self-education, the article notes that some people may be dealing with “complicated grief.” In these cases, these individuals should not grieve alone and seek assistance.

The Steps To Grieving and Where to Get Help

Depending on the level of grieving involved, families coping with loss should engage in the following steps outlined by experts and noted by the APA. Also, keep in mind that these steps can vary based on the type of grief individuals are coping with.

  1. Discuss the death of a loved one – talk with friends, family, psychologists, support groups, etc. about the loss rather than denying death through isolation.
  2. Don’t hide from the feelings of loss – embrace all the feelings that come with death: anger, sadness, relief, happiness, grief, etc.
  3. Take care and help care for the family – after experiencing loss, it’s important to exercise, eat well, and get plenty of rest.
  4. Help others deal with the loss – share stories with friends and family and address the loss. Helping others helps individuals cope with the loss.
  5. Remember and celebrate the life of the individual – rather than going through the motions of the burial and then forgetting about things, honor a loved one by getting involved in charities, sharing stories, scrapbooking memories, or anything else that helps honor the individual.

If families find they cannot engage in these steps effectively, they want to seek help from a licensed psychologist or join a support group. For individuals who may question the need for support, or don’t know what to expect from support groups, they can visit the Good Grief Center For Bereavement Support, which offers a wealth of information about grieving and coping. It also provides links to the most professional support groups available to people who have lost a loved one.

No one should suffer grief alone or in silence, and our goal is to help in any way possible. We are forever friends to your family at Funeral.com.

Sources:
“Coping with Grief and Loss: Support for Grieving and Bereavement”: HELPGUIDE.org.
“Grief: Coping with the loss of your loved one”: American Psychological Association.
“Good Grief Center For Bereavement Support”: http://www.goodgriefcenter.com/help/links.php
Ramirez, Brandy; Personal Interview; San Angelo, TX