By Brigitte Cutshall
You know it's probably not a good thing when the phone rings at 1am. My mom called me from the hospital and woke me with terrible news. My stepfather died from a massive heart attack. How can this happen to a "healthy" and vibrant person? He was only 64 years old. She was in shock.
Most people aim to have a smooth, steady and orderly life. Stress is an invasion into that "peaceful" environment. The death of a loved one is #1 of the top 5 causes of stress.
The grief from a death is intense. It effects your emotions, body and overall life in many ways. A sudden death, like my stepfather's, just feels unnatural and can challenge anyone's confidence. An incident like this can turn your world upside down.
There are different stages of grief and it's important to deal with the process. Don't rely on alcohol and drugs; they only numb the pain temporarily and can prolong the recovery process of mourning. Mourning is the psychological process of healing and is different for everyone.
Here are 7 simple reminders to help deal with the stress of death and the grieving process:
- Emotional support is needed. Don't isolate yourself. Make sure to accept support from others or reach out if needed. You can do this through family and friends; your religious community (church); get involved with a support group; see a counselor or therapist. You have to acknowledge the pain in order to heal. Trying to avoid the feelings of loss only prolongs the pain and stress.
- Take care of yourself physically. Dealing with grief can be exhausting. You will feel better emotionally when you physically feel good, and vice versa, because of the strong mind/body connection. Make sure to eat regularly (and the right nutrition), and try to get enough sleep and exercise. Incorporating a yoga and/or a meditation ritual can help tremendously too.
- Express your feelings in a creative or tangible way. Sharing memories is healing. You can write about your feelings in a journal; make a scrapbook or photo album celebrating that person's life; or get involved with a cause that was important to them. Writing has always been one of my go-to methods when dealing with emotions. A week after my stepfather's death, I wrote a tribute to him that was posted on my blog.
- Dealing with grief is personal. Don't let others tell you how it "should" be done. And don't worry about judgement or embarrassment. Let yourself feel whatever you need to feel. You can cry or not cry. You can yell and be angry. And it's okay to laugh if you want. Celebrate those moments of joy too.
- Be patient with the process. As time passes, the emotions and stress you've dealt with will become less intense as you accept the loss. Acceptance of the situation will help you move forward. Remember to continue to seek support from others if needed.
- Encourage independence. Your confidence can be zapped for a while after losing a loved one. While you need the support of others, in the long-term it's best to have some independence. Thinking independently will allow you (or that someone you are supporting) to start making decisions on your own again and get your confidence back.
- Be prepared for emotional triggers. Dealing with anniversaries, holidays and other milestones can definitely bring up memories and overwhelming feeling of emotions. It is normal for this to happen. Honor the person you loved in a way that's best for you; and it's important to set the expectations of others if they plan to be with you.
Death is part of life. Death is also a reminder not to take things for granted and live while you can. Peace.
Brigitte Cutshall is a Media Solutions Consultant and a Certified Health Coach and a two-time breast cancer survivor and living with a benign brain tumor. Brigitte obtained her Health Coach Certification from the Institute of Integrative Nutrition based in New York. Brigitte is the author of "Real Things: 6 Ways to Embrace Life" published April 2015. For more information visit www.brigittecutshall.com and http://realthings.guru/. Connect with her on Facebook. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com.