Coping With the Death of a Family Member

by Eric Dunbar

Coping with the death of a family memberCoping with the death of a loved is never easy, and it can be very difficult. Most people will experience the death of a loved one at least once in their lifetime, and some people will experience this painful and difficult event on more than one occasion. Certainly, no one likes to talk about death, but it is the one thing that is inevitable and the one appointment that we all must keep.

When we lose someone close to us, such as a family member or a spouse we go through a period of grieving. Grieving is a natural human emotion. We grieve because we are trying to recover from the tragic misfortune of death. The recovery process can be short, or it can last for several months. Whether the process of grieving is short or long, one thing is certain, the pain of losing a loved one is an emotional pain that compares to no other.

Grieving is difficult for everyone, and people express their grief in many different ways. For example, some people will purposefully withdraw from the company of others, while others seek to surround themselves with as many people as possible.

They say time heals a broken heart, but with respect to the death of a family member, healing can only occur when we come to terms of with the reality of our loss. It has been 10 years since the death of my son and I still have a difficult time of coping with such an eye-opening reality. That was a very tough period of my life. I thought I would never be able to move past the horrendous pain.

While it may be true that no one can lay claim to a right or wrong way to grieve, there are some things that you can do doing the grieving process to help you cope with the tremendous pain of losing a loved one to death. Although you may not necessarily experience recovery in the order listed here, you will find listed below some important keys to help you recover from such a painful experience.

Open Up

It is important to realize that everyone copes with death in different ways. Understand that your loss is your personal journey and no one can truly feel your pain. That is why it is important that you open up. You should not be afraid to talk about your loss. By opening up you allow those around you to offer comfort. You might want to consider joining a support group where you will find other people who can truly relate to your experience.

In the days following the death of your family member you will likely be flooded with phone calls, emails, letters and sympathy cards, all of which will be chilling reminders of your grief. Open up only when you are ready to talk about it. It took several weeks for me to get over the death of my son. For the first two weeks I was literally unable to function. I quickly learned that by talking about my loss it became easier to cope with the emotional pain and stress. I was surprised to learn that many of the people I talked to had similar experiences and their words of encouragement gave me strength to face my own reality.

Avoid Covering Up

Masking your pain is not the answer. Avoid hiding your feelings as it could lead to destructive behavior like drug addiction or alcoholism. Allow yourself to grieve and stay as close to reality as humanly possible. If you drink any type of alcoholic beverage or use any type of narcotic pain medication, now is the time to back off. I was once a crack cocaine addict and I will tell you that if anything can lead you to walk down the road called “addiction” it would be the death of someone close to you.

Let Your Emotions Flow

Whenever something hurts, whether it is emotional or physical pain the first thing you want to do is cry. Now is the time to understand that it is alright to cry. Friends can sometimes have a negative effect on your emotional stability. They might tell you that you must remain strong for another family member who they assume may be having a tougher time of coping with the loss than you, but again, no one knows your pain but you.

Trying to appear strong will only cause you to internalize your pain. Sooner or later all that internal pressure will have to be released and nobody knows what will happen when it is released. Volcanic eruptions are caused by internal pressure being built up inside the earth over a period of time. No one knows where or when such an eruption might occur.

Allow Time to Heal You

Emotional scars are invisible, but they leave lasting scars that are often more noticeable than physical scars. All things change with time. So the one thing that you can do to help yourself recover from the inconceivable loss of a loved one is to allow time to heal you.

Never place a limit on how long it takes to heal. Don’t put a timetable on your grieving, and never allow someone to tell you that you are grieving too long. It is your call, and yours alone to say “I’m done grieving.” There is no such thing as a typical allocation of time affixed for grieving for your loved one.

Cherish Good Memories

For a very long time after the death of my son I tortured myself with negative memories of him. Although I never actually saw him before he died, in my head I saw him lying on a hospital bed in agony. When I closed my eyes I didn’t see his big wide smile, nor did I hear the familiar sound of his laughter.I made the terrible mistake of being so caught up in his suffering that I forgot about all of the good times we spent together. Take pleasure in remembering the good times you shared with your loved one. Focus on seeing their smile and hearing their laughter. Concentrate on celebrating the life of your loved one rather than memorializing their death.

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