Dealing with the Loss of a Loved One
Tragedy strikes when we least expect it and the loss may turn your world (and your family’s) upside-down. This is particularly true with the loss of a loved one. Pain and grief comes to the family and hits hard, especially to children. Children often feel it more intensely and may have a harder time recovering from the loss. How do you deal with the grief and the pain? How will you help your children who are looking to you for stability and security?
Dealing with Grief and Loss
Here are some reminders to help you as you deal with grief yourself and also try to muster up the comfort that your children may need during this difficult time.
Make time for your grief. The process of grieving takes time – there may be even some instances when you feel that the grief will just not let up. The time immediately after the death of a loved one may be a busy one – there is the funeral and burial to be arranged, well-wishers and mourners to be looked after. However, you should give yourself and your family time to sit down and grieve. Acknowledge your feelings – don’t suppress them.
Grieve in your own way. People grieve in different ways. As long as you are not doing anything hurtful or harmful to you or to others, you can choose to grieve in your own way. Don’t allow anyone to set a timetable for your grief or tell you how to feel. In the same way, don’t push children to overcome their grief within a certain timetable.
Realize that it’s normal to be angry. Anger is a part of the process of grieving. Your children may go through a period where they express anger at what has happened that resulted in the tragic loss of a loved one. Don’t belittle or deny the child’s feelings but reassure him or her of your presence at this time.
Be alert for damaging behaviors. Even though grief comes in different forms, there are healthy ways to grieve and there are ways that are not so healthy. Damaging behaviors include turning to substance abuse to numb the pain. In the same way, you should also be on the lookout for damaging behaviors or methods of grief that your children may try to employ.
Don’t go at it alone. Turn to the company of loved ones and friends and say yes to help when it is offered. Instead of avoiding offers of help from loved ones and friends, tell them what you need. Sometimes people want to help out but are not really sure about the best way to do it. You can also join a support group, which can be a healing experience as you share and relate with people who have gone through the loss of a loved one themselves.
Be there. Let your children know that you are there to help them. Spend time talking to them every chance you get. Be gentle as you ask questions, probe their thoughts and help them put their feelings into words. Listen and validate their feelings. Accept their feelings. Reassure them of your presence and love.
Share how you cope. Discuss how you cope with your feelings of sadness, uncertainty and fear. If this means drawing comfort from your faith, involve your children in the mourning rituals that are followed by a certain faith. If this means trying to express your feelings using a creative or physical outlet, involve your kids as well. For instance, if you want to make an album about your lost loved one, encourage your children to help out.
Seek help. You and your family may need to seek family counseling to help process your grief and be equipped with tools to positively respond to your and other family members’ grief. Sometimes, unresolved grief can cause a family member to turn to alcohol and drugs. In this instance, it may also be wise to see a substance abuse counselor.
Avoid making big changes in your family life in the immediate future. As much as possible, try to provide a familiar environment for your child. Avoid major changes that your child will need to adjust to on top of the grief he is dealing with.
Family Therapy to Help Cope with Loss
Grieving over a loved one is a process that one has to go through in order to heal, move on and be happy again. This time in the family’s life may be stressful – and the emotional and mental stress it brings may also take a toll on one’s health. Family therapy may help grieving family members cope with the loss.
Oftentimes, when family members are focused on dealing with their own hurts, it is hard to “be there” for others who may need their reassurance and support. A good family therapist or counselor will help families deal with loss, anger and grief. He will map out a strategy as to how the family can move forward along the process of mourning and help the family utilize positive memories and emotions to heal and move forward.
One such therapist is Triston Morgan in Provo, Utah, who has extensive experience in helping families heal from tragic losses. He has also served as a Utah substance abuse counselor, dealing primarily with troubled teens. He is a licensed marriage and family therapist who provides a non-confrontational atmosphere by which people can deal with their grief and other issues.