5 Techniques for Coping with Loss

5 Techniques for Coping with Loss

5 Techniques for Coping with Loss

Just this week, I heard someone say that when dealing with loss you have to choose your attitude. He said, grieve and then choose to move on. While that sounds good, it can be tough to do. Guest blogger, Jessica Kane has some helpful advice in dealing with loss, in her article, “5 Techniques for Coping with Death.” My favorites are numbers 3, 4 and 5, but I hope you will try them all.

5 Techniques for Coping with Death

Dealing with the loss of a loved one is one of the most difficult challenges that people face in life. According to the National Institute on Aging, prolonged mourning is unhealthy and can lead to anxiety and depression. It is important to take appropriate steps to proactively cope with the grief and pain. Below explains 5 ways to successfully cope with the loss of a loved one.

1. Understand Who Grieves the Most

The National Cancer Institute has detailed research on risk factors for grief and bereavement outcomes. They have found that those who lack social support, have a history of depression, a lower income and are pessimistic tend to suffer more. In addition to this, those who had an insecure or an ambivalent relationship with the deceased tend to experience more negativity and grief. People who tend to cope through overthinking almost always have higher levels of stress and depression. The younger the age, the more difficulty after a loss. Understanding your personal situation and being aware of your risk factors will help with coping.

2. Social Connections

Social interactions are very effective with normalizing emotions, improving mood and enriching overall quality of life. Socializing engages the mind, reduces stress and provides opportunities to bond with others. An active social life can actually improve nutritional intake because people tend to eat more when they are around others. In addition to this, being social can help lower blood pressure, boost the immune system and reduce the symptoms of depression. Sometimes those who are grieving tend to withdraw, avoid others and become sedentary. However, researchers at the University of Berkeley’s Greater Good Institute have found that socially inactive adults are 70 percent more likely to experience cognitive decline and related health issues compared with socially active adults. Being socially active results in excellent emotional and physical benefits.

3. Active Choices

According to the National Institute of Health, exercise and physical activity reduces stress, improves mood and prevents and delays disease. Being active is a key to dealing with the stress and grief while doing something productive. Physical activities can be simple things like gardening, dancing and housework. Exercise can be regularly scheduled specific physical activities such as jogging, cycling and lifting weights. Exercise has been proven as an effective treatment for improving cognitive functions and reducing the symptoms of depression. Exercise also decreases the likelihood of developing chronic conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure. Even walking 30 minutes a day will improve health and sleep quality while relieving anxiety and depression.

4. Travel

An ancient Chinese idiom says that traveling is better than reading 10,000 books. Many people coping with grief tend to withdraw and fixate on the past. However, travel forces us to be active, adapt to new situations and exposes us to the wonders of the world. Traveling forces us to engage others and experience life. Traveling locally or even internationally are excellent ways to leave the painful comfort zone at home and embrace the beauty of the world around us.

5. Spirituality and Religion

Most people only turn to religion during holidays or special events. However, there are benefits to both spirituality and religion. While there is great diversity with spirituality, yoga, tai chi and meditation have proven benefits for stress release and health. These aren’t just exercises, but actually ancient methods of spiritual practice and purification. Religion can play an important role in coping. While there is limited empirical research on the benefits of religion, studies have shown that religion is very helpful with coping because of the social support. Religion also provides a belief system that helps to understand and cope with death.

Jessica Kane is a professional blogger who writes for Legacy Headstones, a leading Ohio-based headstone manufacturer and vendor.

The Last Laugh: Remembering Joan Rivers

Remembering Joan Rivers

Remembering Joan Rivers

My Mom always told me that deaths happen in three’s…as odd as that sounds, it always seems to ring true. Recently, we lost three iconic celebrities: first the tragic death of Robin Williams, then the loss of screen legend Lauren Bacall and this week, comedy and fashion diva Joan Rivers was laid to rest.

Joan’s “in your face” and candid style both electrified and offended. She hit life head on, no matter the circumstances or people involved. Her honest approach to her many plastic surgeries became fodder for some of her best humor. It seems that she applied the same direct nature to her own death. While some may find this odd or even shocking, I find it refreshing.

Since Joan found no topic to be “off limits,” it came as no surprise to me that she had left behind final wishes for her funeral. It was also no surprise that she desired a grand affair complete with Broadway tunes, fellow celebs, and laughter. And her daughter Melissa made sure she had just that, as bagpipes played her final song and a throng of fans gathered on Fifth Avenue, dressed in their best, to honor the fashion diva.

In a society where we struggle with issues of daily life, they all pale in comparison to our issues with death. Joan accepted that death would one day find her, and she had no problem leaving behind instructions for her final wishes. In fact, she wanted to be sure that her funeral was a star-studded celebration rather than a tear-filled, mournful occasion.

I can only hope that we learn a thing or two from Joan as we consider our own dates with destiny. And more importantly, that we know where we are headed when we get there.

Breaking the Silence

Robin WilliamsLast week, we lost a comedy and screen legend and my heart is still heavy. We were forced to say a sad and early goodbye to stand-up comic and movie genius, Robin Williams. The firestorm of comments that erupted following his death, apparently by his own hand, has been amazing and incredibly unsettling at the same time. While droves of Robin “fans” shared memories and condolences with his grieving family, others took the opportunity to chastise Robin (?) by leaving hurtful remarks and belittling the actor on his families social media accounts. Experts than began chiming in to state that his suicide could have been prevented.

I have watched and listened in silent horror and I can stay silent no longer.

It is painfully obvious that our society still fails to be able to frankly discuss death with compassion and without fear of the conversation. We consider ourselves to be a “modern” society and yet we struggle with dying and grief in ways our ancient ancestors did not. Our modern medicine and ideas have left us ill-equipped to deal with the inevitable event of death and dying. We still find ourselves speechless and uncomfortable during times when our grieving friends and family need us the most.

Read “Nine Things Not to Say to Someone Who’s Grieving”

As someone who has had personal experience with these painful matters, I can tell you that it is impossible to pile any more pain, grief, guilt or sorrow onto Robin’s family. You never stop asking yourself if you could have done more…you never stop second-guessing the steps you took, the words you said, the comfort and help you tried to offer. You never stop asking yourself the painful questions that will have no answers.

The only silver lining to this incredibly dark cloud is the public conversation that is now happening about mental illness and suicide. If there is one thing that could make us smile after all of this, it is only the possibility that these conversations could save just one person. Let us find ways to join the conversation to help those grieving, with broken hearts, and those struggling with the grip and pain of mental illness.

How Are You Living?

folded_flag_with_white_gloves

It was a very tough summer for me and my family. We’ve faced multiple losses in a very short time and been surrounded by sorrow and grief. The most difficult loss was the death of my brother-in-law. At only 36 years old, he had spent the past 10 years fighting a battle many of us fear – cancer. As a soldier, he was no stranger to fighting, and he approached his illness in much the same way – head on. His end was long and painful, but his will to live never wavered – even when my sister told him it was okay to “let go.” On a ventilator and unable to talk, he firmly shook his head NO.

It was just a matter of time before he was spending his final days in Hospice. I will never forget what his Hospice nurse told us, ” People die the way they live.” This became even more real as we watched my brother-in-law fight for every minute he could have. Unable to move, talk, open his eyes, eat or drink – he continued to fight. He fought to live just one more minute, one more hour, one more day. On July 24th, 2013 his last day, hour and minute arrived…and he was gone.

My brother-in-law’s death has had a profound effect on me and my husband. It puts life in a very different perspective. I think about how much he wanted to live – even when he really had no “life” left. What if I could treat each day so precious? I have a renewed appreciation for my family, my health and my life.  My husband decided that dwelling on what you “don’t have” rather than what you have, now seemed trivial and unimportant. He has become more content as a result.

Two months ago today, my brother-in-law left us, and it has taken me this long to be able to write again. I knew I must get these important words down, but my heart wasn’t ready to write them. I can only hope that the lesson we learned from watching his life, and death, will stay with us. If we truly “die the way we live,” then we must ask ourselves every day, how we are living.

Why Me?

rain_clouds_2After a miscarriage, Mother’s Day is never the same. As we all prepare to honor and appreciate our moms, you may be struggling with intense feelings of grief and incredible loss. You may even be asking how God could let this happen.

After my miscarriage, I found that the church services I always enjoyed were leaving me numb. Something felt different, and it was hard for me to feel love or warmth or…God. I struggled with this for many weeks as I wandered through the early stages of my painful grief.

Facing a major loss often causes us to confront or even reconsider our basic beliefs about God, religion, death, and the afterlife. Some may turn to God for strength and comfort, while others find themselves questioning the faith they have known all of their lives.

Even those who have no religious upbringing or practices may feel angry with God, or abandoned. Everyone responds to loss differently, but it does have a way of forcing us to confront questions we may have been avoiding…about death…about God…about ourselves.

A traumatic loss can leave parents feeling like they have been shaken to the core. These are the times that cause us to examine what is inside. In the depths of grief you may feel yourself doubting God. Regardless of your religious beliefs, it is common to ask ‘Why God?’ when tragedy strikes.

While some are left angry and questioning how God could allow this to happen, others find that their faith can actually be deepened during such a time.

A belief in God is not a guarantee against pain and suffering. Death is an unavoidable part of life; and faith can be there to help us get through our losses, but it cannot prevent them.

You may not understand or believe in God, or you may have conflicting feelings about the God you love, because you feel He has failed you. If you have unanswered questions, a pastor, rabbi, or priest can offer help. Seek the answers you need.

The above is adapted from an excerpt of the book Hope is Like the Sun.

“In Motion” or Emotion? How Men and Women Grieve Differently

 Men and women often find themselves feeling alone during grief because nature (and society) has equipped us to handle it so differently. These differences can make it harder to connect during the times we need it most, so we must work to understand one another.
 
Men
 
 When facing loss, men generally put their feelings into action. They often experience their pain physically rather than emotionally. A man may tend to focus on goal-oriented tasks that require thinking and action. For this reason, he may put his efforts into planting a memorial garden or writing a eulogy.
 
In other cultures, men have been noted as using rituals to relieve the pain of anger or grief. Physical ceremonies such as shooting bows and arrows have been observed as outlets for grief and sorrow.
 
Activity can give men a sense of control and accomplishment as they experience grief. Even if he decides to share details of his loss with friends, it may likely be during shared activities such as fishing or sporting events.
 
Men will often react to the stress of grief by exhibiting behavior that scientist refer to as “fight-or-flight.” This type of reaction means that individuals who are confronted with stress will either react aggressively (“fight”), or withdraw or flee from the situation (“flight”).
 
A man will often allow himself to cry during grief, but he will usually do so alone, or even in the dark. This may lead other family members to believe that he is not grieving at all.
 
Women
 
In general, our society teaches women that it is acceptable for them to be open with their feelings. They will often feel a greater need to talk with others and share their emotions with supportive friends and family members.
 
In many cases, women seek non-judgmental listeners who are comfortable with a show of emotion. This provides them with an outlet for the grief they are feeling.
 
Women often respond to the stress of grief with a reaction called “tend-and-befriend.” This means that they may feel compelled to protect or nurture their children or others (“tend”) and seek out social contact and support from others (“befriend”). For this reason, women may have the desire to join a support group, while men, on the other hand, generally do not.
 
Even with our society’s ability to accept strong emotions and feelings from women, it is typical for our culture to criticize them as they deal with grief. All too often, women are said to be too sentimental or even ‘weak’ when they are seen expressing the painful emotions of grief. This causes some women to feel the need to suppress their feelings, or believe that they are failing to be ‘strong.’ However, it is often found that women are experiencing the grief- feeling the pain, while others around may be avoiding grief work.
 
 The above information was adapted from the book Hope is Like the Sun: Finding Hope and Healing After Miscarriage, Stillbirth, or Infant Death.