When you are in the process of grieving, there are things you can do for yourself that can help you get through that period more easily.
In this article, I suggest 5 activities for you to try. Some of them may seem meaningful to you, depending on how you feel, and some are less meaningful.
Express your feelings on paper
Why should we write a letter to a person who has died or to a person with whom we have parted? Writing a letter can be one way to overcome our emotions. In our relationships with others, we don’t always express our feelings directly – we often do or say things that hurt others, which we later regret. Or if we failed to say what we wanted; we lost the opportunity.
By putting our feelings through words on paper, we express ourselves and have the opportunity to say everything we want.
There is nothing we cannot write because the letter is personal and no one else has to read it.
You can write to a loved one exactly how you feel about their death or passing – desperate, sad, angry, depressed…
You can write the most beautiful memories together.
You can write about what bothered you about a loved one.
You can write about your fears and worries or what is currently happening in your life.
You can write about problems that remain unresolved
You can write about children if one of the parents died.
Writing a letter is actually an outpouring of the heart and all that it carries within.
You can keep the written letter or throw it away. There is no right or wrong way to handle a letter. The most important thing is to stay kind to yourself and do what you think is best for you.
Talk about your grief
Talking about our losses helps us begin to come to terms with the new situation. If you have a close friend, a trusted person, who is patient, who knows how to listen, with whom you would feel comfortable sharing your feelings, talk about how you feel.
Another way is to talk to a professional counsellor or therapist. Psychological counsellors, psychologists, psychotherapists, and psychiatrists are experts specially trained to provide help in the field of mental health, which also includes the field of emotional problems.
Some express their feelings by keeping a diary, in which they write how they feel.
It is also important to keep in mind that people around you generally want you to feel good, to be happy, and it often happens that they try to cheer you up when you don’t need it. Be free to express your feelings and openly say that you need someone to listen to you, not make you happy.
All cultures have some of their own traditions related to seeing off those who have died. Certain customs and rituals are thought to help us come to terms with loss and for us personally, they mean giving respect to loved ones who have died.
One of the most important rituals is funeral. A funeral is an event when we say goodbye to a person when we are physically close to the deceased for the last time. A funeral is an event when we become aware of a loss.
In cultures where the bodies of the deceased are cremated, it is customary to scatter the ashes.
From the point of view of psychology, all these rituals and customs have two main functions: they help a person to understand what happened and to face reality of loss.
Although there are traditional rituals and customs, you can also come up with some of your own rituals. Some people place a larger stone or part of a rock as a kind of memorial to a loved one. They write letters that mean something to them on a stone or rock. Others plant a tree or put up a plaque with flowers. There are many ways to remember a loved one, a way to give respect to them, or something that would be meaningful to you.
Hand in hand with grief
When we grieve, we feel a spectrum of different emotions.
Although we feel that sadness occupies the largest part of our being, other emotions are also present. One moment we are angry or resentful, and the next we feel sadness or guilt. All these emotions often create a feeling of chaos in us, an overflow that we don’t know how to deal with.
As a psychologist I encourage you to find ways to feel, express and process your emotions, to become aware of your feelings and your thoughts that are closely related to emotions.
Most people have been taught to avoid “difficult” emotions, to suppress them, which is why in the beginning the feeling of unfamiliarity and confusion prevails.
One way to deal with your emotions is to think of each emotion as a part of yourself. For example, one part of us is sad because of the loss, another part is bitter because we were abandoned, and the third part is scared because we are left “alone”… All these emotions are opposite to each other. What does it mean? For example, the part of us that feels guilty is in “conflict” with the part of us that tries to accept reality.
There is a psychological exercise that can help with such internal conflicts. It consists of certain steps:
First, you need to identify all the emotions that are part of you. So, the “sad part”, “scared part”, “bitter part”, “guilt part”, “acceptance part” or some other emotion that is a part of you that you are aware of.
Once you’ve done this first part, ask yourself some questions:
- What does this part of me want to do?
- What does this part of me think about loss?
- Where in my body is the strongest feeling?
- In which part of my body do I feel anger, sadness, or guilt…?
Then try to remember that rational part of you, that cares about you, that sensible part of you, and ask yourself:
- How can this sensible part of me help other parts?
- What would it tell them, what would the reasonable part of me want to do?
Make a memory box
One way to preserve the memory of a deceased person is to create a memory box. Inside that box, you can put photos of the deceased person or photos of you together. Memories can include some of their favourite things, such as a piece of clothing, a book, jewellery, a CD of a favourite band, letters, or anything that represents a sentimental item that connects you. You can keep the box in a special place and open it whenever you feel the need or during an anniversary celebration.
What to do and how to behave in time of grieving? Part II
In the first part of the article on how to deal with grief, I wrote about five activities that could help you in this difficult period. In the second part, I will share with you the other four activities. I hope you find it at least a little helpful.
How did it happen? – your grief story
Talking about how the sad event happened helps the person to go through a certain period of life again, to go back and thus process, process his feelings and face the loss once again, from a different position.
Each person’s grieving period manifests itself differently. Someone needs to talk about it as soon as possible, to pour out all their feelings and thus make it easier for themselves, while someone does not want to talk about it and keeps it inside. Depending on how you feel, if you are unable to talk, you can also write.
The previous article talked about writing a letter to a loved one as one of the ways to process your emotions. You can also put on paper how it all happened – how a loved one died.
You can ask yourself questions and then answer them. Here are some of the questions:
- If a person died suddenly – how did you feel when you found out?
- Do you remember what thoughts were going through your head?
- Who were you with or were you alone?
- How did the person die, what exactly happened?
- What did you do after you found out, who did you go to or where did you go?
- If it is a male family member who had to stay on the battlefield to fight – how did you find out that he was killed, who informed you?
- Were you able to attend his funeral?
- What happened in your life before the war?
- What did you and your loved one do?
- How did you get separated during the war, did you have to leave a war-torn country?
- How did you feel when you found out that someone close to you had to go to war?
If the person has been ill for a long time – you can write about the moments when you found out about the diagnosis, medical interventions, the period of treatment.
- How did the loved one feel, how did you feel, how was your relationship?
- How did you feel when you were told that there was little time left, how did you spend that time?
How to deal with regret and guilt
There is no perfect relationship between two people. Every relationship, in addition to respect, love, and understanding… also brings with it conflicts.
When a person you love, with whom you were close, dies, it is common that memories of bad moments, moments of quarrels, in which you said words or did actions that you now regret, start to come. You regret that person is no longer with you because you would tell them how sorry you are. Now you realize how unimportant some things in life are compared to your relationship with your loved one.
However, it is not too late to apologize and to heal emotionally from such injuries even though the person has died. In addition to writing a letter in which you can apologize and write that you are sorry, there are several other ways to express your feelings of guilt:
If you are a person who does not like to write, you can choose a quiet moment during the day or evening, when you are alone and think about your loved one. Try to remember the good times. There are usually many more good moments, but according to statistics, our brain remembers six times more negative events. Remember your summer vacations, your winter vacations, what you did in the spring, where you travelled together, and what movies you watched together. Remember the warm and gentle smile, the look, there were certainly more of them than the strict and critical ones.
We all make mistakes, but conflicts and arguments are not the whole stories of your relationship.
Fight against avoidance
At the beginning of the tragedy, the emotional pain is the most intense and it is very difficult to do those things that remind us of the deceased person.
Avoiding all those places where you were together is actually a defense against too painful feelings. In this way, you protect yourself and determine consciously or unconsciously how much pain you can bear in those moments. However, the path to emotional healing is facing the negative side of life. Over time, it is very important to stop avoiding places and situations where you were together.
What can you do?
- You can write down on paper all those places, and situations you avoid. You can start from the most emotionally difficult places. It is important to be gentle and kind to yourself. You don’t have to go alone. Invite a close friend or family member to support you.
- It can be certain social events, mutual friends you visited, swimming pools, games, restaurants, cafes, certain houses, and some tourist places.
- Do not rush and do not push yourself into an even more difficult emotional state. Give yourself time.
What to do with difficult decisions
When a loved one dies, in addition to emotional problems, people often face financial or similar problems.
In cases where a person dies suddenly, it happens that the other person has to face serious decisions in a short period of time. For example, if the person who died was one of the spouses, the bereaved person may have financial problems or have to move out of the shared home or find a better job.
On days when intense emotional pain and suffering prevail, a person can hardly make such significant decisions. It is almost impossible to focus on solving challenging material problems because your emotions do not allow you to do so.
It is recommended to wait between six and twelve months after the death of a close person.
In case certain decisions cannot be postponed, it would be best to ask someone for help. It should be a trusted person, a friend or family member.
Here’s what you could do:
Use a piece of paper or a notebook to write down exactly what your problem is. Write down the possible solutions to the problem. Write the good and bad sides of each solution. Once you have evaluated, together with a trusted person, which solution you will choose, plan and organize certain steps towards that solution.