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The Grieving Process - 10 Suggestions to Help You Through the Loss of a Loved One

Updated on December 9, 2012
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Losing A Loved One

Losing a loved one is probably the hardest thing any of us will ever endure. And yet it is something that we will all go through at one time or another, whether it be a grandparent, parent, child or spouse. There is nothing that can adequately prepare us for this loss, but somehow and hopefully most of us will endure, and ultimately survive. Even though we will never forget, we can and do move forward.

These are some of the things that I feel helped me through this process over the last two years, in grieving for the loss of my best friend and soulmate - my husband Craig.

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1. Cry, cry and cry some more

I know this is a given, but I just wanted to say "never be afraid or ashamed of crying". This is a natural emotion and a great stress reliever. There were days when I wondered if I was ever going to stop crying. Don't hold back, cleanse and relieve yourself. You are hurting; after all you have just lost a very important person in your life. Little by little you will probably find that a day will come where you will realize that "today I have not cried". And then again, just when you think you are moving to a new level, something will happen and the floodgates will come again. It's called "the firsts" - the first birthday, the first Christmas, the first anniversary - without our loved one. It will grab us and shake us, but tomorrow will be a better day! My husband's birthday was just a little over a month after he passed away. That night very good friends suggested the three of us go out for dinner. They didn't want me to be alone and I have to say it helped me get through the day a lot easier. By the same token my step son and his wife held Thanksgiving that year. Another relief; don't be afraid to let others take over, in the beginning, when everything is still so fresh.

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2. Surround Yourself With Family & Friends

Never be afraid to rely on your family and your friends. I know there is a fine balance. You do not want to overwhelm other people with your grief and your hurt. I recall a member in my grief group being very hurt because her friends would not mention her husband's name and she wanted to talk about him. This is natural of course; I felt the same way, but in the end there has to be a balance between expecting others to just listen to you, without in turn engaging them in other conversation. After all this would be healthy for you too. Remember most of all that one day, if not already, they will be going through the same thing - and you will be there for them. So lean on them a little bit.

3. Keep Yourself Busy

There was a time when normal protocol dictated that you take no part in any kind of activity for a stated period of time after the death of a loved one. I don't think we want to be like the grandmothers of my time, where they wore black and took no part in any activities for months on end - nor do we want to be out on the town every night. For myself, with my husband passing in September, I was dreading the coming winter with the short days. So I decided that if I was invited out for dinner or an evening at a friends place, I would accept. I needed to be around people and I have to say that I was lucky. Through my first winter I don't believe there was a weekend where I had no one to be with. Again, I kept it light when out with them, and cried when I got home. : ) And then sometimes we cried together, and that was good for everyone.

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4. Don't Be Afraid To Ask For Help

Most friends and family are there to help when needed. I know I had one incident where I was in bad shape - unable to even talk. I picked up the phone and called one of our best friends - a couple we had chummed with. They insisted I go right over and I spent the day with them. It made a huge difference in my well-being that day. So don't be afraid to ask - if they are indeed good friends, they will extend their hand. In the same token, if things have gotten to the point where you cannot stop crying or are not sleeping, speak with your GP - family doctor. There is no need to be suffering without some kind of temporary help.

5. Join A Grief Group

Sometimes you need to be with people who are going through the same thing as you are. While family and friends are a great source of support, they may not be going through quite the same thing you are, and therefore cannot relate on the same level. This is where joining a group either through a church, a hospice or a local community center can be a great help. What I found in my experience with the grief group in hospice was that "we helped each other". There is a kind of solace in knowing that the next person understands completely what you are going through. And the added bonus here is that in the end you can come away with some new friends. We don't want people to tell us it is "time to move on". Remember that is not for anyone to tell you. You will move forward gradually in your own best way.

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6. Keep A Journal

I found something that helped me immensely was writing a daily letter to my husband. A month had gone by and I found I was having great difficulty. One day I sat down at my computer and just started typing "Dear Craigie" -and I continued this for days, weeks and months on end. Eventually it became less and less. This does not mean in any way, shape or form that I had forgotten him, because I have not and will not, but it got me through that very tough time. As you all know on here, writing is very liberating - it is a great way to get your feelings out.

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7. Be Active

Try to take part in some kind of physical activity during the day to get you out of the house. I found that sometimes the walls just closed in and I needed to get out, even if just for a walk around my neighbourhood. Sometimes I get in the car, pick up a Tim Horton's coffee and go for a drive just the way my husband and I always did. There is comfort in keeping some of the same routines; these are some of the times that I converse with him and it feels natural. Join a club even if it is just to play cards, if so inclined. Take art lessons; join a book club. Exercising is great for bringing your energy level up and there are so many interesting ways today that you can do this whether it be at a gym or a community center. A broad range of activities from line dancing to zoomersize is available and you can have some fun meeting new friends this way too. In the summer months a walk on a beach might bring you a sense of peace and tranquility. Whatever works for you, do it.

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8. Eat Healthy and Rest Appropriately

I think this is one of the hardest things to accomplish following the loss of a loved one. We are social animals and part of the joy of eating is sharing with that someone special. Of course if there is the loss of a parent, then likely you still have a husband/wife and/or children to prepare for, but one of the hardest things I found because it was just my husband and I was to cook "for myself". For a while it was OK because I was taking care of my senior mother preparing meals so I "had to cook". But in my grief class others complained of not being interested in cooking for themselves. There are available classes "cooking for one" where you can learn some interesting way to make things appealing for yourself as well as getting yourself down to the appropriate portions. It is not easy, but it is important to maintain a healthy diet as well as trying to get proper sleep. This can be another hard thing to accomplish. I found at first that I was so exhausted that I slept, but then my pattern changed into middle of the night sleep interruptions. A quick visit to the doctor and a temporary prescription to get me over the hump helped greatly. It all takes time, but we need to work at it.

9. Get Involved In Your Community

There is always someone who is hurting just as much as you, or even more so. Try to take an interest in what is around you in the way of your community. This can be done by simply helping out a neighbour, or in the broader scope of things volunteering your help at a local hospital, hospice or nursing home - just to name a few. Get to know your neighbour. If you are a spouse left on your own now, try to get to know some other single women or men as the case may be. You can still have your "couples friends" but I found that I also had to add some other ladies that I could rely on to take in an activity with within my community. I am fortunate enough to be in an adult lifestyle community, so I could take part in ladies lunches and coffee mornings at our clubhouse. But you may be able to find similar things in your own community.

Smile - il Volo

10. Smile

There is a saying, "smile and the whole world smiles with you". I believe it is the most contagious thing. It is good energy, and we all need that good energy. Don't ever be afraid to smile; for that matter, as we discussed in my grief group - laugh. We need to laugh! It is as honest an emotion as crying. They are very closely related. And remember that moving forward in your grief does not mean that you have forgotten. We will never forget our loved one, but we will move forward with the knowledge that they are still with us, and that most of all they want us to be happy.

Please listen to il Volo sing the classic "Smile" in the video below. It is an absolutely beautiful rendition from these young Italian men, fresh out of Italy. I get chills when I listen to it, and I listen to it often - I think of my Craig and I Smile. Peace and love to all of you!

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Lynda Matthews

Author - A Breath Away

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    • craiglyn profile image
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      Lynda 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Thank you so much Vickiw for stopping by, reading and commenting on my hub. Are you a bereavement counsellor? I still attend a "Healing Steps" walking group at the hospice where Craig passed away. It's been a little over two years now, so I do not attend so much for grief, but more so for the social aspect, the friends I have made, and the ability to help others who are new to this journey. I have just written and published a book "A Breath Away" telling of our relationship, the journey through a diagnoses of cancer, hospice, grief and the afterlife. I have an excerpt from one of the chapters as one of my hubs; you might want to take a peek. I will be checking out your hubs. Thanks again.

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      Vickiw 4 years ago

      Hello Craiglyn, I am so sorry for your loss. I can really relate, as I was a young widow, and found it a very difficult experience. Your suggestions are great, and very much what is talked about each week in my facilitation of a bereavement group. I look forward to reading more of your Hubs. My heart is with you.

    • craiglyn profile image
      Author

      Lynda 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Thank you for your kind comments - and yes I know for sure that my husband is with me. It is a huge comfort to know that they do not die, they are just in different form and our loved ones always look out for us. : )

    • GlstngRosePetals profile image

      GlstngRosePetals 5 years ago from Wouldn't You Like To Know

      I would be a basket case and these are some of the best ideas i have ever herd of family and staying buisy. Its not going to be easy but i believe that if you feel they are always with you whethrer you can see them or not it will make it easier to pass and move forward. Voted up!! Awsome job on you your hub:0)

    • craiglyn profile image
      Author

      Lynda 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Mhatter - you are welcome. Grief is difficult, we have no idea what it is lose our soulmate until it happens - somehow we get through it, but we never forget.

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 5 years ago from San Francisco

      Thank you for this. I could have read 1,000 books but nothing could have prepared me to lose my wife and girlfriend since 1965. It is not all tears.

    • craiglyn profile image
      Author

      Lynda 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Thank you Paula - I do think grieving is seen differently today than it was for our ancestors of years before. In the end I think it is how we lived our life with that loved one while they were alive, that shows how much we cared. For me, because Craig and I had six months from the time he was diagnosed to the time he passed, I knew, and he made it very clear that I had to go on living. It was hard nonetheless as you well know, but "being in life" helped.

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 5 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      lyn This is way UP and UABI!!! Very very well-written and so meaningful. I agree with and encourage every single thing you wrote. This hub is wonderful. It should be a must-read for everyone who grieves or has ever grieved or will ever again.

      You truly shared what you have learned and what has been of such great help to you. Peace!.........

    • craiglyn profile image
      Author

      Lynda 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Thank you Anne - I know each of us grieves in our way, but I wanted to share what seemed to help me. I did have to take something for a while for anxiety and to help me sleep - losing your loved one is hard enough without the addition of caring for someone else at the same time - and I found several months later it hit me like a ton of bricks. I just could not stop crying. So I did what I could to help myself along with my doctor. :" ) I like your sister's phrase too. Thanks for that.

    • bac2basics profile image

      Anne 5 years ago from Spain

      Hi Lynda. Great advice for the bereaved. I´m so pleased you mentioned visiting the doctor for a temporary prescription if you are not coping so well. So many people will tell you " Oh you don´t want to go taking those things" be it something to help you sleep or a pill a day to help you cope with depression or anxiety. I have been there with the grief, but also suffered from these illnesses from time to time too and I know there is absolutely no harm in taking something your doctor has prescribed to help get you through the toughest thing you will probably ever experience. I want to pass this little phrase on if I may Lynda. My sister passed it on to me and it struck a chord. "Endure what you must BUT Enjoy what you can" Great hub Lynda, it´s going to help and comfort a lot of people.