What To Do If You Don’t Know What To Do After Loss

What To Do

If you read the comments in the forums of Grief in Common, you’ll see that when grievers are given an opportunity to share their story, they will talk about who they lost, when it happened, and the circumstances surrounding the loss. And besides their grief the one thing that so many of these grievers have in common is the “end” of their story, where they say, “and now I just don’t know what to do…”

For some there is a “to-do” list on the other side of loss. The planning of the memorial service perhaps, or the settling of the estate. There are closets to be cleaned out, thank you cards to write and phone calls to be made. I find for most there is a paradox in the chores that follow loss. While tedious and tiresome, sad and somber, there’s still something to be said for the role these chores play in keeping a griever on track in the beginning, and the way that they keep the deceased in their daily life, plans and conversation.

But eventually everything on the to-do list gets crossed off and there’s nothing actually left to do, but grieve.

And what does that look like? Crying all the time? Pining, longing and yearning? Because in the beginning everything about the grieving is a verb, an action – something to do. But eventually there comes a point where that changes and it feels like a noun- a thing: the grief. And what’s a person “to do” with that?

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Loneliness: 5 “Don’ts” If You’re Lonely After Loss

Loneliness

The 5 Stages of Grief (as originally established by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross) may be one of the most widely sited tools of grief- it’s also one of the more misunderstood and questioned. These days, experts in the field of grief and loss hesitate to offer anything that resembles a timeline for fear that it creates unrealistic expectations for how a griever “should” cope. And with good reason. Grief is too individual and too different from one person to the next. Yet, as the stages of grief suggest, there are commonalities found amongst grievers and if I were to add one final stage, I would add loneliness to the list.

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Delayed Grief: When Grief Gets Worse

Delayed grief

Delayed grief…some grievers may wonder why they’re starting to experience their grief more intensely when it’s been several years since their loss. Rather than feeling they are getting “better”, they may find that they are crying more, withdrawing from friends and family, and perhaps feeling even less accepting of what’s happened.

How can this be? With more time to process, more time to experience life without a loved one, and more time to re-learn what this new life looks like…why would it suddenly feel like it’s harder to cope? And is it normal?

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Facing Anxiety After the Loss of a Loved One

facing anxiety after the loss of a loved one

When facing anxiety after the loss of a loved one, grievers may feel that prior to their loss there was something in life they took for granted: security. Security in the world, security in the safety and comfort the deceased provided, and security in the knowledge that things would always be okay.

While there are so many things taken with the loss of a loved one, this loss of security can shake and alter a foundation we didn’t even realize we had.

Anxiety is a term (like depression) that is often misused and misunderstood. Probably because there are degrees and levels to it, and probably because so many people feel that they have experienced it in one way or another at some point in their life.

Unlike fear, anxiety is an emotion based on a perceived (instead of imminent or real) threat. It’s the worry of what could happen.

For the griever, it’s the worry of what could happen next.

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When Your Loss is Hurting Your Relationship

When Your Loss is Hurting Your RelationshipThere’s no question that the loss of a loved one can be felt in every part of life, but what happens when your loss is hurting your relationship? If you have lost a loved one you know (all too well) the pain, confusion and anger that can come with it. Even if support is strong in the beginning, most grievers will say that typically the consoling fades with time. And it’s one thing to not feel comforted by those we expect it from, but even worse when it feels that the loss is starting to come between us. This can happen in so many ways…a woman who lost her mother, not feeling supported by her spouse…or a couple who has lost a child, and each of them grieving very differently…a man who lost a good friend and his wife doesn’t understand why he is hurting the way he is…it can happen between friends, siblings, or just about any other relationship we have.

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Sudden Loss: 5 Ways it Differs from Expected Loss

There’s never a good time or good way to lose someone we love, but if we experience the sudden loss of a loved one…is it harder?

Sudden Loss
I shy away from this type of debate in the groups that I run. While validating a griever’s loss is one of the most important things a group can offer, a challenge of who is having it harder – or who is hurting more because of the way they lost their loved one – is not.
There are a lot of grief articles out there that discuss the difficulties of caregiving or losing a loved one to long term illness like cancer, and while this writing will not answer the question of what’s harder it will ask…is it different? And the answer is: absolutely.

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Losing Focus: Lacking Concentration in Grief

Losing Focus“I feel like I’m going crazy…” It’s a phrase I have heard from so many grievers. It can be just this feeling that brings someone to a support group after the loss of a loved one. There are many signs and symptoms of early acute grief, but losing focus and lacking concentration in grief may very well be one of the most frustrating.

Why? Because we need to pay attention. To be productive at work, to remember the things on our to do list, to feel a part of what is happening in the world around us, we need to be able to concentrate and focus.

Prior to our loss we were doing this all day and every day, multi-tasking at home and at work. If we were lucky, we could remember every birthday and every special occasion. We not only managed our lives but had the ability to check in on the lives of those closest to us as well.

And then it happened. However it happened, whenever it happened- whether we had time to prepare or no time at all – our loved one died and suddenly everything around us changed. Including ourselves.

So just how much of an impact does losing focus have and is there anything we can do to feel better now?

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5 Things NOT to Say to Someone Who is Grieving

 

Only 5 you may be thinking? Because if you ask anyone who has recently lost a loved one, what are five things they’ve heard that have been unhelpful, misguided or just downright hurtful you’d find they could probably give you a hundred. 

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Here are 5 things NOT to say to someone who is grieving:

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Dating After the Loss of a Spouse

Dating After the Loss of a SpouseIf there is one issue that can create division, and even anger, in a room full of widows and widowers, it’s the topic of dating after the loss of a spouse. Of all the subjects in all the groups that I’ve ever facilitated, this may be the most controversial.

For some, just the mention of dating again can cause such a negative and visceral reaction -I’ve seen grievers walk out of presentations where this topic was only one small part of the conversation.

But why the strong reaction? Does it a feel like a sense of betrayal to the deceased? Or of being rushed into something we’re not ready for? Is just the thought of having to start over, to put ourselves out there just too overwhelming or too exhausting? Is it that the endeavor seems worthless as there will simply never EVER be someone as perfect for us as the partner we lost?

And is it fair that a griever has to cope with this tremendous grief while also answering questions from family and friends about whether they plan to date again? Or is it fair that a griever may face judgement from those who think that they aren’t ready to date or believe they shouldn’t?

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10 Things Only a Griever Understands

griever understandsI once met a woman who used the word “civilians” to describe those who had not experienced the significant loss of a loved one. The griever, she said, has been in the trenches, endured the battle up close…has seen and heard things that can’t be unseen or unheard and often suffers from the post trauma stress that can haunt long after a loss. For me the analogy worked, and it’s one I come back to often when explaining to a bereavement group that there’s certain things only a griever understands.

It’s also what I find brings so many people to seek help outside of their circle of family and friends. Perhaps in the past we would turn to the ones who know us best when struggling with the trials and challenges of life. But everything changes after a significant loss, and especially in the early days, there is no change more evident than in the griever themselves.

Maybe this is why the bereaved seek out others who have not only had a loss, but who have experienced a loss similar to their own. At a time when there is so much uncertainty and so few things that make sense, there is an opportunity for support, validation, and camaraderie when grievers make connections and feel understood.

Everything that connected us to our network before – our shared interests, hobbies, beliefs, or even the bonds of time and relationship – will not seem to matter as much in loss. The griever wants to talk with those who get it. Because while so much of this experience is foreign to the griever, it may seem even stranger still to the “civlian”.

With that in mind, here are 10 things only the griever understands:

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