Grief eventually touches everyone’s life. Maybe you have suffered a recent loss that is immensely fresh and painful. Perhaps you are not currently in the midst of waves of panic stricken grief, but someone you know is. Or maybe you have past losses that have been pushed aside, swept under the rug so to speak. Well, this article and the resources listed below are for you.
No Apologies Necessary
Grief and the emotions associated with it do not warrant an apology. So, stop apologizing. Grief has no expiration date and is individual for everyone. No two people will experience grief in the same way, so stop comparing. When people ask what they can do for you, give them a job. Often those on the outside of your grief will want to do something to help, let them. Food is the most common way others want to help, and it definitely serves a purpose. Other helpful suggestions might be mowing the lawn/snow removal, supplying pet food/supplies, housekeeping, laundry, or help finishing a large project that is now postponed due to the death. Disposing of wilting flower arrangements left over from funeral services is another painful task that can be delegated out. Sometimes just coffee and talk time is what your lonely heart needs most. Remember, you’re a changed person now, you’ll grieve the loss of your loved one as well as the person you used to be. Grief is exhausting, you don’t need to apologize for being tired.
Remembering Your Loved One
Carrying on the legacy of the person you love can be exhausting too, but establishing meaningful traditions can promote positive coping and aid in healing. Consider lighting a candle at holidays to honor the deceased. Having a memorial table at a wedding or graduation to pay homage. Saying the deceased’s name and not making it “off limits” in your home, and with family and friends. Decorate graves as the season changes. Do acts of kindness to celebrate your loved ones birthday and honor their death anniversary, this puts purpose and action to your emotions. Share memories frequently, such as when eating a favorite meal, visiting a favorite spot, or enjoying a favorite activity of the deceased. It can be healthy to imagine your departed loved one being proud when a milestone is accomplished, or joking about a funny scenario.
Explaining Death To Children
Often we want to shield children from the pain of death and loss. Don’t. Usually a child’s first experience with death is with a pet or elderly relative. When children grow up knowing grief is part of life, they may display a heightened level of compassion and increased comfort with emotions. It’s important to only give kids the information they are asking for, don’t try and push feelings or sadness on them. Phrases that directly explain what has happened, like “their body stopped working” seem to be most effective. Be truthful and to the point. Avoid associating death with sleep, that is what nightmares are made of. Literally. Sometimes kids display magical thinking, where they blame themselves for the death. For example: “Grandma died because I wasn’t a good boy.” Kids may ask about when they will die or when other people in their life may die. This presents an opportunity to discuss common causes of death: illness, injury, and age. Discuss how every living thing has a lifetime and that the child is not responsible for the death. Coloring pictures, talking, making cards, and planting flowers can be good coping mechanisms for children to use. If they tend to be avoidant or frequently distracted, that is completely normal, just give them space to process the loss.
Moving Forward? Or Just Marching In Place?
It might feel like the calendar is moving on without you as you're figuring out your “new normal.” Or, you might be watching a friend or family member struggling with grief to the point of anxiety, depression, and social phobias. I’m here to tell you that there is beauty amidst the pain and that there are resources available. While no one can grieve for you, a support group can provide community, mental health services can help with resulting depression, and therapy can help with reestablishing coping mechanisms and processing trauma. Other healthcare providers can assist you on your journey too by ensuring your lab work, hormones, and gut health are in balance.
Here at Integrative Family Medicine, we have two mental health providers on staff: Dr Danielle Fitch (West Des Moines and Ankeny offices) and Dr Justin Janss (Sacred Health office). New patient appointments with them may be booked from our website. Unsure which provider might be the best fit for your situation? Email us: firstname.lastname@example.org
Local Community Resources
The Compassionate Friends, a support group for individuals who have experienced the death of a child, at any age, from any cause. Typically provides support to Parents, Grandparents, Adult Siblings (children welcome at special events), Aunts and Uncles. https://www.compassionatefriends.org/chapter/central-iowa-chapter/
Amanda The Panda, offers support groups and camps for adults and children. Some of the sessions are topical. Childcare is available upon request. Fill out an interest form so staff can assist you in finding services to best meet your needs. https://www.everystep.org/services/grief-loss/registration
Hamilton’s Academy of Grief and Loss, Hamilton’s Funeral Home offers many services to children and adults. Children’s classes are available for children age 3 ½ thru 6th grade. Older children can attend adult sessions. Resources for pet death are also available. https://www.hamiltonsfuneralhome.com/academy/index.aspx?t=support
Grief Share, weekly support group meetings on a 13 week rotation of topics. The meetings consist of seminar, group discussion, and personal study. Offered at multiple locations (usually churches and virtual) and many different days of the week. Visit their website to find a meeting near you. https://www.griefshare.org/findagroup
Are there additional resources you’ve found helpful? Please share them in the comments section.
Sara Lynn, RN BSN
“If you don’t invest in your health, no one else will.”