Losing a Loved One: Strategies to Cope
Whether the loss of your loved one was sudden or expected, the grief associated with the loss hurts. Sometimes we put ourselves through unnecessary pain by wishing for things like a better relationship or more time with the deceased, or the opportunity to say things we didn’t say when we were with the person.
This is particularly common where sudden and unexpected deaths occur. The important thing to remember is that our loved one loved us for who we are and the person we were in the relationship.
Many people enjoy journal writing as a therapeutic and healing tool when grieving. Writing our feelings does not always come easy; however, once you start you will soon learn the benefits of getting words down and completely out of your system. Your journal can be a way of letting out your feelings throughout this sad time, or it can be used to communicate things you wished you had said to the deceased.
Every time you identify feelings such as anger, fear or sadness, go to your journal and write. After each entry, your feelings will have a lesser impact on your daily life. For example, if you are feeling angry and are able to write about that anger and what made you angry in the first place, you are less likely to behave angrily toward those who do not deserve that anger.
Keeping a journal can also be suggested to children in order to help them grieve. Keep in mind that losing a loved one does not end the relationship, but changes it. For this reason, children can use their journal for all the same reasons above, but also to remember their loved one and relay messages they feel are important.
Below is a template of headings which are designed to help get you started with your journal writing. We suggest that you print this page and cut out the headings individually. Paste whichever headings you feel you would like to write about into your special journal and feel free to create your own.
GREAT TIMES TOGETHER
OUR PRIVATE JOKES
YOUR FUNNY WAYS
THINGS I ADMIRE ABOUT YOU
THINGS I LEARNT FROM YOU
WHAT I LOVE ABOUT YOU
THINGS YOU ANNOYED ME WITH
OUR PRIVATE SECRETS
THINGS I NEVER TOLD YOU
THINGS I’D LIKE TO TELL YOU
Thought stopping is a process of interrupting obsessive thoughts as a means of blocking them from one’s consciousness. It works much like when a child puts their hands over their ears and sings loudly to block out what they do not want to hear. It can also act as a way of deliberately turning negative cues into positive ones. Below are three thought stopping techniques for you to practice.
Thought replacement: When an unwanted thought enters, immediately replace the thought with a healthy, rational one.
Yelling “stop”: When the unwanted thought enters, immediately yell “STOP”. The yell can either be out loud or in the mind. Continue yelling STOP until the unwanted thought goes away.
Visual image: If you tend to visualise negative images, replace that image with something positive and healthy. Now let’s see if this technique works for you. Allow yourself to think or see a negative thought or vision. This could be imagining your loved one in pain or emotionally depressed on hearing about their illness. Depending on whether this thought occurs visually or cognitively (thinking only), consciously replace it with an image or thought that automatically brings a smile to your face. For example, if you were to think repeatedly about this event or vision, learn to automatically replace it with a “snap-shot” of your loved one when they were in perfect health.
Some of us find getting to sleep or relaxing extremely challenging after the loss of a loved one. However it is vitally important to take care of yourself during the grieving process. There are numerous relaxation techniques readily available from bookstores and internet sites but we will go through an easy to remember technique useful for people finding it hard to get to sleep.
- Make sure your clothing is comfortable and lie in a straight position.
- Tighten the muscles in your toes, and hold for a count of 10.
- Relax your toes and enjoy the sensation of releasing the tension from them.
- Flex the muscles in your feet, and hold for a count of 10.
- Relax your feet.
- Continue to flex and relax each muscle group as you move slowly up through your entire body, eg your legs, abdomen, back, arms, neck and face.
- Breathe slowly and deeply, and sleep will come.