Losing a Loved One: Helpful Tips and Rituals
So far (read previous posts here) we have identified some specific reactions to your loss, secondary and prior losses and looked at various feelings which are individual to you at this time. Don’t expect these feelings to disappear overnight. Below are some helpful tips that you might like to consider:
- Look after yourself. You may be experiencing some physical reactions as a result of your loss such as sleep problems, losing weight or lack of concentration. Pay attention to these reactions and visit your GP if they persist.
- Recognise that each day will be different and so will your moods. Enjoy laughter when it comes and surround yourself with people you enjoy and who make you laugh. It’s OK to cry too. Sometimes people hold their emotions inside, thinking it wrong to show them outwardly. If tears don’t come naturally, try encouraging them with photo albums and favourite songs.
- Start writing a journal of your feelings and emotions. Writing is one of the most common therapeutic tools used because it helps to get rid of unwanted feelings.
- Don’t try to get through this time alone. Surround yourself with positive people and seek the support of a counsellor if required. Join support groups with others who are experiencing similar losses.
- Do something physically active every day, even if it’s just taking a short walk.
- Don’t make major life changes. Hold off making any major decisions such as moving, remarrying, changing jobs or having another child. You should give yourself time to adjust to your loss.
- Write to your doctor, nurse or support person and tell them how helpful they were.
- Spend time with yourself and take time to relax. Take care of your health. Maintain regular contact with your doctor and be sure to eat well.
- Be aware of the danger of developing a dependence on alcohol or medication to deal with your grief.
- Be patient. It can take months or even years to deal with your loss and accept the changes associated with losing your loved one.
- Seek outside assistance when necessary. If your grief seems like it is too much to bear, seek professional assistance to help work it through. It is a sign of strength not weakness, to seek help.
Remember the timeline exercise we did earlier, and the various rituals that Sue adopted in order to cope with her losses. Rituals provide us with opportunities to engage in behaviours that connect us with people we love, despite their absence. They are specifically designed actions, either physical or mental, which are used individually and provide inner peace from what was causing us pain.
Certain days can be particularly painful after the death of a loved one. These include birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas, Valentine’s Day and the anniversary of the death itself. Confronting these days, rather than avoiding them, is the best way to handle them.
The use of a ritual can not only acknowledge the day, but reconnect us with our loved one with fond memories and symbolic connections. When planning rituals, pay attention to particularly significant places, events and things which meant a great deal to the deceased and yourself. Below is a list of ideas for rituals which you may like to use.
- Plant a flower or tree in memory of your loved one
- Look through photo albums regularly
- Light a particular candle in memory of your loved one
- Wear an item of clothing / jewellery that your loved one bought for you
- Enjoy a meal which was your loved one’s favourite
- Have lunch or dinner with friends at your loved one’s favourite restaurant
- Read and re-read cards given to you by your loved one
- Read poetry which reminds you of your loved one
- Travel to places you have been to together
- Watch movies that you enjoyed together
- Toast your loved one on anniversaries and birthdays
- Play music that your loved one enjoyed
- Wear perfume that your loved one liked you to wear
- Keep a journal
- Volunteer for an organisation in memory of your loved one
- Donate money to research illness that caused the death of your loved one
- Visit the burial place
- Send balloons into the sky on the anniversary of the death of your loved one