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Living With Loss

The death of someone close to us is one of life's most stressful events. Coping with the changes it brings to our lives is vital to our mental health.

There are no stages of grief. Don't let anyone establish stages or time lines for you. Normal emotions you may experience:

  • Shock - numbness, disbelief
  • Sadness - feelings of being overwhelmed
  • Panic - fear of the future, uncertainty
  • Loneliness - emptiness, feeling displaced
  • Anger - due to lack of support, inadequate medical care, with the deceased for leaving you
  • Confusion - memory loss, inability to concentrate
  • Guilt - things you wished you had said or done
  • Loss - dreams, finality
  • Relief - death after an illness
  • Thankfulness - gratitude for having that person in your life

Coping Mechanisms:

  • Give yourself permission to grieve and accept the reality of your loss. In other words, allow yourself to cry, get angry, sleep, eat, or whatever you need to do without going to the extreme.
  • Be patient with the process - there is no 'normal' time line for feeling better.
  • Get plenty of rest - your body needs this to recover from the stress.
  • Reach out for help - don't be afraid to ask for support through your other family members, friends, your doctor, clergy, funeral director, and counsellor (group support).
  • Let your beliefs sustain you at this time.
  • Remember the love and allow it to comfort you for the rest of your life. J. Kennedy Sayner for OFSA (2006). Living Through Grief. Etobicoke, ON, Canada.

How To Support Someone Who Is Grieving

It is difficult to become part of another person's grieving process unless you are invited to become involved. You should also understand that you too may feel guilty or helpless when faced with the inevitability of death, or feel there is little you can do to comfort the bereaved person. This is a natural feeling.

There are definite ways that you can help during the different stages of grief:

  • Be a supporter: you are there to be leaned upon.
  • Help with practical things - meals, funeral details, assisting with the many confusing tasks that follow death.
  • Be a good listener.
  • If the grieving person doesn't feel like talking, you can still offer comfort and support in silence.
  • People need to talk about their loss.
  • Accept your friend's need to vent emotions and repeat stories about his/her loved one.
  • Be a friend.
  • Encourage involvement in life affirming activities, i.e. social, hobbies or special interest groups.
  • Few people can cope alone with the pain of bereavement.
  • They need to talk about their loss and share their pain. This is a normal part of the grieving process.
  • However, if reactions become extreme, encourage professional help, and provide the support necessary to assist the bereaved to take this step toward help.