Understand Grief: What it is, How to Cope With it and How to Help Others

By: Max Gottlieb

As Nobel laureate Thomas Mann once said, “a man’s dying is more the survivor’s affair than his own.” This is partially true—depending upon how we die and at what point in our lives. Regardless of how we die though, how should those we leave behind cope? While every situation is different, there are some basic changes that take place during the bereavement process.

Everyone processes death differently and we need to remember this. For some, once they have the knowledge their loved one is dying they subconsciously begin the grieving process in what is known as anticipatory grief. For others, they don’t accept it until the person actually dies. However people manage to grapple with it, it takes time once the person is actually gone.

In our non-stop culture, people are expected to resume their routines in mere days or weeks. This is asking too much since days or weeks are not even enough time to get over the initial shock of someone’s dying. Understand that you may need to take time off; whether that means time off work or time off from the world, both are equally valid. We need a fundamental change in the way our society deals with loss. We are just now fighting for universal maternity leave and like a birth; I would argue a death can be just as transformative and important of a life event.

While grieving, there will understandably be less time for friends, neighbors, and coworkers. This inadvertently puts distance between the person grieving and those who are not. Also, changes in priorities and goals after a death can cause you to grow apart from people in your life. Sometimes, people just don’t know what to say around someone grieving so they distance themselves without realizing it.

People need community, however, and there are options. Even if your loved one was not in hospice, you can still turn to hospice for its bereavement services. There are trained professionals who deal solely with grief. For children and teens, bereavement services are especially important. Young children sometimes blame themselves and teens fear embarrassing themselves with public showings of mourning. Children can serve as an important way to reach adults—adults may be more willing to seek help for their children than for themselves.

There are of course grief groups that can be immensely therapeutic. Many people turn to their religious leaders or current therapist, but these people, while helpful, may not be fully trained to help cope with grief. There are certified bereavement counselors who may be better equipped to help. Leaving grief untreated, however, is not wise because it can turn into pathological grief, which usually does not come to a successful conclusion.

Max Gottlieb is the content manager for Prime Medical Alert. Prime Medical Alert is a nationwide provider of affordable and reliable medical alert equipment.

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