Various Sources of Help in Handling Grief

Vijai P. Sharma, Ph.D. Clinical Psychologist

Use what your faith and religious organization has to offer.  A lot of churches offer grief counseling and grief support groups.  A lot of funeral homes organize grief related talks and meetings.  There may be pastoral counselors affiliated with your religious organization.  The idea is to get out and go to places where sharing of grief is appropriate and permitted.  

Write a letter to your loved one.  There is a whole range of feelings you are feeling towards your loved one.  On different occasions and at different times of the day, there may be a whole flurry of thoughts about the deceased one.  Write a long letter to your loved one "to get it all out on the paper".  Some survivors maintain a "continuing letter" in which they keep writing whenever they feel the urge to communicate something to their loved one.  

Work on a "This is your life" type of memoirs collection and make a permanent record of the life of your loved one.  Act on this suggestion only if you feel the need for having a record out there in some concrete form.  To do so is absolutely gratifying for some but others like to just keep a "mental record" of the memories.  This may take the form of pictures and memorabilia in an album with brief notes from you, stating what you and your loved one said or felt about those events.  It could also be a "cut and paste" type of video from the previous films you may have.  On the visual material, some superimpose comments from the previous audio tapes.  Some like to write a biography of their loved one in the form of a book.  I have heard of an author who is making a living on providing such a service.  She interviews family and friends, collects the important material of the lost person's life, and write it in the style of a novel or a short story.  

Do something in the memory of the person, provided that this is your interest, such as, planting a tree, redoing the yard, working on a favorite project of your loved one, etc..  Some complete what their loved one started.  Do small things.  Don't take major decisions. 

Help others:  Volunteer your time in the service of others.  There are a lot of people, old, young, handicapped, or orphaned, who are in need of dire assistance.  Think that some of those people are perhaps in greater pain and misery than you are.  Attending to them will provide you a healthy diversion from your hurt.  
Take corrective action instead of passive regrets  If you feel bad for something you were not able to do or had done something for which you feel guilty, don't brood over it.  Take an action to repair your guilt, such as, assisting people, doing volunteer work, or working on a particular problem that has troubled you in the past.  

Do not try to bury your grief in alcohol and other drugs.  Unfortunately, a lot of people try to drown their grief in substance abuse and fail.  Of course, I only see the people who led themselves astray on the chemical route, but I doubt, if in the long term, it ever works for anyone.  People start using alcohol or other drugs after the loss because it helps them to sleep in the night and dulls their emotions.  Soon they have to increase the use of the substance to get the same amount of sleep, and before they know it they are also using it to calm their nerves during the day time.  Then they end up with two problems, the unresolved grief which is still sitting there perhaps worse than before, and the negative impact on the rest of their life due to their dependence on chemicals.  Alcohol and other drugs, as you know, are perfectly capable of ruining health, finances, employment, and often of dismantling a family.  

Look after your health.  Grief can have physical ill effects.  Grief and loneliness combined increase the chances of illness.  The immunity system, that is, the body's defense against germs, bacteria, viruses and other foreign invaders, is weakened during grief and sorrow.  So take care of yourself.  Do not neglect your health check ups.  If you notice a physical problem, follow it up.  Do not postpone it for later, saying, "I don't feel like going anywhere just now."  You need your health to meet the incoming challenges.  

Seek professional evaluation and counseling if you feel you are unable to deal with your grief.  The professional help is not always to put an end to grieving, sometimes, the counseling is just to help a person to grieve properly.  Sometimes, to come to terms with the loss and to move forward with our lives, we need that extra push.  

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Copyright 1996, Mind Publications 


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