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The death of a loved one is a very stressful event that affects not only your emotional well-being but also your physical health. Keeping yourself healthy during this time is vital. If you are physically healthy, you will have more resources to deal with your grief.
To help you pay attention to your well-being, we recommend that you:
In the weeks and months ahead, it's important to carve out time to grieve on a regular basis, otherwise your busy schedule can push grief into the background. Even though you may be reluctant to do this, scheduling grief time can help you feel more in control of your grief and less overwhelmed. One suggestion is to begin by setting aside 20 or 30 minutes every day when you won't be disturbed. Pause for a moment and think about your loved one.
The following tips may give you some ideas about what to do in your "grief time":
There will likely be many decisions to make after the death of your loved one. Some decisions will concern finalizing their affairs and sorting through belongings whereas others will concern your grief and building a new life for yourself.
Decisions that often cause people distress include:
When grief is new, it's harder to think clearly about things because there is so much emotion involved. A general rule of thumb is to avoid making major decisions in the first year, especially if those decisions are irreversible, because you are more likely to make a decision that you might regret.
If you're facing a decision, write a list of the positives and negatives for the different options you are considering. Focus on the consequences of whatever decision you are entertaining, and ask yourself: Can I live with the consequences?
By the time the first anniversary of your loved one's death comes around, you most likely will have dealt with many other 'firsts,' such as birthdays, holidays and other significant dates. For many people, anticipating the first anniversary is particularly difficult as it not only highlights their loved one's absence, but marks the passage of time.
It is helpful to remember the wave-like pattern of grief, where the waves are likely to increase in size as the first anniversary approaches. Many people find that they replay over and over the events of the year before that lead up to the day their loved one died. It's not unusual to think, "This time last year we were doing…" or "This time last year we had just found out this news." Often it feels as though you're getting worse again, but this is a normal part of grief.
The best advice for dealing with the first anniversary is to make a plan. This helps you prepare for the day before it arrives, which increases your sense of control. If the first anniversary is approaching, think about the following questions:
If you are having trouble deciding about what you could do, think about the favorite places you shared and ask yourself, what would my loved one suggest if he or she were here now?
When someone special in your life dies, it's important to work out how to maintain a connection with them. Often people worry that they will forget the sound of their loved one's voice, their face or smell. These are all normal fears and working out how to maintain a connection with that special person based on memory is the key.
The aim of working through your grief isn't to forget your loved one but to learn how to continue living without them physically present in your life. The following questions can help you think about how to develop a new connection with your loved one.
Technology is a great way to maintain a connection especially for those families with young children. Creating picture and story books are great ways for children to learn more about their parents, grandparents or other friends and relatives who have died. Update any home movies to DVDs and if you have saved voicemails, find someone who can transfer these recordings to a safe storage device.
You could also:
The holidays can be very difficult after the death of a loved one because what were once happy times may now fill you with sadness and dread. How soon after the death of your loved one they fall will most likely influence your decision about how much you want to participate in them. There might also be differing opinions in the family as to how to spend them, which can complicate things.
The same guidelines about facing the first anniversary apply here. The best strategy to deal with the holidays is to make a holiday plan:
If someone you care about is grieving, there are simple things you can do to help them get through this difficult time. Some will be easier to do than others, depending on your relationship with the deceased.
Learn more about the Bereavement Support Program at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women's Cancer Center.