Grief is a topic that people generally do not want to face. As we age, however, it becomes more prevalent than ever. Acquaintances begin to have injuries or pass away and it is startling to realize that some of them have diseases or injuries that we’ve always associated with old age. Things like knee replacements or hip injuries are the new coffee table conversation. Often people mention others that have died of a stroke or a heart attack. People in our own peer groups are dying or debilitated by illnesses at what seems to be alarmingly high rates. It is probably statistically normal for these age groups, but if you’re one of the few who have managed to live while many around you have died, it can seem overwhelming.
Each year that we grow older, it is probable that more people we love will pass away. So how can we deal with all of this grief and loss in a healthy way? How do we go on living when so many important people have gone ahead of us in death? Everyone grieves in a little different way, but there are some very common things you can do to help yourself through hard times.
- Allow your emotions. Medicine.net has identified the stages of grief as: shock, denial, bargaining, guilt, anger, depression and acceptance. Each of these stages will last for a variable amount of time depending on how you process emotions and how close you were to the person who has passed away. It is important to note, too, that another person does not need to die in order for you to grieve. If someone you care for has lost their ability to walk, or see, or if they’ve become addicted to prescription drugs, or if they are struggling with Alzheimer’s, or any number of other major life changes, you may find yourself going through the stages of grief without realizing it. Give yourself some grace, allow the emotions to roll over you and pass. You’ll have to pay attention when you’re going through the stages to be sure that you do not get stuck there. If you need help from a counselor, do not neglect getting help. Dealing with grief over the loss of many people can be terribly overwhelming and most people cannot face it without a great deal of support.
- Be sure not to isolate yourself. Grieving is a long process and it can be tempting to want to burrow in and neglect other relationships as we walk with our memories of those who have gone before. Initial grief is intense, but if you feel it’s prolonged for longer than is healthy, try this. Set aside a certain amount of time each day that you will think about those that you have lost. Then spend your other time in ways that you would have previously.
- Find ways to keep yourself busy. I am not talking about becoming a work-a-holic in order to neglect the emotions that well up inside of you…once again, allow those emotions to wash over you and pass. It is important, however, to have purpose and to look outward instead of always focusing on your feelings. If you can volunteer in various ways, do so. If you are not physically able to do volunteer work, find ways that you can help others in various ways, sew or crochet for hospitals or as baby gifts. Let others know that you’re available to repair small items that need repairs if you’re good with tools. You could repair radios, small furniture, lamps, clocks, etc.
- Nurture other relationships. You need to be sure that as you’re grieving you also find time for others who are important to you. Let them know how you’re feeling and that you may not feel up to spending tons of time together at first, but that they are an important part of your life. If you’re open about where you are emotionally, people respond well. If you try to hide the fact that you’re struggling, it can sometimes be misunderstood as evasive and they could misinterpret your inability to have an active social life as a personal affront. Set aside small increments of time to spend with them until your relationship can regain its footing.
Grief can seem like the end of the world. It can seem as if will never end. One thing is certain, though. Even if your grief lasts for a long time, it will change, it will lighten, and eventually you’ll be able to smile and recall those you love with laughter instead of intense pain. Let it happen and allow yourself to heal and to live.