The dos and don’ts of what to do when somebody dies

After a close friend or loved one passes away, it’s important not to forget that despite your mind being in a muddle you have to remember that you have your own needs too. You need to realise that grief affects people in various different ways. Then, once you understand how you can identify grief and the normal patterns of how it can affect people, then you can learn to cope with the emotions and feelings associated with loss. People grieve differently because people cope with things in different ways. Grieving styles can also vary among the same person but for different reasons. People would normally grieve the a child’s death differently than the death of a spouse. One way is not better or harder than the other, they are simply different. Below we have listed a few healthy coping mechanisms to dealing with grief, and a few not so healthy ones.


Keep a diary or write letters to the deceased

Expressing your feelings through writing can be very therapeutic for people experiencing grief and allows you to express your feelings in healthy way. It is perfectly ok to be angry at people around you or even the person who died. Anger, sadness, frustration, anxiety, shock, relief, and even guilt are all normal feelings when you are grieving. Write a letter to your loved one who has passed to get your feelings down on paper. Nobody has to read it, so you can write whatever you want, and any feelings you may have that seem bad can be got out of your system. After you have written the letter you can either discard it or if you’re feeling brave, meet with a friend or professional to go through it together.

Do some form of creative outlet, such as music or art

Creative outlets are an effective way to express any difficult emotions. It can be used as a cathartic process that can help you heal through the process of imaginative creation. You don’t need to produce anything – it is more about the creative process rather than the end result. So you don’t need to worry about what you are drawing or painting or playing. Instead,channelling your feelings through drawing, painting, or writing, in order to help you examine and overcome your feelings and emotions is the point of this exercise.

Do reading

The best thing to do when faced with something you are struggling to cope with is to research. Educating yourself about grief and reading about other people’s experiences is a great way of normalising your feelings. Reading about how others have coped can help what you are going through. It also helps you feel less isolated and that everyone at one point or another in life will experience the loss of a loved one.  You can visit your local library and find lots of books about grief and helping you deal with bereavement.

Do physical activity

Exercise, even if it is just walking, is good for the body and mind. A change of scenery, coupled with getting moving, provides increased energy and helps you ponder your problems from a different perspective. If you are not able to exercise, try deep breathing exercises which can also help relax the body and mind.

Do memory projects

You’ve seen them before, beautiful shrines dedicated to dead people, and you can do the same. Consider creating something that will remind you of the person you have lost. You could make a memory box that contains some of your loved one’s possessions, along with special items that remind you of them. Include things like pictures, significant items that induce memories of happiness, jewellery, and anything that will help you remember the person who died. Creating memory boxes is fine for people of all ages, it’s not just a child’s project, however children may get the most enjoyment out of this task.

Do attend support groups

It doesn’t hurt to try out a support group, and if you don’t like the atmosphere at one you can always try another. Participating in support groups is important so you can remain social and gain understanding and tools to adapt. To find a local group, you can search online or ask your friends and family. Sometimes local places of worship or community centers have these types of bereavement support groups.

Do get bereavement counselling and therapy

Individual bereavement counselling and therapy offers the opportunity to share your feelings and begin the healing process. Counselling and therapy also helps you realise that you are not alone in your journey and educates you on what you can expect while grieving. Seek out a professionally licensed mental health provider that specialises in grief. You can contact the mental health service number on the back of your health insurance card and ask them for at least three counsellors/therapist in your area who are licensed and specialise in grief.


Do not become isolated

Often when we are sad and depressed due to a loss we want to isolate ourselves from the world. Avoiding the world and your emotions will only delay your grief. It is important to take some time to be alone, but to also make an effort to socialize and leave the house.

Do not become inactive

Sometimes when we are grieving we do not want to get off the coach or we forget to take care of ourselves. Now is the most important time to care for yourself both physically and emotionally. Get out of the house and walk around your block or local park by yourself or with a friend, or even just go for a scenic drive. And if you can’t muster up the energy to leave the house, try doing some yoga at home by yourself or stretching exercises at home by yourself.

Do not keep emotions bottled up

At times we may find ourselves hiding our true emotions because we do not want others to see we are upset. It is important to let yourself cry if you feel the urge. It is also important to demonstrate to children that it is okay to cry when you are sad and grieving. Sometimes you may need to cry with children and that is okay.

Do not turn to drugs or alcohol

It is very important to remember drugs and alcohol are dangerous but especially while grieving. Even if you are a casual drinker remember alcohol is a depressant and therefore can make you sadder. It is normal to have sleep and appetite disturbances when you grieve. Remember to contact your physician first before taking medication on your own to help with these issues.

Do not make any major changes within the first year

Because you are grieving your mind is not as sharp and focused as it could be. Therefore, it is important to allow yourself time to grieve before you make any massive life changes  if you can help it. Oftentimes we can make impulsive decisions that we would not typically make when we are grieving because we are mixing up our grief reactions with other feelings.

In conclusion…

Coping techniques may help you emotionally after someone dies. Help yourself by learning to identify what normal grief reactions are and then utilise the coping techniques that best work for you. If you are continuing to struggle with grief, please consider contacting a mental health professional who specialises in grief counselling in Preston and bereavement, like Cheryl King Counselling.


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