When you lose someone you love it is often difficult to allow yourself the time to grieve. Psychologist Glenn Graves looks at how we may get through one of life’s most stressful events in a way that’s healthy for all the family.
The loss of a loved one is a traumatic experience. How can people cope and still function in their everyday lives – such as going to work or looking after kids?
Self-care is essential. Lots of sleep and eating a proper diet will help the overall grieving process. Grieving people can pre-arrange scheduled talks with friends and resources that can help them spiritually through this transition. Knowing they have a plan to meet with a friend or have a listening ear can help them through the rigour of normal duties.
There is no set time, but the process is made shorter by not taking short cuts. Grieving is a process and it needs to be fully expressed. I often encourage my clients to grieve and not turn away from the loss or pretend it did not happen. In fact I ask clients to make a list of the losses. For example, someone may say, “I lost my best friend and companion.” But they may also list secondary losses: “Because I lost this person, I will no longer visit places I associate with them.” This helps people to articulate and understand their loss.
Different cultures handle grief in different ways – some are very expressive, others tend to bottle up emotions. In your experience, are there ‘pros and cons’ to different coping mechanisms?
I think each person and each culture are unique. The person suffering a loss should find what they feel is most comfortable and appropriate. Just because others are celebrating the life of your partner doesn’t mean you can’t cry and spend time alone. But I do believe that all cultures have some symbolic way of recognising the letting go of a lost one. Some people might want to write a letter to the lost loved one or plant a tree in the person’s favourite meadow or park.
How can you help family members get through the grieving process when you are struggling with your own?
I believe it’s important for family members to grieve together. This should include the children. It’s a natural tendency to want to protect people from pain but this only delays their grief and can be confusing. This is especially true for children who can see their family is upset but may be sent away to avoid the chaos. I believe it’s better to stay together and support one another. Also, don’t encourage a person to stop crying. This only delays their grieving process.
Glenn’s key tips to help families cope with stress and grief
Glenn holds a Masters Degree in Psychology and a Bachelor of Arts in Human Development. He also has a certificate in Intermediate Training in Ericksonian Psychotherapy and Hypnosis from the Milton H. Erickson Foundation. Having lived in Asia for the past 12 years, Glenn has counselled individuals and families on a variety of issues, including anger management, marital conflicts, divorce and grief.
Find out more at http://www.counselingperspective.com/.