How much should others help? The answer depends on the individual griever. Encourage the griever to tell you what they need right NOW. Be aware the griever’s needs may change hour to hour. Be patient. Some grievers want someone else to come into their lives and take over because they are too despondent to cope. Other grievers may need to engage in some daily normal routine without the assistance of anyone else.
Routines or Not
Realize mundane tasks can help some grievers recover control while others may need to “shut-down” from any agenda. Respect the griever’s need. For me, some routine reinforced the feeling of control over something in my life. Restoring equilibrium means doing simple tasks – not adding new responsibilities. Whatever routine the griever previously engaged in can help to re-establish emotional balance. However, other grievers may feel completely incapacitated and unable to engage in any former routine. That is OK too. In later months, I needed to escape from routines, agendas and deadlines. Reassure the griever that either is OK.
Caution: People mistakenly advise grievers to except extra responsibility so the griever “won’t think about it.” In my experience, extra responsibility saps a griever’s precious energy. Avoiding grief doesn’t make it go away or easier to deal with – avoidance only delays the inevitable. Unresolved grief eventually surfaces.
Be Aware of Physical Manifestations
Grief isn’t just an emotional issue. Grief manifests physically too. Converting our emotional distress into physical illness is called somatization. This differs from hypochondriasis – intentionally feigning illness as an avoidance tactic. Somatization illnesses are real and include disrupted sleep patterns, migraine headaches, shingles, increased colds and flu, stomach/digestive problems, and hair loss. Recovering control of the body will assist the griever with their emotions. Remind the griever to eat well and get some moderate exercise.
Be Prepared for Emotional Bankruptcy
Grievers are emotionally bankrupt. Some common emotions include
- low-frustration tolerance
- inability to make decisions
- mental confusion
- an overwhelmed feeling
- displaced anger
Because of this mental haze, I recommend postponing big decisions for at least 12 months. Stress disrupts brain chemistry. If the griever experiences on-going clinical depression, drug therapy may be beneficial. Drugs today are significantly improved from even a few years ago.
Anticipate Trigger Events
Trigger events may include the loved one’s birthday, death date and special anniversaries. Less obvious trigger events can encompass movies, certain music, a quite walk, or a stranger who resembles their loved one. Unfortunately, grievers will not always know what will trigger pain.
Trigger events can be agonizing. Help them mentally prepare for approaching events by discussing realistic tactics on what they can do to minimize their pain. Help them devise an escape plan and/or coping strategy. Preparing for trigger events assists grievers in recovering some emotional equilibrium.
Self-nurturing facilitates healing. Give the griever permission to be extravagant without feeling guilty. Grievers hurt so much; their despair seems endless. Happiness seems unattainable. Some people have a changed libido, appetite, alcohol consumption, spending habit, or combination. Encourage self-soothing activities, provided the activity is not destructive to self, someone else, or property.