No one is immune from the suffering and pain that accompanies the death of a loved one. The resulting grievance is riddled with ups and downs that sow confusion and stir up deep emotional feelings.
Over time, many bereaved often experience normal reactive depression. This is a common response when someone we love is gone or something we love has been taken from us. It often presents with insomnia, a sense of hopelessness, a feeling that nothing can be done to change the condition, and thoughts that life is not worth living.
However, much can be done if you shift your focus from hopelessness and helplessness to the power inherent in what you can influence and control. You can’t control the past. Unable to control slow change. You can control how you respond to the present and plan for the future. What can you control to stop the downward spiral when it starts to grow? Here are seven things to consider, any one of which can break the back of reactive sadness and depression, and begin to ease the deep pain of loss.
1. You control the empowerment of choice. Adjusting to the death of a loved one or any other significant loss depends on the decisions you make. And there are always many choices that need to be made on a daily basis. No one can take away your options. Will he be determined to get over his loss and reinvest in life or live in the past? That is an important choice at the beginning. Will you choose to interact with others, perhaps in a support group or at least with caring friends, or will you isolate yourself? You need the ears of others to talk about your depression. Never forget the power you have to decide which direction to take.
2. You control your commitment to self-care. Remember that the old you is gone. You will never be your old self again. That is what makes us a great loss. It’s a new you with new routines and new ways of seeing the world and your place in it. You must feed that growth. In the absence of the companionship and emotional support of a loved one, it is essential to pay close attention to how you meet the need to be nurtured. That’s part of your new routine. Treat yourself with great respect and care. Eat healthy. To walk. Take a daily break from stress. Give yourself a break from sadness.
3. You control how you structure and organize your time. Having a plan for each day, especially special days that you know will be difficult, such as birthdays and anniversaries, is essential to the task of preventing additional and unnecessary suffering and depression. Lee Iacocca, the American industrialist, said, “The discipline of writing something is the first step to making it happen.” You can eliminate unnecessary suffering by thinking ahead and seeking wise counsel. Only you control what you do with each hour of the day.
4. You control the depth and meaning of your spiritual life. There is growing scientific evidence that having a strong spiritual life is associated with good health and longevity. It can especially help you deal with the loss of a loved one. You can control how you build your faith in a power greater than yourself and seek the support that power provides. As part of your daily plan, include spiritual practices of prayer and meditation. Practice daily gratitude. Ask for a sign that your loved one is well in the afterlife. Find others who share similar spiritual beliefs as part of your support network. It will help you adjust to a different environment and a new you.
5. You control how you use your money and schedule nice events. Learning to cope on your own also means controlling how you spend your money to include enjoyable events. Again, indulging without feeling guilty is part of recovery and adjustment. Make a list of the things you like to do and use them as a way to balance your day or to focus your attention away from dwelling only on sad events. Keep your list handy and add to it as you remember or discover new activities that allow you to reinvest in life. Use it as one of your lifesavers.
6. You control who you choose to strengthen old friendships or start new ones. These are also some of the people who will be part of your support team as you do your grievance work and make the changes your new life without your loved one demands. Always look for positive people to add to your social network. Reduce contact with those who are negative and toxic until you are stronger. Good solid friendships are just as important as any medicine or vitamin you might take. Take special care to build strong interpersonal relationships.
7. You control the attitude you will foster. Life is your attitude (think about it). Thoughts and beliefs, which are choices you make, are the building blocks of attitude. You can reshape your attitude, thoughts, and beliefs to deal with any situation that brings inevitable grievances into your life. Accept the lifelong need to commit to doing the things you don’t like to do in order to grow and adapt to change. Or as many life coaches say, you have to get out of your comfort zone. Attitude is everything in adapting to ongoing change.
All of the above requires time and a plan. Start small first and build on your successes. Do something first that has a high completion rate like, I’ll talk to the first three people I meet today first. Begin to develop those positive routines that will become habits and realize that only you have control over how you will adjust to your great loss.