Coping Strategies for Your Grief Journey from the Bereavement Coordinators at Saint Luke’s Hospice
Grief is a journey that doesn’t come with GPS to let you know you exactly where you are and where you should be heading. And while each person’s grief will be unique, our bereavement coordinators are available to help you maneuver through the difficult terrain ahead. We’ve created the following videos to help you better understand what you might encounter on your journey:
Understanding the Grief Journey
There is no right or wrong way to mourn your loss. The way you grieve will be uniquely your own.
Grieving Throughout the Year
Learn coping strategies to help you get through those meaningful days without your loved one.
Children and Grief
Children mourn differently than adults but still need guidance to help them process difficult emotion. We’ll help you recognize a child’s grief and help you honor their process.
Coping Strategies for Your Grief Journey
Grief is a journey, whether the loss was expected or sudden, and one that requires grieving and mourning.
- Grief is what you think and feel on the inside after someone you love and care about dies
- Mourning is the outward expression of those thoughts and feelings.
To mourn is to be an active participant in your grief journey. We all grieve when someone dies, but we must mourn if we are to heal.
The journey doesn’t come with a road map, or list of rules, yet there are suggestions for how to maneuver through your grief. “Through your grief” is a key phrase. We must walk through our grief, not around our grief.
Understand that grief has its own seasons
We talk of the five stages of grief after the death of a loved one: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. These steps don’t necessarily go in that order, nor are they set in stone. Grief is consistently inconsistent. It’s also intensely personal.
The timeline for each stage of grief varies from person to person. You may skip over a stage or two in your own personal timeline or not experience a particular stage at all. You may re-visit particular stages, and that is normal.
Remember: consistently inconsistent. Being mindful of the stages merely provides a loose outline for your brain to focus on and process throughout your journey.
People experience physical, emotional, and spiritual symptoms with grief. Physical manifestations may present as extreme fatigue, headache, nauseous feeling, insomnia, or some other malaise. Emotional symptoms may present as everything from deep sadness and a sense of “this is all so surreal” to guilt, fear, even anger.
Grief may also cause a shift in our religious or spiritual beliefs. Again, this is very normal. Knowing these symptoms can better prepare you to handle them should they surface.
Oftentimes folks will say, “Since my loved one died, I feel like I’m going crazy. I can’t remember things, things I once enjoyed I no longer do, food doesn’t take the same...” An inability to focus, difficulty in making decisions and processing information, and disorganization are all symptoms of grief brain. These changes in mental functioning are very normal. If you feel your symptoms are severe, please talk to you physician.
Give yourself permission to grieve
Oftentimes, especially in the early stages of your journey, folks report feeling “paralyzed” or stuck in their sadness. It can feel as if you are strapped in to a giant roller coaster—the old wooden rickety variety—and you have no control as you travel up and down and around and around.
It’s necessary that you take the roller coaster ride, reacting to the emotions as you feel them instead of trying to suppress the emotions or cut short the ride. Feel what you feel. Give into the sadness and pain, and allow yourself to go at your own pace. Be gentle with yourself. This is a process.
Your community of family and friends will want to help. Do not be embarrassed or too proud to let in those that want to help. It may mean they bring food, hold your hand, or mow your yard. It is okay to say what you need, even if you might feel somewhat uncomfortable asking. Your network of support is crucial, whether it be friends, family, neighbors, co-workers, a support group, or a combination of these.
Join a support group
Find a community of mutual understanding. No two people have exactly the same grief story or experience, but we do share a common thread: loss.
Groups provide a safe place to talk if you feel like it or to sit back and listen. Crying is allowed and it happens. Finding a safe group in which to share or just be is crucial. Your friends and family offer one layer of support, a support group can offer yet another layer. Plus, grievers often feel as if they are burdening or wearing out their friends and family. With a support group, their focus is to be that intentional group of supporters. Groups allow us to feel that we are not in the boat alone, that others may be experiencing a similar journey, and we can learn from one another.
Faith provides emotional solace and direction for some. Contact your religious organization or place of worship after your loss if they are not all ready aware. Meditation and prayer can be of comfort.
Many of us have been the caregiver for so long we’ve forgotten how to care for ourselves. Call your doctor and schedule a check-up. He or she will be able to also talk to you about any physical symptoms of grief that you might be experiencing. They are real, so take them seriously and take care of your health. Walk outdoors, eat nutritious foods that you enjoy, exercise in some capacity, and focus on things that bring you joy, such as travel, crafts, journaling, or watching old movies. You must remember to take care of yourself—and your soul—as you proceed on your grief journey.
Plan ahead for life events or calendar-related triggers
Certain occasions or holidays can set off a host of emotions and trigger our grief pangs. Friends and family can support you in these times. It’s ok to tell them exactly what you need or feel you can handle. If attending a funeral for someone in your circle just feels too soon, it’s okay to not go. Consider calling their family member, or send a note expressing your condolences. People will understand. If hosting Thanksgiving feels too heavy this year, ask if another family member or friend could host and you will bring dessert.
This is a time of transition. Triggers are everywhere, so thinking ahead when at all possible is so important. Talking out the calendar with someone trusted is recommended.
The journey is yours, as painful and stressful as it may be at times. Learning how to cope in this world without your loved one is not easy. You will always miss their presence and the joys they brought to your life. Taking care of yourself and finding hope for your future is a great goal in honoring their memory. Hope for a continued, full life will emerge as you are able to make commitments to your future.
Contact our bereavement coordinators
Attend a support group
Café Hope at Saint Luke’s Hospice House
3516 Summit, Kansas City, MO
Each Tuesday at 2 p.m.