A Womans Guide to Living Alone: 10 Ways to Survive Grief and Be Happy

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The most important thing you can do for a grieving person is to simply be there. There is no right or wrong way to grieve.

Grief does not always unfold in orderly, predictable stages. It can be an emotional rollercoaster, with unpredictable highs, lows, and setbacks. Grief may involve extreme emotions and behaviors. Feelings of guilt, anger, despair, and fear are common. A grieving person may yell to the heavens, obsess about the death, lash out at loved ones, or cry for hours on end.

Your loved one needs reassurance that what they feel is normal. There is no set timetable for grieving. For many people, recovery after bereavement takes 18 to 24 months, but for others, the grieving process may be longer or shorter. This can actually slow the healing process. Oftentimes, well-meaning people avoid talking about the death or change the subject when the deceased person is mentioned.

One day they may want to cry on your shoulder, on another day they may want to vent, or sit in silence, or share memories. By being present and listening compassionately, you can take your cues from the grieving person.

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Simply being there and listening to them can be a huge source of comfort and healing. And when it seems appropriate, ask sensitive questions—without being nosy—that invite the grieving person to openly express their feelings. Acknowledge the situation. Express your concern. Let the bereaved talk about how their loved one died.

People who are grieving may need to tell the story over and over again, sometimes in minute detail. Be patient. Repeating the story is a way of processing and accepting the death. With each retelling, the pain lessens.

Helping Someone Who’s Grieving

Ask how your loved one feels. Remember, though, that grief is an intensely individual experience. Grief is a highly emotional experience, so the bereaved need to feel free to express their feelings—no matter how irrational—without fear of judgment, argument, or criticism.

Be genuine in your communication. Be willing to sit in silence. Often, comfort for them comes from simply being in your company.

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Offer your support. Ask what you can do for the grieving person. Offer to help with a specific task, such as helping with funeral arrangements, or just be there to hang out with or as a shoulder to cry on. Nobody told me about any plan. Keep your beliefs to yourself unless asked. Besides, moving on is much easier said than done. Grief has a mind of its own and works at its own pace. It is difficult for many grieving people to ask for help. They might feel guilty about receiving so much attention, fear being a burden to others, or simply be too depressed to reach out. What can I bring you from there?

When can I come by and bring you some? Your loved one will continue grieving long after the funeral is over and the cards and flowers have stopped.


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The length of the grieving process varies from person to person, but often lasts much longer than most people expect. Your bereaved friend or family member may need your support for months or even years.

How to Process Your Emotions

Continue your support over the long haul. Stay in touch with the grieving person, periodically checking in, dropping by, or sending letters or cards. Once the funeral is over and the other mourners are gone, and the initial shock of the loss has worn off, your support is more valuable than ever. The pain of bereavement may never fully heal. Be sensitive to the fact that life may never feel the same. The bereaved person may learn to accept the loss.

The pain may lessen in intensity over time, but the sadness may never completely go away. Offer extra support on special days. Certain times and days of the year will be particularly hard for your grieving friend or family member. Grief affects people in different ways. There are a few feelings that people commonly describe, but your own experience might be different. Intense feelings can be frightening, but they usually ease over time. You might experience:. For about a week after my wife died I had a completely irrational fear of going to bed in case I fell asleep and didn't wake up.

That would have left the children as orphans which would have been terrible.

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Fortunately common sense prevailed and I returned to normality. I have no idea whether other people have had similar weird thoughts. A sudden death does have odd effects; I was a healthy 48 so had no reason to be worried.

Sarah Noel

Like other forms of stress, bereavement can weaken your immune system, making you more susceptible to illness. Stress and anxiety can produce physical symptoms. Grief can make you more vulnerable to illness so try to look after yourself.