Most people are familiar with the five stages of grief – denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Anyone who’s lost a loved one or close friend can expect to pass through most, if not all, of these stages as they complete the healing process.
Each person is different, though, so the way someone goes from stage to stage could vary dramatically. The important thing for people to understand is the steps they can take to begin healing and ultimately reach the stage of acceptance.
Here are six steps you can take as you heal from the loss of a loved one:
1. Recognize the healing process begins right away
The way a person dies, the type of funeral service, interaction with others – all these have an impact on how the journey through grief will begin, whether positive or negative.
2. Trust the process
Yes, the grieving process is draining and it may take longer than you anticipate, but let it run its course. If you try to push your grief down or fill your time with tasks to ignore the pain, it may take longer for complete healing to occur.
3. Surround yourself with supportive people
It’s not good to be completely isolated while grieving, but you also don’t want to surround yourself with people who make you feel bad for crying or talking about your loss. Even if it's only one or two close friends, you need someone who will listen without judgment and let you feel OK about your feelings.
4. Try different ways to heal because you don't know which one will work best
When you experience a significant loss, you’re trying hard to figure out the best way to work through it. But this may be your first significant loss, so you don’t know exactly how the process works. And what worked for you in the past, may not work now. For instance, grieving the death of a parent and grieving the death of a spouse are entirely different experiences that may require different healing techniques and timetables.
Don’t be afraid to try everything: read newsletters or books on grief, talk to people, attend a support group, go to a licensed therapist or watch videos. All or one might help, but you won't know until you try.
5. Avoid using definitive words like “always” and “never”
For instance: “I will never meet anyone like my spouse again.” Or, “I will always be alone. I will never feel that way again.” One of the worst things people do while grieving is engage in "negative self-talk."
Using words such as “always” and “never” make it incredibly hard to imagine the possibilities that could occur. How do you know what life holds for you? When you let your emotions guide your beliefs, you have a harder time imagining a life that looks any different from your current situation.
When you feel really lonely, tell yourself, "I feel really sad today. I feel really lonely right now." Putting the feeling into the current time period leaves it open to change. You're not saying you will feel this way forever, you're saying that’s how you feel right now, which is OK. Tomorrow could be different.
6. Turn to the funeral home for support and resources
Dana Madanski, director of marketing at McAlister-Smith Funeral & Cremation, says part of the funeral home’s mission is, “We provide a safe place for healing to begin. This means that the funeral care provider is the first place where the person should feel safe and comfortable enough to grieve.”
McAlister-Smith also offers several grief resources, including a newsletter, support groups and a staff member available to meet one-on-one. The website also is designed for healing through the grief process. When someone dies, a tribute wall is created and anyone can post messages or pictures to the wall.
“Allowing a space for people to come together and memorialize is a way for the community to support the survivors in their grief without the survivor having to say, ‘I'm grieving, please support me,’” Madanski says.
McAlister-Smith Funeral & Cremation has been a local and trusted name for funeral and cremation services for more than 130 years. With a long history of personalized services and a strong commitment to families, the team at McAlister-Smith has the resources and expertise to support you throughout the grieving process.
Visit one of their four convenient locations in Mount Pleasant, West Ashley, James Island and Goose Creek to see what a modern funeral home can provide.
For more information about services and resources, go to McAlister-Smith.com or call (843) 722-8371.
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