In the late 1960s, psychiatrist Elizabeth Kübler-Ross introduced the world to the five stages of grief. These stages include denial and isolation, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. For families who have experienced the sudden loss of a parent, child, grandparent, or another loved one, these stages will be quite familiar. Change of any kind can be challenging for you and your family. However, when a sudden change involves the death of a loved one, life can feel overwhelming. This is especially true for parents, as they try to cope and grieve, while helping their children do the same.
If you have recently experienced the loss of someone close, explore the following strategies for working through grief as a family.
Acknowledge that everyone handles loss differently
Losing a loved one, no matter the exact relationship, is a devastating life event. The NHS notes that “bereavement affects people in different ways,” and that “there’s no right or wrong way to feel.” As a result, your spouse may not appear to show much emotion at all, while you can’t help but cry every few hours. Your children can also show a wide range of emotional and physical symptoms. Some of the most common symptoms of grief include anger, exhaustion, feelings of sadness, and guilt. Since everyone processes loss in their own unique way, don’t have expectations of how anyone in your family “should” feel. Let your spouse and children work through grief at their own pace.
Seek professional family counseling
Even if you think that you and your family are handling the loss as well as you can, talking with a professional is an incredibly healthy and effective thing to do. Seeking out sessions with a bereavement counsellor is often most helpful, as these professionals specialise in working through the grieving process. You can choose to arrange sessions individually, with your spouse, or with your entire family. Which method is best? It depends on your family’s unique needs. Schedule the counseling session arrangement(s) that make everyone feel comfortable. The number of visits you will need also depends on individual factors.
Practise and encourage self-care
As you work to take care of your family, you must also make taking care of yourself a top priority. You are legally entitled to bereavement leave from work, and your employer should support you through the process. Time off work will help you to cope with everthing else you need to do, like make funeral arrangements. You also need time to rest. Without proper rest or the use of stress management techniques, it is next to impossible to help others. Therefore, build time for self-care into every day. What activities count as self-care? Eating a healthy meal, going for a walk, creating a gratitude journal, or practising yoga are all excellent choices. Encourage your family members to practise self-care as well, and explain the importance of doing so during a challenging time.
Although grief is never easy, coping with the loss of a loved one can be made more bearable with support from your family. Respecting unique styles of grieving, seeing a family counsellor, and practising self-care are all exceptional ways of working through this difficult time in your lives.