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Coping with Loss

February 13, 2014




Coping With Loss – Bereavement and Grief

In our hearts, we all know that death is a part of life. In fact, death gives meaning to our existence because it reminds us how precious life is.

Coping With Loss

The loss of a loved one is life’s most stressful event and can cause a major emotional crisis. After the death of someone you love, you experience bereavement, which literally means “to be deprived by death.”

Knowing What to Expect

When a death takes place, you may experience a wide range of emotions, even when the death is expected. Many people report feeling an initial stage of numbness after first learning of a death, but there is no real order to the grieving process.

Some emotions you may experience include:


  • Denial            
  • Disbelief       
  • Confusion  
  • Shock            
  • Sadness
  • Yearning       
  • Anger            
  • Humiliation  
  • Despair         
  • Guilt


These feelings are normal and common reactions to loss. You may not be prepared for the intensity and duration of your emotions or how swiftly your moods may change. You may even begin to doubt the stability of your mental health. But be assured that these feelings are healthy and appropriate and will help you come to terms with your loss.

Remember — It takes time to fully absorb the impact of a major loss. You never stop missing your loved one, but the pain eases after time and allows you to go on with your life. (Included in a call out box)

Mourning a Loved One

It is not easy to cope after a loved one dies.  You will mourn and grieve.  Mourning is the natural process you go through to accept a major loss. Mourning may include religious traditions honoring the dead or gathering with friends and family to share your loss.  Mourning is personal and may last months or years.

Grieving is the outward expression of your loss.  Your grief is likely to be expressed physically, emotionally, and psychologically. For instance, crying is a physical expression, while depression is a psychological expression.

It is very important to allow yourself to express these feelings. Often, death is a subject that is avoided, ignored or denied. At first it may seem helpful to separate yourself from the pain, but you cannot avoid grieving forever. Someday those feelings will need to be resolved or they may cause physical or emotional illness.

Many people report physical symptoms that accompany grief. Stomach pain, loss of appetite, intestinal upsets, sleep disturbances and loss of energy are all common symptoms of acute grief. Of all life’s stresses, mourning can seriously test your natural defense systems. Existing illnesses may worsen or new conditions may develop.

Profound emotional reactions may occur. These reactions include anxiety attacks, chronic fatigue, depression and thoughts of suicide. An obsession with the deceased is also a common reaction to death.

Dealing with a Major Loss

The death of a loved one is always difficult. Your reactions are influenced by the circumstances of a death, particularly when it is sudden or accidental. Your reactions are also influenced by your relationship with the person who died.

A child’s death arouses an overwhelming sense of injustice — for lost potential, unfulfilled dreams and senseless suffering. Parents may feel responsible for the child’s death, no matter how irrational that may seem. Parents may also feel that they have lost a vital part of their own identity.

A spouse’s death is very traumatic. In addition to the severe emotional shock, the death may cause a potential financial crisis if the spouse was the family’s main income source.  The death may necessitate major social adjustments requiring the surviving spouse to parent alone, adjust to single life and maybe even return to work.

Elderly people may be especially vulnerable when they lose a spouse because it means losing a lifetime of shared experiences. At this time, feelings of loneliness may be compounded by the death of close friends.

A loss due to suicide can be among the most difficult losses to bear. They may leave the survivors with a tremendous burden of guilt, anger and shame. Survivors may even feel responsible for the death.  Seeking counseling during the first weeks after the suicide is particularly beneficial and advisable.

Living with Grief

Coping with death is vital to your mental health. It is only natural to experience grief when a loved one dies. The best thing you can do is allow yourself to grieve. There are many ways to cope effectively with your pain.

  • Seek out caring people. Find relatives and friends who can understand your feelings of loss. Join support groups with others who are experiencing similar losses.
  • Express your feelings. Tell others how you are feeling; it will help you to work through the grieving process.
  • Take care of your health. Maintain regular contact with your family physician and be sure to eat well and get plenty of rest. Be aware of the danger of developing a dependence on medication or alcohol to deal with your grief.
  • Accept that life is for the living. It takes effort to begin to live again in the present and not dwell on the past.
  • Postpone major life changes. Try to hold off on making any major changes, such as moving, remarrying, changing jobs or having another child. You should give yourself time to adjust to your loss.
  • Be patient. It can take months or even years to absorb a major loss and accept your changed life.
  • Seek outside help when necessary. If your grief seems like it is too much to bear, seek professional assistance to help work through your grief. It’s a sign of strength, not weakness, to seek help.

Helping Others Grieve

If someone you care about has lost a loved one, you can help them through the grieving process.

  • Share the sorrow. Allow them — even encourage them — to talk about their feelings of loss and share memories of the deceased.
  • Don’t offer false comfort.  It doesn’t help the grieving person when you say “it was for the best” or “you’ll get over it in time.” Instead, offer a simple expression of sorrow and take time to listen.
  • Offer practical help. Baby-sitting, cooking and running errands are all ways to help someone who is in the midst of grieving.
  • Be patient. Remember that it can take a long time to recover from a major loss. Make yourself available to talk.
  • Encourage professional help when necessary. Don’t hesitate to recommend professional help when you feel someone is experiencing too much pain to cope alone.

Helping Children Grieve

Children who experience a major loss may grieve differently than adults. A parent’s death can be particularly difficult for small children, affecting their sense of security or survival. Often, they are confused about the changes they see taking place around them, particularly if well-meaning adults try to protect them from the truth or from their surviving parent’s display of grief.

Limited understanding and an inability to express feelings puts very young children at a special disadvantage. Young children may revert to earlier behaviors (such as bed-wetting), ask questions about the deceased that seem insensitive, invent games about dying or pretend that the death never happened.

Coping with a child’s grief puts added strain on a bereaved parent. However, angry outbursts or criticism only deepen a child’s anxiety and delays recovery.  Instead, talk honestly with children, in terms they can understand. Take extra time to talk with them about death and the person who has died. Help them work through their feelings and remember that they are looking to adults for suitable behavior.

Looking to the Future

Remember, with support, patience and effort, you will survive grief. Some day the pain will lessen, leaving you with cherished memories of your loved one.

A Valentine’s DayRepost from a Few Years Ago

February 12, 2014

OK, we all know Valentine’s Day is kinda stupid – we know we shouldn’t have just one day a year when we express our fondness for the person we’re involved with – but, we are suckers for a day when we can go to the mall and buy something with a “good” excuse. And, who can be unaffected by all the messages we are bombarded with around this time of year. If you don’t go to Jarrads, or you don’t make a reservation at a restaurant you can’t afford, you suck! For many people this is a very stressful day…but why stress? Since there’s a serious recession going on and money is tight and not everybody has a romantic partner in their life why not go crazy and 1) not buy anything 2) celebrate all the people you care about in a non materialistic way?

First some St.Valentine’s Day trivia

There are a number of legends about Saint Valentine, for whom the day is named but my personal favorite is: he was a priest in 3rd century Rome who married couples in opposition to the Emperor who commanded that only single men could be soldiers and outlawed marriage.

The elementary school tradition of exchanging St. Valentine ’s Day cards has its roots in a Middle Ages tradition when young men and women would draw a name from a bowl to see who would be their Valentine. They would then pin the name on their sleeves for one week. This was done so that it becomes easy for other people to know your true feelings. This was known as “to wear your heart on your sleeve”.

Mid February has many traditions related to fertility and love most of which have given way to Valentine’s Day – be glad. Be very glad most have disappeared – one would have you marry the first person of the opposite sex you saw the morning of St. Valentine’s Day.

For couples who want to express their feelings about one another:

First, there seem to be a lot of people who think St. Valentine’s Day is only for men to profess or demonstrate their love/caring/infatuation to the women they like. Wrong. Men like to be appreciated just as much as women (my brothers both agree on this one). Also, what to do if both people in the couple are of same gender?

For some St. Valentine’s Day has been one during which couples try to outdo each other in showing their “love”.

Suggestion: Do what most couples, married or not, don’t do and look at your partner in the eyes for more than 18 seconds every day.

Florists love YOU on St. Valentine’s Day.

Suggestion: If you want the heavy symbolism of the rose but not the expense consider planting a seed of an equally symbolic flower the Forget Me Not – easy to plant inside in a pot before you put them in the garden after the first frost and they require little after they are in the ground.

Hallmark makes a mint!

Suggestion: Take 2 minutes and write down something about the person you care for – text, note on the kitchen counter, message written in the condensation on the bathroom mirror – all just as, if not more than, meaningful.

Chocolatiers make a ton o’ money!

Suggestion: If you must celebrate this holiday don’t mess with this one! But remember, men like chocolate too!

Restaurants clean up on this day.

Suggestion: Cook a meal together. Mac and Cheese, although hardly fancy is a universally loved meal and you can jazz it up –

Big Batch of Mary Whittaker’s Extra-Special Macaroni and Cheese

(she says it reheats really well!)


  • 2 lb. package of Penne pasta
  • 1 stick of butter (you can add more)
  • 3-4 heaping tablespoons flour
  • 2 12 oz cans of evaporated milk
  • 1-2 Tablespoons of onion powder
  • 4 8 oz packages of Macadam “Wicked Sharp” Cheddar Cheese (2lbs of cheese – you could mix Extra sharp and Wicked sharp cheese)
  • 1 cup soft bread crumbs with melted butter (optional – Mary says most people like to eat it without baking)


If you think you have the patience to bake it : Grease a big baking dish. Heat oven to 350°. Otherwise serve it out of the pot.

Cook penne following package directions; drain, rinse, and set aside.

In a large saucepan, melt butter over medium-low heat. Turn off the heat to add the flour—it burns easily, and should be the consistency of of loose paste. Slowly add evaporated milk, whisking constantly, cook until thick–the consistency of very heavy cream—add more milk if necessary (regular is fine). Salt and pepper to taste. Add cheese and stir until melted. Add the penne, heat through and eat – unless you want to wait until you bake it ….

If you bake it combine bread crumbs with melted butter and sprinkle over the casserole. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until bubbly and nicely browned.

For non-couple- related gestures to one another

Remember those candy hearts from grade school? Or the valentine’s cards you spent time scribbling your name on? Everybody (ok, most people) likes to be acknowledged. A few suggestions about how to let those in your life know you care about them:


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