Coping with the Loss of Loved Ones

Written by: The Circles Team

Jan 06, 2021

A loss, in any situation, is a difficult emotion to understand and process. Loss can take on a whole new level of pain when associated with our loved ones, including our partner, child, parents, and siblings. One might experience a deep sense of sorrow, emptiness, depression, disbelief, and confusion while grieving their loved ones. Grief is a journey to restore hope and cope with your pains.

Our human nature calls us to gather and attach for survival. We’ve long evolved to connect ourselves more deeply to our social surroundings rather than survive alone. Perhaps, the severe pain of grief is explained by the significant loss of our existential need for one another.

Grief is a very normal response to a loss. There is no correct timeline or structure for it. It is an individual experience in which you learn to cope and find new meaning in the loss and life after that. The experiences, circumstances, situations, and support systems can impact your loved ones’ grieving process.

If you have a hard time carrying out your daily activities due to overwhelming feelings of sadness and sorrow, consider these tips to help you cope with your day.

Recognize when you are judging yourself There are so many emotions you will be experiencing each day. One thing to always remember is: It is not your fault. If you find yourself stating, ‘If only I had…’, you are entering into a rabbit- hole spiral of guilt and shame. Recognizing that this is happening in the first step towards avoiding the sense of responsibility and self-blame. Death comes in many different ways, so allow yourself to mourn the loss, be angry, and cry it out, but catch your thoughts when you begin to judge yourself.

Maintain your daily routine It’s never easy to try to go on with your life in the absence of your loved one. However, it is essential to find your sense of control and grounding through your daily routines. Try your best to wake up when you used to, maintain your daily tasks, and work towards filling those gaps routinely through self-care. Take things one thing at a time and one day at a time.

Celebrating the life of your loved ones You might never feel like you can ‘move on’ with your life as you used to, but you can learn to live with the absence. Find ways to celebrate your loved one. Their bodies have left, but their rituals, love, and presence in your life can still be remembered, enjoyed, and shared. Talk about their favorite foods, jokes, bad habits, and ways they were part of your life with the people around you. Their legacy can still go on through your life.

Take a break and ask for help. It’s okay to take a break from all the grief and sadness. It’s a very overwhelming time for you to juggle all the roles you must take on. Try to engage in small activities you used to enjoy, such as cooking, crafting, gardening, or biking. Whatever it is, figure out who can help you to unload and participate in these activities. Different people can help in different ways. If someone offers to bring you food, allow them to, and if you need emotional support, let them know.

At Circles, we understand that the depth of your pain can only be understood by those who have experienced it. You are not alone.

Join us today to restore hope in your life with a supportive community.

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Experiencing PTSD and Complicated Grief After Traumatic Loss

Written by: The Circles Team

Dec 07, 2020

What do you think of when you hear the term Post Traumatic Stress Disorder? Perhaps you imagine images of soldiers who have experienced unthinkable trauma first hand? But, did you know that grieving the loss of a loved one and PTSD can go hand in hand? Mainly when a loved one’s death occurs traumatically or unexpectedly.

The myths surrounding PTSD are plenty. The stigma surrounding PTSD is strong. The symptoms and treatment of PTSD, especially as related to grief and loss, often goes misunderstood. At the same time, the importance of recognizing the symptoms and warning signs of PTSD is crucial for diagnosis and subsequent treatment options.

When Grief Becomes Complicated Grief is the experience of loss in one’s life. The death of a loved one is marked as one of life’s most significant stressors. Pain from loss can be overwhelming, and these feelings are normal and expected. Experts define grief as being either “normal” or “complicated.”

Grieving is unique to each of us—most people dealing with loss exhibit intense symptoms that fade with time. Healing ultimately occurs, and individuals can return to their daily life. For some, grief is complicated, and healing does not happen promptly. Complicated grief occurs in about 7% of bereaved people. Studies show that PTSD and other anxiety disorders coexist in bereaved individuals with complicated grief. Individuals with PTSD need the help of a professional. As a result, it is vital to recognize symptoms and strategies for providing support.

What are the Symptoms of PTSD? No one truly knows why some people have PTSD while others do not. Grievers who are experiencing PTSD have symptoms which dramatically affect their ability to function in their day to day life. Symptoms will often linger for more than one month.

Common symptoms of PTSD include:

  • Reliving the Event
  • Flashbacks of the trauma or hyper-focusing on what the individual might have gone through in their final moments
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Physical symptoms can include heart palpitations, sweating, or hyperventilating.
  • Persistent avoidance of things or events that remind us of the person or place where the tragedy occurred.
  • Feelings of Guilt or Self Blame
  • Anger or Rage
  • Feeling Numb or Detached

The Importance of Reaching Out and Finding Support After a traumatic event, such as sudden or violent death, it’s normal to feel emotional pain and out of sorts. Most individuals, who experience the loss of a loved one, will start to feel better after a few weeks or months. Suppose the emotional pain becomes too much to bear. In that case, you experience intense physical symptoms. You cannot function in your daily living. After a few months, you are not feeling any relief. Please reach out to your doctor or a mental health care provider for advice and support.

Professionally facilitated emotional support groups can be a great addition to treatment for PTSD and complicated grief. Support groups can give you a sense of connection to people experiencing similar types of loss. Many support groups connect you with individuals who have experienced similar kinds of losses. This makes the connection even more valuable.

Despite feelings of loneliness, it is essential to remember that you do not have to suffer alone. Start by recognizing your feelings are important and valuable.   Acknowledging and sharing them are an integral part of your healing. Reaching out for help is a courageous act in itself, and connecting with others going through a shared experience can be transformative.

What Should I Say to Someone Who is Grieving?

Written by: The Circles Team

Nov 28, 2020

“When someone is going through a storm, your silent presence is more powerful than a million, empty words.” Dr. Therma Davis

Grief is not pretty.  It can be raw, painful, messy, and awkward.  We know it as a normal and natural response to the loss of a loved one.  We will all experience it at some point in our lives, yet despite its universality, we are not always well equipped to deal with it or know how to best offer support to those going through it.

Imagine you have just learned that someone you deeply care about has lost a loved one.  Maybe it is their spouse, their young child, or an aging parent who has battled a chronic illness for many challenging months. You want to share empathy and show support, but it can be hard to know what to say – or perhaps more importantly, what not to say to them during their time of loss. Your intentions are good, and your heart knows that your loved one needs your care and support, yet you stumble to find the right words or right actions to comfort them.  Sometimes we fear saying or doing the wrong thing, so we withdraw and do nothing, leaving our loved ones to face formidable challenges alone and without support.

The truth is that we as humans need to share the everyday experience of grief with others.  Those experiencing loss need the gentle comfort and availability of friends and loved ones, not just for the immediate days following the loss, but often for months and years to come.  We know it can be hard to find just the right words, so here are four tried and true ways to support a loved one who is grieving in their time of need.

Let Them Be Sad: Our natural response to feeling sad is to try and cheer them up and make them feel happy.  We often try and distract or minimize their pain associated with grief.  We may encourage our loved ones to reengage with daily living and move quickly past their sorrow.  Remember, though, that an essential part of healthy grieving is experiencing the pain and suffering associated with loss head-on courageously.  Despite good intentions, we need to recognize that being sad, angry, mad exhausted or moody are natural responses to loss. They are a necessary part of processing and healing. No matter how difficult, put aside your feelings of discomfort, and take the time to validate your loved one’s emotions.  Let them know that you feel sad too. Please help them to express their pain and sorrow.  Hold them when they need to cry. Scream with them when they are angry and say that life can be cruel and unfair. Let them know that there is no time limit to their grieving and that you will be there with them through the hard times, for as long as it takes.

Give Love, Not Advice: Remember that grief belongs to the griever, and it is not about you. This is their unique experience and journey, and you are there to support them.   The words that you say do matter, so try and choose them carefully and with intent.  Be an active listener to show support and be wary of offering unsolicited advice. Active listening involves being focused and letting your body language show that you are open to what they are saying.  Sit close to your loved one, maintain good eye contact, and reach out and hold them when needed. The power of touch can be very healing to the griever. Try to avoid sayings that minimize their pain, such as “your loved- one’s suffering is over, and they are in a better place” or “you are so young, you will be able to move on and can always remarry.”  Avoid comparing stories of grief.  Remember that part of healing can be sharing beautiful memories about the lost loved one.  Encourage your loved one to mention the deceased by name and when they want to share, listen openly to stories about their lives and even more difficult and painful aspects of their death.

Remember Big Dates and Little Dates: Time will move on, seasons will change, and there will be specific personal dates and calendar reminders that will trigger emotions for your friend or loved one throughout the year.  Remembering significant dates and little dates can be incredibly supportive and appreciated as your loved one grieves.  Try and make what might be difficult dates a little bit easier for your loved one.  Set yourself reminders of birthdays, anniversaries, and other essential days into your calendar.  Reach out to your loved one on those important dates and let them know that you remember and that you are thinking about them and available to listen.  When holidays approach, extend an open invitation for your loved one to join your family for dinner or other events so that they are not alone.

**Remain Available:  ** All too often, the funeral ends, and friends and loved ones will move on with their own lives, leaving the mourner to grieve alone.  Remember that the pain and trials your loved ones are facing are just beginning.  Grieving is a long process, filled with many peaks and valleys. Instead of asking your loved ones to let them know what you can help with, be specific in how you will help.   Remember that your loved one might be hesitant to ask for help, or she may be so overwhelmed that she does not know what she needs.  Offer your time to them by saying, “I am available on Monday, and I will come over to walk your dogs or do your grocery shopping.”  Offer to do a load of laundry or some cleaning while you are visiting.  Organizing a community meal train with friends can also help take some of the stress off of completing daily chores.  As the months pass, continue to check-in.  Take the time to call to share a beautiful thought or memory that reminded you of their lost loved one.  Send a handwritten card or note to let them know that you are thinking of them.

Your loved one might fear that the person who died will be too soon forgotten, but it is equally as important to let them know that as the days turn to weeks and then to months that YOU are standing by their side and have not forgotten about them.