Adjusting to Grief and Trauma

By Dan Blair, a marriage counselor and family counselor.

Normal Reactions:

shockemptinessnervousnessfatigueanger
denialguiltagitationrestlessnesshopelessness

These typical reactions affect sleep, appetite, concentration, decision-making and memory. You may feel ill or like you just ran a marathon. You may want to be alone or not be alone. Flashbacks are likely.

Recovery takes time:

Alternate between releasing emotions, and refocusing on activity or relaxation.
Talk to people you can trust about your experience and relationship with the deceased. Don’t be strong for others. It helps to see you are human with normal reactions. Respect the different ways people cope.Accomplishments: Refocus on what reasonably needs to be done. Set manageable goals. Focus on what is in your control and worthwhile. Allow yourself to vary the usual routine, and allow extra time. Pursue interests at home.
Set aside time to allow your emotions. Follow negative memories with positive ones. Allow emotions to flow past as if they were on a river. Emotions will ebb and flow less over time.Connection: Spend time with family and friends. Explore spirituality or your core values.
Offer condolences and support to others. Let them know your thoughts/prayers are with them. Attend the funeral or memorial service.Enjoyment: Take time to create a pleasant environment for yourself. Recreate to restore energy.
Other ways of releasing include tearfulness, writing, or art.Self-care: Balance rest, diet, and exercise. Do not bury feelings in food, alcohol, anger, TV, or work.
Ask yourself what answers you are needing.Expect grief to continue and allow feelings as they arise. Look for a time to refocus.
Ask if there is any actions you need to take for yourself or others.Ideas for a memorial: use pictures, belongings, or other items to represent your loss. Perhaps plant a tree or donate to a cause.
Ask yourself what you can and cannot accept.Offer assistance to the family:

 

Living with Grief

Schedule time to:

  1. Finding and designing a comfortable place to remember. This can be a place to say hello, and goodbye, whenever the need arises.
  2. Use a journal to record the story of your grief, your connection to your loss.
  3. I remember when . . . through pictures, video recordings, writing, letters, art, music, and topical books.
  4. Create a list of your loved one’s favorite qualities and accomplishments. Keep this list for times you need their advice.
  5. Relive the days before and after your loved one’s death.
  6. Write to your loved one.
  7. Imagine your life together is a play in three acts.
  8. Use your loved one’s picture and belongings to feel their spirit.
  9. In the honor of your loved one, recreate their hobbies, enjoyments, and acts of giving.
  10. To commemorate and celebrate your loved one’s life create something that will live on. Use their things, create a book, a symbol, or a ritual. Plant a tree, write a poem, start a garden, paint a picture, help someone in need.

 

Resource:

Finding Your Way after Your Spouse Dies by Marta Felber

Grief’s Courageous Journey: A Workbook by Sandi Caplan and Gordon Lang

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