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Ways you can cope with the loss of a family member

Dec 27, 2011, 6 a.m.

Coping with the death of a family member is never easy, and it is something that is different for each person. However, our very humanity means that someday we will all have to pass through the same grief and loss stages — these are universal, although, of course, the stages will happen on your own timeline. Grief and loss issues may vary with situation and person, but the ways of coping are tried and true. Here are some strategies that have helped many others through the grief and loss stages.

The first key to coping with grief and loss issues is to understand the grief and loss stages. It is important to accept that each of these feelings are completely normal and felt by every person in mourning. The first thing you feel after losing a family member will be denial. This may take the form of saying "She/he can't really be gone," or asking, "Could this be a mistake and they're not really gone?" or similar questions. It is the brain's defense mechanism against the shocking news that your family member is gone.

Next comes the "anger" stage. This is when you feel angry that your loved one was taken away from you, and you feel mad at the world, maybe even questioning your faith system.

Next is the "bargaining" stage, in which you begin to think things such as, "I could have prevented the death if only I'd taken action" or, "I should have made her go to another doctor."

After this, "depression" is the next of the grief and loss stages. Depression is when the sadness truly sets in, and it will lead to the final stage, "acceptance." When you've reached the final stage, you know that your loved one is gone and you are facing the reality of that loss.

When you are dealing with grief and loss issues, you are working your way through these stages, and it is important that you are patient with yourself. Allow yourself to cry, let yourself fully experience your feelings. Don't keep them bottled up as it will only delay your recovery.

Many people find it a helpful coping aid to help plan the memorial or funeral for the family member you have lost. This is a way to help make sure that proper tribute is paid, and it will allow you to remember your family member in the special ways that you helped to choose.

If you have lost a close family member, don't make any big immediate changes in your life unless they are absolutely necessary. Remember that you are still in the early coping stages of grief and that your judgment will not be as it normally is.

Never be afraid to seek help. Many others understand exactly what you are feeling, and speaking to someone else about your grief can make it easier to bear. Whether you choose a counselor, someone at your church, or a grief support group, don't be afraid to lean on others as you work your way through this difficult time.

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