Thoughts for the Newly Bereaved

by Scott Johnson

~ Keep it simple. We can liken grief to being in the ocean. We only have to keep our nose above water. The salt water will support us and keep us on the surface. If we’re caught in a strong current, we ride along and keep our nose above the surface. Eventually, the current will let us go, and then we swim safely. Fighting the current can take us under the surface.

~ Triggers are reminders that cause an upwelling of feelings. If you can, avoid triggers in the early months. There will be plenty of time to work with any triggers later. It’s OK to tell callers, “I’d rather talk about that some other time.” It’s helpful to avoid restaurants, music, social events, special places and menu items that may trigger us until the first few months have passed and you’re more ready to cope with the triggers

~ If you can, wait until you’re ready to pack up your loved one’s belongings and to make other major decisions. Things that evoke pain now may be the same things that help us to connect to our loved one later after the pain lessens. It will lessen.

~ Find one or two trusted friends or family members who will be willing to serve in the role of gatekeeper for you. With the community and the press, this is the person that everything gets referred to. At work or school, this is the person that all news and condolences get funneled through.

~ There are many ways to handle the strong feelings that come through. These may include developing a practice like breathing calmly to induce a relaxation response, mediation, yoga, journaling or walking; all with the eventual goal of going through – or being with – the feelings.

~ It’s also important to remember the happy times with the person who died, like special holidays and vacations. These are a rich source of support to counteract our tendency to focus on the last moments of life. Share pictures and tell stories to keep the memory alive. In the home some like to have many photos out, others want less or to have them all put away. This is one of the issues that normally will have to be negotiated within the family.

~ What works for each of us varies. As you move through this please learn to trust your inner sense of what will help you feel supported.

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