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Getting Through the Grieving Process

Part 3: The importance of a funeral or memorial service.

Key points

  • An important part of grieving is the funeral or memorial service. It encourages people to express their feelings and emotions.
  • The first anniversary of a death is often difficult. Spending the day with a loved one who has a relationship to the deceased can help.
  • Talking with others, and getting professional help if needed, is also important. Isolating oneself or self-medicating are unhelpful.

In my last two posts, I have written about death and ways in which you can deal with it using the skills and the attitudes of resilience.

We discussed the importance of not avoiding your feelings and being able to communicate with others. I also encouraged you to find ways of expressing your feelings and engaging actively in the grieving process. Denial and wishful thinking are usually not helpful things to do when you are dealing with death. Honesty is the best policy. We discussed the importance of taking care of yourself and others and that planning (e.g., making a living will and a legal will) can be a good thing. Finding meaning and purpose is important and often very difficult. You may find this in your religious faith and through acting on your values and beliefs. Humor when used positively can be helpful.

An important part of grieving is the funeral or memorial service. These are more for the living than the dead. They encourage people to grieve and express their feelings and emotions. As I said earlier, crying is a good thing. And the sadness you have may get worse before it gets better. But if you allow yourself to grieve and you asked for support from others, things will get better. It is important to continue to communicate with others about how you're feeling and how you're doing. Don't isolate or avoid contact with others.

Other people around you may get over the loss quicker than you do. That's okay but explain to them that you need to take your time with the healing process and that you're not through grieving for the loss that you have sustained. Medications can be helpful, but don't self-medicate with alcohol. To grieve, you need to be present.

Continuing to Grieve

The first anniversary of the person's death is often the most difficult. Plan for that day. Don't ignore it or try to distract yourself. Spend it with someone that you are close to you who had a relationship with the deceased. Visit the grave if you think that would be helpful. Talk about the person you have lost. Allow yourself to continue to mourn and grieve the loss.

If you find yourself talking with the person who is deceased don't be alarmed. In general, this is pretty normal. Sometimes it is very helpful.

If you're having difficulty getting through the grieving process, get some help. Again talk therapy can be very helpful. Self-medicating with alcohol or other drugs will not help. Antidepressants may help you to feel better, but if they are overdone they can hinder the grieving process. Talk with your prescriber about this.

Last of all, remember that this is only temporary. What you're going through is not permanent. Things will change. The effect that this has had on your life is significant, but it has not changed everything nor should it. And blaming yourself or someone else for the person's death will not bring them back or help you to feel better or to cope.

To find a therapist near you, visit the Psychology Today Therapy Directory.

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