The death of a loved one represents a truly challenging aspect of life. Indeed, oftentimes the death of a family member or friend can prove to be an overwhelming experience on many levels. People from all walks of life can best prepare for the inevitable loss of loved ones by understanding the basics of coping with death.

The Difference Between Grief, Bereavement, and Mourning

A starting point in understanding the basics of coping with death is appreciating the difference between grief, bereavement, and mourning. Some people utilize these words interchangeably. In reality, there are important distinctions to be made between grief, bereavement, and mourning. 

Grief is the internal emotional struggle associated with a significant loss, including the death of a loved one. Mourning is the external expression of grief experienced because of a loss like the death of a family member, friend, or colleague. Bereavement is the process of dealing with and attempting to come to terms with a loss like the death of a loved one. (Bereavement fairly can be said to a combination of both grief and mourning.)

Five Stages of Grief

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross hypothesizes that there are five distinct stages of grief. These are: 

  • Denial
  • Anger
  • Bargaining
  • Depression
  • Acceptance

Before considering these different stages of grief more specifically, a couple of points about grief more generally need to be made. First, every individual grieves in his or her own way and at his or her own pace. Second, although the five stages of grief typically are presented in the order set forth a moment ago, because each person grieves differently, an individual may experience these stages in an alternate order. In addition, an individual may experience more than one stage simultaneously. For example, upon hearing of the death of a loved one, an individual might not initially experience denial. Rather, that person might first confront anger and depression. 

Tips to Cope With Grief

Talking about coping with death in more abstract terms can be helpful in providing you a framework for the aspects of grief you are apt to experience. With that said, a number of practical tips and tactics can be truly beneficial when it comes to coping with grief and the death of a loved one in an effective manner. Strategies you will want to employ include:

  • Acknowledge your emotions
  • Get plenty of sleep
  • Eat healthy food
  • Don’t mask the pain
  • Experience your emotions
  • Seek support
  • Keep active

Acknowledge Your Emotions

When experiencing grief, you do not need to ignore (or attempt to ignore) the pain you experience. Rather, you should acknowledge what you are feeling. You need to understand that the feelings and emotions you experience are perfectly natural. Permit your feelings and emotions to run their natural course. 

Get Plenty of Sleep

Many people who are grieving and mourning experience a loss of sleep. Another important tip to cope with grief is to do your best to get a reasonable amount of sleep every night. By obtaining a decent amount of sleep, you have the energy necessary to work through the grieving process and to engage in proper mourning.

Eat Healthy Food

Scientific research demonstrates that eating a healthy diet in the aftermath of the death of a loved one aids in coping with that loss. (There’s something to be said for the covered dishes that tend to get delivered to family members grieving and mourning the loss of one of their own.) As is the case with proper sleep, a healthy diet places your body in a better position to cope with the death of a loved one. 

Don’t Mask Pain

As has been noted in different ways previously in this presentation, the feelings and emotions you experience in the aftermath of a loved one’s death are normal and natural. You need to accept them for what they are and understand that you cannot mute, mask, or hide from these emotions. You are also better served by avoiding masking emotions through the use of some type of mind-altering substance, including alcohol and certain types of prescription medications. Masking the pain and emotions arising from the death of a loved one doesn’t make them dissipate or disappear. Rather, masking only muddles and prolongs the grief process in a manner that is not healthy.

Experience Your Emotions

On a related note, experience and accept the full range of emotions you are likely to face when grieving. As was noted, you are apt to experience the different stages of grief in your own unique “order.” You are likely to experience some of the stages more than once. Remember: every person grieves differently and a continually varied emotional response to a loss is normal.

Seek Support

You don’t have to grieve alone. Seek the support of trusted family members and friends. If you are finding coping with the death of a loved one particularly challenging, consider reaching out to a professional. Grief counselors specialize in supporting and assisting people experiencing an array of different types of losses, including the death of a loved one. There are also grief support groups which many, many individuals find very helpful.

Keep Active

Finally, do your best not to isolate and tuck yourself away at home. Of course, you certainly can and should take time to yourself after the death of a loved one. In addition, some religions call for specific mourning periods, practices that include spending time at home and away from various activities, to honor the person who has passed on. Once any initial mourning practices or desires are completed, you are advised to get active once more. Spend time with others, do things you enjoy. By taking such a course, you’ll find that you will start to “feel better,” including directly after you finish some type of activity you enjoy.

By employing these tips and tactics, you really do better ensure that your personal journey through grief will be healthier. You will find that you are better able to cope with the death of a loved one.