How To Cope with the Death of a Loved One

Death Is One Thing We All Have in Common

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Dealing with death has to be one of the most difficult things we do. It is probably not what you typically see on a how-to-do list. It is for sure not as easy as 1-2-3. Just as people vary, the types and circumstances of death vary. The only thing we know for certain is that we are all going to die. For some great coping strategies, read on:

I lost my sister in 1984 and my father in 1989, both to cancer. It was hard to let them go and I miss them terribly. But 2004, the year my brother and seven people connected to my office died, was my most difficult time. There's really not much anyone can do to relieve the pain of death, but these tips might perhaps make coping with the death of a loved one a little easier.

  1. Some people do not know what to say to a grieving person. People react to death differently. Sometimes individuals talk too much, too little or just say the wrong things. Sometimes when a child dies, the grieving parents are told they can have more children. But anyone who has lost a child to death knows that a child cannot be replaced by having another baby. Sometimes well-meaning people say that the death was God's will and the departed one is now with God in heaven. That might be true but perhaps not what you want to hear at that point in time. Try not to be offended if someone makes a comment that you feel is insensitive.
  2. You need to go through the different stages of grief in order to accept death. The main issues most people struggle with are denial, anger, and loneliness. When the death is unexpected, the usual reaction is disbelief. When you know someone is going to die, and you've had time to mentally prepare for this, you probably went through denial when the person became sick or injured. Some people feel that seeing the body gives them closure whereas others are uncomfortable with this. It's important to be sensitive to others' feelings but you should do what you feel is best for you. No matter what your circumstances, grief produces a range of emotions and each should be acknowledged.
  3. You don't have to go through this alone. Even if your friends and family do not know what to say or do, they usually mean well. Sometimes I feel in today's world, we do not give enough attention to the major events in our lives. It seems we are expected to get over whatever happens to us quickly and go on. We are all different. Reactions to death (and the changes it forces one to make) vary just as all families vary. Accept help when offered. Don't let anyone tell you when it is time to move one. You are the only one who really knows how you feel.
  4. It is OK and normal to be angry at God. Death often shakes the faith of even the strongest believer. When good people suffer horrible diseases or die at an early age, we sometimes ask why God allows bad things to happen. Now is not the time to debate this question but to accept that it is OK to have these feelings. You must work through the denial and anger before you reach acceptance.
  5. If your spouse dies, don't make any major changes for one year. Experts say the first year after a death is the hardest. Because you are going through so many stages, you are not emotionally fit to make major decisions. Unless you have been closely involved with a death before, you do not realize how much time it can take to settle an estate, even for a child or the person who does not own anything. These are not fun times. My best advice would be to take one event and one day at a time. Do what you have to do but try not to make any major changes.
  6. Death sometimes pulls families apart rather than bringing them closer together. During times of death, family members wear their emotions on their sleeves. Some may feel mistreated, left out, angry, and misunderstood. When decisions need to be made, there might not be total agreement. Wills are sometimes different from what we expected and property may not be evenly divided. Many times families lose sight of important issues as each person focuses on his own needs. Funerals are a good time to adjust your expectations. You know your family. Don't expect from them what they cannot give. Try to be calm if disputes come up. It's usually impossible to make everyone happy.
  7. Take care of yourself first when grieving the loss of a loved one. Once you've dealt with the denial and anger, the sadness and loneliness begin. Someone you used to spend time with is no longer there. It's normal to miss that person and wish things were different. It's hard letting go, making changes, and moving on. Immediately after a death, you receive tremendous support from your friends and family. But as the weeks and months go by, you find yourself basically alone. Though other people can help, there are some things you have to do on your own. The main thing you must do is take care of yourself. This is one time when it is definitely OK to put your needs ahead of others.
  8. When grieving, it is OK to ask for help. Sometimes faith in God, love of family and support of friends is not enough. You might need to talk with your minister, a counselor or a coach. Many communities have grief support groups. Look for a church with a Stephen Ministry Program. They provide a volunteer to meet with you weekly to provide support as long as it is needed. Some people find that keeping a journal or even writing letters to the deceased person helps. The purpose is to release unhealthy feelings. Everyone is different and only you can decide what is best for you.

I think when you lose a loved one to death, the goal is to figure out how to be happy again while honoring the memory of the one who died. Coping with death does get easier with time. Eventually you reach the point where you start to ask what you can learn from this experience. It's not always possible to prepare for death but as you reach a certain age, you should make some critical decisions. Do you have a will? What kind of funeral do you want? Would you want to be kept alive?

While you are dealing with the death of someone else is the perfect time to think about your own death. It's not easy but either you will do it or someone else will do it for you. Sometimes you hear people say, "I don't care, I won't be there." That's selfish. It's hard enough to lose someone to death, but it is even harder if he or she did nothing to prepare for it. You can decide everything ahead of time except for the day. Planning ahead on your part will make it easier for those left behind.

        Margaret is a Personal Life Coach, Writer and Speaker. The owner of Life Transitions, she helps others build self-confidence and make positive changes in their lives. Her passion is creating more awareness about abuse and helping to change one life at a time.

                                                                                                                    Margaret can be reached at


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Hi Margaret. I am glad you wrote this article. I shared it with a friend who just lost her husband. You are right. We just don't know what to say when these moments come.

By Mary Norton

Hello Margaret
I don't think the real difficulties of grief are easy for many people to deal with today. Old ideas of close family being nearby has disappeared in the UK in recent years, although I'm sure the extra distances families have to travel in other countries, USA for example, are an even bigger obstacle to this.
How many people would cope better given a strong alliance, even only giving unspoken support by presence would prove valuable I wonder?

By Rik Whittaker