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Caring for Yourself After a Death

After a death, there is often a mix of feelings – exhaustion, sadness, relief, anger – and questions of what to do next. The emotions and needs of each individual will be different. Grief (mourning, bereavement) is a process that takes time and requires different levels of support.

Your friends and family may need direction from you on what you need during this time of loss and learning to cope. You may not know what you need, only how you are feeling. Share your feelings and consider the following requests:

  • I need you to sit and be quiet with me
  • I need you to talk with me and keep me distracted
  • I need you to walk with me and not leave me alone right now
  • I need to hear someone remind me about our life before the illness

Information about grief and bereavement.

The time that follows a loved one’s death may be filled with different feelings: loss, anger, sadness, relief, exhaustion, boredom, and guilt. You will be learning about yourself during this time and will likely need help from others – this is a role you may not have played before. Be patient, honest and caring. You need time to grieve.

Friends and family are also grieving and everyone’s needs will be different. Give permission to others to help you through this time by giving them a list of things they can help with or tell them how you want to be supported.

Hospice programs are well equipped to assist you during this special time after your loss. They can do this even if you did not have hospice care for your loved one. Call your local hospice program and ask about bereavement counseling – individual or groups. In addition, your place of worship may also have resources that may be helpful to you.

If you find that your grief and sadness is worsening or more persistent over time, it would be important to talk with your physician or a grief and bereavement counselor. The experience of complicated grief is not always predictable and can be tackled with the help of professionals.

The time for you to grieve is just that – your time – and there is no set beginning or ending. Grieving is an emotional as well as a physical experience so remember to take care of yourself. It may not be the best time, in the first three to six months, to make major decisions or changes in your life. Accept the help and support of others as you find your way.