When you lose a loved one, you may feel a varying storm of emotions: numbness
and shock, confusion and depression, isolation and anger. And many of
these feelings become amplified as you plan for the funeral. You may feel
hurt and frustrated that you have to call the funeral home, break the
news to family and friends, or meet with a lawyer to discuss the last
will and testament.
Your grief and pain may leave you overwhelmed and stressed to the point
of breaking. You hardly sleep, and you zone out for hours at a time. Occasionally,
you take out your stress on others, lashing out in angry outbursts and
saying things you know you'll regret later.
While these feelings are normal, remember that you can take steps to manage
your emotions and react in a healthy way. Use the following techniques
to relax and relieve your inner tension.
1. Manage Your Time
Oftentimes death comes unexpectedly. Car crashes, illness, and other accidents
claim lives much too soon, leaving you little time to prepare. But you
do have time.
With the exception of certain religions (such as Judaism), many situations
allow you delay the funeral for several days and even weeks. Your funeral
service provider knows methods to preserve bodies for several weeks, so
don't feel pressure to have the funeral as soon as possible.
Take time to analyze your schedule and responsibilities, and then break
down each day into hourly tasks. If you feel like you have too much on
your plate, distinguish your assignments into "must" and "should."
Push the "should" items to the bottom of your list, or take
them off your list entirely so you don't feel overwhelmed.
2. Learn to Say "No"
Your friends and family will likely turn to you for emotional support and
guidance. They may expect you to write the obituary, give the eulogy,
or cook the meals during this time. While performing some of these tasks
may give you a sense of purpose, be aware of your limits and stick to
them. Don't take on more than you can handle, and don't be afraid
to turn down tasks or reassign them to someone else.
Remember: when you say "no," you are not necessarily selfish.
Rather, you honor existing commitments by devoting your full attention
and time to them. When you focus on what matters most, you take the guilt
and stress out of the equation.
Not sure how to say no? Keep it simple and brief. You don't need to
give elaborate justifications or explanations. Simply give respectful
and honest answers.
3. Share Your Feelings
When the world seems to crumble around you, you may feel the urge to become
the pillar of strength for everyone else. You may wish to bottle up your
feelings or ignore them entirely to give the illusion that the death doesn't
However, researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health observed that
suppressing emotions increases the risk of certain health conditions,
including heart disease and cancer.
Tori Rodriguez, psychotherapist, explains, "Attempting to suppress
thoughts can backfire and even diminish our sense of contentment."
And she goes on to say that acknowledging life’s complexities leads
to psychological well-being.
So talk to a trusted friend or phone a close family member. Discuss fond
memories of your loved one, or express the frustration of scheduling funeral
plans and planning meals. Verbalize your emotions so you can create a
positive environment for healing.
4. Do Something You Enjoy
As you meet with friends and neighbors and make additional plans, don't
become so caught up in the hustle and bustle that you forget yourself.
Even if you feel pressured and rushed to complete items on your checklist
as quickly as possible, you should set aside time in your schedule to
unwind and do something you enjoy.
Some relaxing activities could include:
- Spending time in nature
- Writing in your journal
- Taking a long bath
- Lighting scented candles
- Slowly sipping a warm cup of tea or cocoa
- Getting a massage
- Curling up with a good book
- Listening to music
Although these activities may feel self-indulgent at first, remind yourself
that you deserve just as much attention and care as those around you.
5. Seek Professional Help and Counseling
As you cope with the loss of a loved one and the stress that comes with
it, remember that you don't have to deal with the event on your own.
Friends and family members can give you emotional support and guidance.
Therapists and doctors can offer you advice for coping with depression,
anxiety, and stress. And funeral planners can manage the services, plan
the dates, and select the markers and headstones for you.
With a solid support group, you'll soon develop a clearer understanding
of your situation and the best method for approaching your future with
hope and confidence.