Many times in life, one has to experience the loss of someone dear. As an undertaker, I observe grief on a regular basis and experienced it a couple times myself.
Grief is painful to deal with. More often than not, mourners fall into disarray if the pain is too hard to bear. This could lead to severe depression or anxiety.
I feel the necessity to share some of my thoughts and experiences about grief. To provide solace to those seeking comfort.
Thus, here are six tips you could adopt to better manage grief. I’ve gathered this from my observation of mourners – as well as my own reflections.
1. Digest Things Slowly
The death of a loved one is painful. The shock is too difficult to describe. One would be hit with a thousand emotions, from regret to melancholy.
This was overwhelming for me – thinking about how I’ll no longer have interactions with this person, or the things I still wanted to do.
Memories were now static, no longer flowing with time.
I observed many mourners question the injustice of one’s death, or the divine reason behind so. We all react to deaths differently, based on the way we perceive things. But we all suffer from a wave of formidable emotions and thoughts.
I call this “wave” the overconsumption of grief. It is inevitable and ordinary. However, I find that focusing on one aspect of grief – helps maintain an air of stability.
A simple exercise I would do is to focus on one question related to grief. For example, “What would life be like without xxx from now onwards?”; I would thus focus on what life would be, focusing on the facts and blocking out any preceding thoughts.
I focused my emotions on the “question”, seeking some form of closure. Afterwards, I would then jump onto any preceding thoughts.
It can be unnatural to block out and sustain focus on that one thought. But it helps isolate and foundationalize your understanding of one’s death.
2. Give Yourself Some Time
It is often that mourners try to un-grief themselves as soon as they can. This is understandable as many would rush towards normalcy, something that is familiar and peaceful.
However, grief is a process with no bounds. The only way to un-grief is to bring yourself towards memorialization. Still, one has to overcome the initial shock of passing.
Repressing your emotions would only result in larger internal struggles. Especially if they are kept in the darkest alleys of your mind. Despite my busy schedule, I gave myself time to mourn by meditating several days after the wake.
If the passing was recent, fully utilise the sermons held during the wake. Use this time to reflect and mourn with the people around you. If necessary, It is perfectly understandable to take a few days off after the funeral.
One should not rush to reality, as our emotions can spill over into our work life.
3. Use Religion and Philosophy
Admittedly, I am not religious or philosophical. The most I had ever read was Philosophy 101 by Paul Kleinman.
However, reading articles about philosophy and religion (in my case, Buddhism) helped develop positivity around my loved one’s passing.
I reflected upon the deeds my relative had done, how society was made a better place. All that good karma would have resulted in a privileged reincarnation.
This is different for every religion, but it provides closure. Read up your religious texts and find meaning in your loved one’s passing, even if you are not religious.
If you are an Atheist, reading philosophical texts could also assist you in finding closure. Cicero’s Tusculan Disputations is a series of interesting dialogues you could explore. He penned them after the passing of his daughter.
When you feel ready, this is the final bound in the grieving process. Memorialization asks for the mourner to immortalise their loved one’s legacy.
This could be done by uploading an online obituary, compiling a scrapbook or creating a video. I took the initiative to digitize old photos of relative myself. Additionally, one could also create a mini-biography penned in a third person perspective.
Yearly visits to your loved one’s tomb also serves as an act of memorialization.
Aside from noting your loved one’s legacy, this “tests” your mental state. It can indicate if a person has truly grieved, or is currently still in the process of healing.
Hence, one should take their time to grief before memorializing. However, for some, it might be a quick way to accept life without their loved ones.
5. Be radiant and heal those around you
Some heal faster than others. Hence, it should be the undertaking of those to console the rest. We are social creatures, and we emulate the energies of others around us.
Therefore, simply talking to others or counselling would be useful. It would create an open atmosphere for others to share their emotions.
It requires bravery to break the mold. Talking about a deceased loved one can be taboo in some cultures. However, the shared positive energy from such conversations only has benefits.
This will help relatives who had not taken the loved one’s passing well. They may sulk in silence and fall into depression without anyone knowing.
6. Seek Counselling If All Fails
It is not uncommon for Families to seek post-funeral counselling. Usually, these providers are spiritual leaders or trained professionals themselves.
One should also be open to counselling on an individual level. This is more common than you think, as grief is a complicated emotion to control.
If you are traditionally introverted, talking to a counsellor can be extremely fulfilling. I used to think that I did not need a counsellor, until I actually met one in person by happenstance.
Just conversing about things you could not traditionally talk about lifted a great deal of weight off your shoulders.
It all takes time
Healing takes time and we must recognise that. No matter what we try, we still need time to compose ourselves. It is excessively cruel to ignore your emotions and let life go on.
I hope my tips have helped you or inspired you in some way. All things considered, one should not neglect their daily routines for the sake of grief!
The biggest challenge is to prevent a domino reaction of negativity – which could spill into everyday life.
Nicholas Yap works to preserve local and regional traditions through writing. He and his Father plan and manage Funerals in Singapore.
Image courtesy of Tatiana Syrikova.