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5 Things to Do for Yourself If You’re Coping With Grief and Loss

This past weekend, a friend and her friend lost their respective mothers.

Wanting to pass along some comfort while working through her own grief ,  and knowing I have some experience in this area, my friend asked me to give five pieces of hard-won advice.

Here goes:

1. Cry or don’t cry. Go to grief groups or stay home. In the coming days, weeks, and months, your grief journey is your call.

2. Keep an eye on your physical well-being. Heart attack risks escalate in the wake of a death, especially in the first couple of days, and stay elevated for several weeks. The immune system can take a hit as well, weakening a mourner’s own body.

Because of this, I routinely tell friends who have walked a loved one Home recently to schedule a complete physical (with blood work) six weeks after the funeral. It certainly can’t hurt and, for long-term caregivers and those dealing with their own chronic illnesses, it’s a good way to shift emphasis back to one’s own health.

3. Take a break from the grief. Watch your favorite movie, get some ice cream, take a hike, drink a margarita, or grab a pedicure. This is especially necessary if proximity to other people  —  yes, that can include one’s own family  —  is starting to breed frustration. (I was lucky and did not encounter this problem at all, but I still checked out a few times during the early weeks. The best thing I did for myself? Visiting my massage therapist.)

4. Set boundaries. If other mourners leave you feeling zapped, then turn off your phone and ignore your voicemail for a few hours. If bad or dysfunctional interactions are occurring frequently, create as much physical distance as necessary.

5. As necessary, run incoming comments through your own filter. Get ready! You might now be on the receiving end of a lot of remarks  —  good and bad, poignant and painful, helpful and downright annoying. I believe in my heart that a solid nine out of 10 people mean well when they try to comfort the grief-stricken. Sure, they may be clumsy in their delivery or gravitate toward clichés that seem impersonal, but if their hearts are in the right place, then opt to focus on the spirit intended.

The important thing is that you may feel better for giving them grace  —  and the benefit of the doubt.

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Thinkstock image by dennisvdw