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How To Deal With The Death Of A Loved One

How To Deal With The Death Of A Loved One

Experiencing the death of a loved one is extremely personal.  Each one of us responds differently to loss.  There are so many variables when it comes to losing someone we love.  There are many different factors that will contribute to your feelings: what your loss is, how the loss happened (whether sudden or expected), the age of the person that was lost (young lives that had so much potential as compared to a life of someone who has lived a long, meaningful life), and the depth of the relationship. The bottom line is that no matter what kind of loss you are dealing with, you will be left to manage your own grief.

Grieving is a tremendously personal journey.  There are no right and wrong ways to deal with grief.  I have recently suffered a tremendous loss in my own life, so allow me to share with you parts of my journey in hopes of helping you in yours.

A peek into my journey

I lost my cousin, who was also my best friend and like a sister to me, to cancer last year.  I don’t remember a time when she wasn’t part of my life.  We grew up together, went to school together, got married around the same time, and had our children close together.  She was always a part of my everyday life–whether that meant birthdays and celebrations, funerals and sorrow, promotions and joy, she was there.

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Losing her has been one of the most difficult things I have ever experienced.  Even though her death was expected, I didn’t know the emotions I would feel until the time came. I had been part of her journey with cancer. I even shaved my head when she lost her hair, just to relate to some of what she was going through.

I often think of the day she got the terminal diagnosis. I stayed overnight with her in the hospital. We had a pajama party.  We laughed, we cried, we hugged, ate snacks from the vending machine on her hospital bed, and we talked and talked.  We talked about times we shared and the future that we wouldn’t.  She encouraged me to make my life count. She has inspired me to move out of my comfort zone and to follow my dream. There were times during her hospital stay for chemo treatments that we would video chat, and I would be there with her through the distance while she fell asleep.

After her death, I was at a loss of what to feel. Sometimes I cried a lot; other times, I couldn’t cry. The main thing that I learned was to allow myself to feel whatever it was that I felt.  It does no good to push the feelings under. It is healthy to go through each step of your grieving process.  I remember watching a TV show one night, and I started sobbing because it reminded me of her.  My husband, who was so supportive during my loss, asked me what he could do to help me.  All I wanted was my favorite picture of her.  I sat and held the picture, touching her face, and cried. As time goes by, I find I am able to feel her through the things I do. Pieces of her memory are scattered throughout my life, and they bring me comfort.

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Give yourself permission to grieve.

This may sound strange, however, it really is important that you allow yourself to feel the things you feel.  Everyone has their own reactions to loss.  Some people want to talk about the deceased member, while others are more reserved and are uncomfortable speaking of the loved one who has gone.

This is your journey; not anyone else.  Do what comes naturally for you.  If you want to display photos and have a special area of remembrance for your loved one, then do it. Depending on how you like to express yourself, Facebook sometimes can be a great way to say what’s on your mind.  There are times when I will go to my loved one’s page and just write her a message.  Although I realize she isn’t actually reading it, somehow, to me, it feels like a connection to her.

Grief comes in waves.  Sometimes, at unexpected moments, you will see, hear, or smell something that reminds you of the person and tears begin to flow involuntarily.  I remember one day, I was at my desk and a visitor came by and she was wearing a fragrance that reminded me of my cousin; without warning tears just slid down my cheeks. Of course, moments like this are overwhelming and a bit embarrassing, but if you just explain that you have recently lost a loved one, most people understand. It is important to allow these things to happen.  Don’t fight your feelings.  Don’t be afraid to let them out. It is a form of healing for you.

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Find Support

There are grief counseling places that specialize in the grieving process. These may be helpful for you. They are able to discuss things with you to help during the most difficult times. There are also groups that meet and talk together, sharing stories and experiences.  Depending on what you feel your needs are, you can determine whether or not this type of interaction is something that you would find beneficial.  If you don’t desire to do something on a professional level, make sure you find support in a group of friends or family.  You need to have someone who understands what you are going through. You need to feel comfortable to share your feelings. I found it wasn’t necessary to always have someone say anything back to me, but just to be there to listen to me. Realize that you are not alone in your grief; there are resources to help you.

Honor your loved one’s life

There are many wonderful types of organizations that will allow you to host an event in honor of your loved one. If your loved one died due to a certain illness, find an event that would benefit research on that particular disease, while honoring your loved one’s memory. Find a local cause that your family member was fond of and sponsor an event. For instance, I was able to ask my cousin what she would like me to do to carry on her memory after she was gone. She was always helping others through food banks and shelters and such, so I am organizing a food drive in her memory.  You can start a scholarship fund in your loved one’s memory. Be creative and find the perfect outlet to honor your loved one. This is a positive way to celebrate your loved one’s life and help others in the process.

Take care of yourself

It is very important during a time of great loss to take care of yourself.  Grief impacts your body in huge ways by depleting its energy and emotional resources.  Listen to what your body is saying.  If you need extra rest and quiet time, take it.  Don’t judge yourself during this time.  After losing my cousin, I felt tremendous exhaustion. Oftentimes, it is difficult to cope with routines because suddenly they are different than they had been.  A small task may seem daunting.

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Pace yourself during this time. Don’t expect a lot out of yourself. Your body and emotions have been through major difficulty. It is common to experience sleep difficulties, concentration problems, appetite lose, and even compulsive behavior. Realize all of these are typical and there isn’t anything wrong or crazy about you. Allow yourself the time you need to mend.

Unfortunately, the death of a loved one is inevitable in life. Everyone will lose someone at some point. Understanding that you are not alone, celebrating your loved one’s life, and taking care of yourself are all important aspects on your road to healing your grief. My wish for you today is that if you are hurting, you will find comfort. Remember that those who have gone on are cheering us on to live a life that counts. Make each day special and leave a legacy for others to remember.

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The Gentle Art of Saying No

The Gentle Art of Saying No

No!

It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

  1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
  2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
  3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
  4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
  5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
  6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
  7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
  8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
  9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
  10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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