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How To Deal With The Death Of A Loved One

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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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Charlene Tops

Charlene is a certified life coach who is passionate about writing, speaking and teaching.

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Last Updated on July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

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How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

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