How to deal with loss of loved one.
January 17, 2008 2:17 PM   Subscribe

Please suggest resources for dealing with the loss of a loved one – how to cope with grief. When you moved to the area just before it happened, you’re now all alone, and don’t have friends established, or anyone to talk to - it’s hard to cope with the enormous bills, the life change and deep emptiness. You go to work and pretend all is fine, but it’s not.

It’s been a few years, and you haven’t moved very far…. forward…(whatever that means)…what’s the next step? I’m looking for online resources, books, personal anecdotes, and anything available that you know works. I don’t want to steer this too closely so, hopefully, this post will be helpful to others in the future. However, for me, religious components are meaningless and the “ten stages” doesn’t cut it. I’ve got to find a reason to want to live, and I hope finally dealing with this may help. I can provide personal info to the moderators, but don’t want this to be solely about my situation.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (8 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
If you consider counseling one of your options: Hospice centers, in my experience, often have counseling available for anyone dealing with the loss of a loved one. In my community, that counseling is offered free of charge to anyone walking in the door, regardless of how the loved one was lost.
posted by wg at 2:26 PM on January 17, 2008

It took me a long, long time (yes, years) to come back around after my mother died -- and I can't tell you exactly how I came to accept it, there were people and ideas that came along to help and then there were times when I felt completely lost, but eventually, equilibrium -- and all of the ways that I know my mother remain with me, and I feel at peace with her life and death. That's what I wish for you and I believe you can have it.

I did some volunteer work with the Good Grief Center and I think this list is pretty good. There are other resources on their website that you might find helpful.

It really can help to talk -- so either with a therapist or through a hotline, find somebody to talk with --

As for finding reasons to live, that can seem like a huge task when you feel like the center has been pulled out of your world. I found that routine was an anchor -- at least for me, "What's the point?" Became a big question. So instead of trying to directly answer that question, I would get up and make my bed everyday and eat breakfast everyday and at least try to read the paper everyday and go to work etc. If you go through the motions and hang on, meaning comes back -- not earth-shattering meaning, but you might feel a bit more like your life has purpose - think broadly: There are all kinds of lives with all sorts of purposes out there. It's a building process and sometimes it seems excruciatingly slow.

Once you feel a little better and have more energy, you might want to do some of the things that you have always enjoyed and that give you comfort -- it could be anything, even simple tasks -- putting together a puzzle, changing the oil in your car, going to the library, a movie -- little things. For me, riding my bike helped and taking pictures -- because that took me outside and outside of myself.

There have been threads about the importance of exercise for healing and it's so true. Get out and move, it really will help you feel better. If you like groups, take a group class or if there's an outdoor group in your area, sign up for one of their events (bird walk, hike, afternoon kayak trip). If you're not into group stuff, even just getting out and being around people, walking or biking, might make you feel more relaxed and connected.

Above all, remember that things change. Your perspective might be a little narrow right now, so remember, that although things changed for the worse with this death, they will no doubt change again and again and some of that change will be good -- just hang on.
posted by nnk at 3:00 PM on January 17, 2008 [4 favorites]

My best friend of twenty years died when I was twenty-one. The one constant person in my life gone, my cheerleader, my confidant, the ying to my yang, however you want to describe it. It's approaching seven years now since his death and I'll be honest, sometimes I still find myself crying out of the blue. But... it is better now. Or rather the pain is less accessible. Because what has happened in the years since his death is that I've kept on living. At first it was real real hard. While I was lucky enough to be in a situation where I was surrounded by friends in the immediate aftermath, within a couple months I moved to a new city where I knew no one and was too shell-shocked really to interact with people. I buried myself in work and drowned myself in alcohol and one the one-year anniversary of his death, I had a long long talk with his mom and realized that I was not nearly as okay as I was trying to pretend to be.

For me therapy wasn't a solution.

My solution, and this may not work for you or fit your situation, but my solution was to move home for a year, stop trying to interact with people who didn't know this man I loved so fiercely, and save every last nickel and dime I had. And then, taking with me all the conversations we had about places we were going to go, and things we were going to see, I took off to do and see them. I spent ten months traveling by myself, talking to strangers, reveling in the wonders that this world has to offer. I spent the third anniversary of his death sitting on a beach in new zealand drinking a bottle of wine I had carried for three days. I sat and drank and cried and you know what? I felt better.

I returned to the states and was ready to actually start living again. To start new things. To rejoin the living.

As I said, its been approaching seven years now and while I still keep a little altar for him in my apartment and photographs of us when we were four and when we were twenty-one, there are new things in my life now as well.

I will never have a friendship that deep nor experience love so pure again, but I had it, we had it, and I would not trade all the pain I still feel for anything (except to have him back). But I am better now. It took shaking up my life in a serious way, but I am better now.

This has been my experience, your's (everyone's) will, of course, vary. You just got to keep living.
posted by ilikecookies at 3:30 PM on January 17, 2008 [9 favorites]

Grief therapy is worth every penny, and I'm certain that you can find someone who is more than willing to help you no matter how much you can afford... the scale slides lower for grief it seems.

I also find that walking helps, especially with someone else who is grieving for the same exact reason. Even if I were all alone in my grief I'd still want to take walks, it's amazing how helpful it is to think things through while walking. Find a trail, a path, somewhere where you can zone out without worrying too much about the walking part and just start walking, the thoughts will come, as I'm sure you're aware, naturally.
posted by togdon at 3:32 PM on January 17, 2008

counseling and exercise, for sure. medication may help--if you have been in this mental rut for years, you very well may have rewired your brain for depression (there have been studies about how deep grief can do this). volunteering for something may help, too--sometimes when you feel completely empty, giving can make you feel full.

finally, how about a pet? a dog will get you out of the house and exercising; a cat is a little more flexible if you have an irregular schedule. just the touch of another living being is enormously healing and soul-soothing, and they sometimes do funny stuff that makes you smile.

i'm glad you have decided to do something about it. i know people who haven't, and it's been bad. good luck and best wishes.
posted by thinkingwoman at 3:34 PM on January 17, 2008

My father died last year and, frankly, it still hurts like hell. He was effectively my only parent and raised me, taught me, and believed in me when not many people did. Watching him die hurt and hurts like hell. Still. Writing this hurts like hell, in fact.

It's not much, but I feel better when I redirect some of that frustration into charity work and into personal goals that he believed I could accomplish. He continues to inspire me, and I certainly spend some time doing things to be with him in spirit such as trying his favorite foods, listening to his favorite music, and so on. But primarily I'm making an effort to positively impact the lives of those still living rather than just agonizing over his death - thus the charity work. He died but, in his death, he inspired me to try to help other people. Perhaps it doesn't seem like much but having something good come out of the horrible experience makes accepting it a heck of a lot easier.

However, I modestly suggest that if you're concerned about not having moved on with your life after several years then you probably want more help than Ask Metafilter can provide. If that sounds like you, you probably ought to think about some professional counseling. It sounds like you went through a really tough situation and there's no shame in getting a little help from some experts.

Regardless, best wishes from here and I hope you'll find some peace of mind soon.
posted by LastOfHisKind at 9:33 PM on January 17, 2008

ilikecookies expressed quite beautifully what a friend put to me a little more succinctly. It was the most helpful perspective I ever got on the topic.

Someone sat me down, looked me in the eyes, and was blunt with me. They said that yes, it is a terrible thing, and yes, they have been there. But stop thinking of yourself, and your loss, for a minute. Instead, think about the one that you've lost.

What would they have wanted for you?

They loved you. They wouldn't want to see you spending the rest of your life in misery, that would be selfish of them and the opposite of love. They would want you to be as wildly happy as you could possibly be.

For me, at the time, that was a million miles away from where I was, and moving away from there took time. But it was helpful to stop, when the grief came rushing back, and remind myself that a loved one would really want the best for you, and the only way to honor their memory is to seek that out, every day, for the rest of your life. Its doing what they would have wanted.

After all, if the tables were turned (would that I could have turned them), that's what I would have wanted for her.

There are some great threads here on this subject, I encourage you to use your tags and hunt them down. Also, I think you would find Lewis' A Grief Observed quite poignantly accurate and helpful.
posted by allkindsoftime at 12:20 AM on January 18, 2008 [3 favorites]

My mom passed away almost two years ago, just shy of both my birthday and my parents anniversy.

At first I cried for a few days and then everything 'seemed' fine. But over a period of months I was in and out of the hospital/mental ward for a variety of mental issues I've never dealt with before.

I was in the same situation as you. I moved to a new town, I had lots of financial problems, I was literally by myself.

To prevent this, I would suggest the most common answer. A therapist will definetley help you grieve in the way you want to. You don't have to be afraid to cry or say anything to offend the therapist as they are trained to deal with this.

Then, if necessary, a psychiatrist for medication if you cannot handle the constant depression anymore. Remember to research any medication you are going to be put on to see if it''l suit your life style.

During these steps you want to make friends. Go to bars, clubs, comedy shows, or the book store. Spark conversations with individuals who look to have similar interests you have. Make friends at work, ask them to go out to a bar/club with you on the weekend. These are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to meeting friends. School helps as well, although I'm not sure if you have already pursued that path.

Last but not least do not dump all of your problems on your new friends. Instead, make it gradual, find something in common. Be yourself and if your new friend asks "why the long face?" just gradually mention you lost someone. Most of the time, if it doesn't seem desperate, they will cope with you, take you out, or just sit and talk. Most people are willing to help unless they get dumped on by a huge burden.

Hope this helps, it did for me.

Good luck.
posted by Schuby at 10:33 AM on January 28, 2008

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