HEALTHY WAYS TO CRY AND GRIEVE WHEN SOMEONE DIES OR LEAVES YOU

when someone dies

Death of a loved one. Bomb-blast. Terminal disease. Fatal road traffic accident. Heartbreak. Break-up. Separation. Divorce.  Miscarriage. Abortion. Kidnapping. Missing child. Wayward child. People come; people go. And that is life. Change is the only thing certain in this world.

Our world is shaken, and crumbles. Shock. Sadness. Denial. Fear. Anger. Loneliness. Depression. And if not properly handled, one wouldn’t be able to live a normal, fruitful, satisfying life ever again. If not properly handled, loss of someone dear to us will leave us devastated for life, bringing in all manners of bizarre mental disorders and physical diseases.

How do we cope when a friend or family member— when someone dies? Are there healthy ways to grieve, to mourn, to cry? What is the best response to the painful event of losing someone close to your heart?

#1: Express yourself fully and freely.
 
Feel the pain, completely. Don’t block any feeling. There’s nothing wrong with you; it’s normal and legitimate to feel sad and lonely. Express the hurt fully and freely. Don’t bury any pain. Don’t repress or suppress. Uproot and express. Acknowledge the loss. Accept it. Be honest about how you feel; show your true feelings; don’t hide or cover anything. Cry if you feel like crying, and scream if that will help express the pain. Crying doesn’t make you a weak person, just as not crying doesn’t mean you are strong. No need acting strong. The pain will not go faster if you ignore it. Face the pain. Feel the pain. Be afraid. Be angry. Leave no emotions unexpressed, because repressed emotions will surface someday, or accumulate in the psyche leading to bizarre mental disorders or psychosomatic diseases. Discourage cultural traditions that say “don’t cry!” Blessed are those that mourn… .

#2: Receive support from family and friends.
 
People are important. Talk to someone. Ask for care. Open your heart and homes; allow friends to visit you. Don’t stay alone. Don’t push people away. Don’t grieve alone. People are supposed to “mourn with those that mourn”. Accept phone calls. Reply chats and text messages. Allow yourself to be loved. Make new friends. You need companionship and care. Religious groups are especially helpful in such times. Your circle of friends will come handy in moments like these. Social groups are very important. You are not alone; some people have gone through what you are going through–listen to them, and allow them to comfort you. Discourage cultural traditions that insist on isolation (from friends) and staying indoors for long periods.

#3: Take care of yourself and your health

People tend to ignore their health and hygiene after the loss of a loved one or a break-up. There’s poor self-care associated with sorrow. Cultural traditions associated with shaving of the head, not bathing or cleaning one’s self, sleeping with corpses, drinking of bathwater used in bathing corpses, sleeping in evil forests and sending one on dangerous quests, dancing naked in public, wearing odd clothing, and all those practices that affect one’s physical, mental, and emotional health should be discouraged. You looking good doesn’t mean you’re not mourning! Groom your hair, brush your teeth, and bathe regularly. Eat healthy foods, exercise regularly, and have good sleeps. Avoid alcohol. Don’t smoke.

#4: Channel your energy and plan for the future.

Do something else. This is not to be seen as a way to escape from the reality of what has happened. You have accepted the loss, you are feeling the pains, and moving on with your life. Bitter truth is, people are important, but no matter how important they are, they are not indispensable! You can do something in their memories. Life goes on. Write poems or a book. Make a painting. Compose a song. Start a Cause, a group, or an organisation. Launch a project. Volunteer for an outreach. Plan an event or ceremony to commemorate the person’s departure. Plan for the future and work towards it. Move on. Go to school. Get a new job. Relocate. Do something!

#5: Know when to seek professional help!

There’s a thing line between grief and clinical depression. Don’t assume everything is normal if the grief (and pain) doesn’t go away with time. Grief, even though might last a lifetime, is supposed to reduce with time. Time heals. Scars fade. If the emotional pain persists for long time, and instead of reducing, remains constant or increases with time (and the pain gets increasingly unbearable), then you need professional help. Whenever you can’t forgive yourself (and keep blaming yourself); when you start wishing that you die; when you start taking alcohol and abusing drugs in order to “forget your sorrows”; when the grief doesn’t seem to go away…you need to see a counsellor, a psychologist, your spiritual (or religious) leader, or a psychiatrist. Talk to someone that can help.

Writer’s block!

Missing you, Mum. Rest in peace.

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Dr. 'Malik Haruna King is a practicing Nigerian Medical Doctor and Sex Therapist. He helps people with sensitive health issues find answers to questions they are too ashamed to ask!