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Dealing with a death is one life’s most stressful life experiences. It is a time where people forget to make time for themselves. The result? Your own physical and emotional health can rapidly spiral downwards.
Navigating the practical tasks required after a death will hopefully be a process you are not required to do on a regular basis….nor will you be an expert at. The flip side is that it can easily become an overwhelming, complicated and lonely experience.
Prioritising and practising self-care after a death is crucial for your own health and wellbeing. Following these top 5 tips can be a helpful reminder to focus on yourself, when dealing with a bereavement.
Practising self-care following a bereavement
1. Take your time
There is absolutely no rush and you must deal with things at your own pace. Every bereavement and your circumstances will be different. There will be much to arrange in the immediate days and weeks after a death. The reality is the process will go on for much longer so you need to ensure you do not try to achieve everything at once.
2. Ask for help from friends and family
Create a plan or list of the tasks that need to be done. Prioritise which are the most urgent and then number them in order of importance.
Offers of support from friends and family come quite quickly in the immediate aftermath then tend to trail off. Why not take up some of these offers of support around the more practical tasks? If they could help you with making some of the more routine calls, this will be one less time that you have to relay your loss to a complete stranger.
If people are struggling to know what to do or say, asking for help with day to day tasks can be really useful. Ask them for assistance with shopping or running errands. See if they can they take the kids to the park or care for your pets to give you some space. These small acts of support can provide a huge benefit to you.
3. Make time for practising self-care
It should seem obvious that you should make time during this period for yourself. It is critical that you give yourself permission to rest and recharge your batteries. You must look after yourself before you can look after others.
The reality however is not so easy. It is likely to be the last thing on your mind. If you are now faced with alone raising children, running a home and working, you time will be stretched further.
Take time to build in to your day short 15- 30 minute bursts of activities for yourself. Take a brisk walk in the fresh air, practice meditation or yoga, soak in a hot bath, read a book or simply have a nap. This may just give you a little bit of space and clarity to face the rest of the day.
Be mindful of harmful thoughts or activities that may start to creep in to your life. If you notice that you are spending more time using alcohol or substances, gambling, feeling depressed or displaying destructive behaviours – reach out for professional support as soon as you feel this is becoming problematic for you. You may not notice this yourself so keep an eye out for gentle advice from friends or family that may be worried about you.
4. Keep in touch with family and friends
Do not be afraid to reach out and let people know how you are feeling and coping. Once the immediate rally of help has passed, you may be surprised at the silence you experience. When people do not know what to say or how to act, they often simply stay away.
As a society, we are not used to openly talking about death. Your loved ones may not want to discuss your loss for fear of upsetting you further. To the outside world, you may appear to be coping well. If it seems that you ‘have it together’, others may avoid discussing your loss in case it sets you back.
Make sure that people know it is okay to get in touch and your preferred method of communication. It doesn’t have to be long face to face chats. A simple message to check in with you every few days could be sufficient. Having routine everyday conversations may just give you a few minutes respite whilst grieving.
Remember to keep an eye out for children. Make sure their teachers and support network know that you have had a recent loss. They may appear to be ‘normal’ to the outside world. But consider this – if the adults around them are not openly discussing the death, then they may not feel able to open up to you about their feelings. Quickly noticing any changes in their presentation or behaviour can allow the right support to be found for them.
5. Seek bereavement support
Grief is different for everyone and your experience of loss will be completely individual to you. If your own family circle doesn’t quite understand how you are feeling, why not reach out to people in the same situation. It can be a real source of comfort and provide practical and emotional support for you and your family.
There are many bereavement support services to help you through this time. Services are now available online, by telephone and in-person. Many organisations and groups have established social media support communities that you can access, often regardless of your location within the UK. There are some inspiring organisations that focus on specific types of grief such as bereavement by suicide, young widows or child loss that give even more tailored support to your situation.
The Good Grief Trust brings together over 800 bereavement support services and exists to help all those affected by grief in the UK. Their website is an excellent service that provides a wealth of information for the bereaved.
How can The Sunset Plan help the bereaved?
The Sunset Plan offers tips and guides for how to deal with the practical tasks required after a death. Our step by step guides can help with a range of processes from closing accounts, dealing with the death of distant relatives to how to write a eulogy.
Our website provides structure and links to services that may be able to help you through this time. These are not tasks we do often in life. Our aim is to make this information and support available – when you need it.
We have resources available to help people plan ahead and get their own practical life organised. After dealing with these tasks on behalf of someone else, it usually triggers people to making their own plans to avoid others struggling on their behalf on day. Our resources provide structure when starting to gather your important information. When completed, it can provide a clear road map for others to follow when it is needed.
If you know of someone who has recently suffered a bereavement, why not share this post with them on social media? Encourage them to prioritise and practise self-care during this difficult time.