Coping with grief


My name is Krishnan and I am 78 years old.

The topic of my podcast is not a pleasant one, but I consider this as one of the most important issues that we face as senior citizens.

The last few months have seen several of my close friends and relatives pass away and I realise that this is not unique to me. I request your indulgence and patience as I go through some difficult thoughts on managing grief.

Last week, I woke up one morning to learn about the demise of one of the most respected, valued and admired residents of the retirement community that we live in.

I felt really sad but  I also wondered that if this news could impact me so much, what effect would it have on the nearest and dearest members of the family? The spouse, the children, the relatives and close friends. Devastating isn’t it?

I spoke to a few friends and read about some practical tips on managing grief and trauma. I felt I should dedicate this podcast to every spouse and share some insights that would help them and us.

Before I go further, when tragedy hits, we are generally caught totally unaware. There is the emotional part that hits you first and we all know how hard that is. Then there is the practical part which can also be hard as you are totally unprepared.

I urge you to read the blog by Revathi Bhasker titled “Expecting the Unexpected” here:

Revathi lost her husband almost two years back. It was sudden, shocking and of course extremely traumatic. But Revathi had the courage to put together a presentation that tells us about the practical aspects of managing your life when you lose your spouse.

In the blog, she will tell you how to be prepared and what you should do take care of yourself economically, socially and practically.

Every one of us experiences stress at some time or the other in our life and have our own ways of managing it. Stress is an inevitable and integral part of life. Research carried out on the most stressful life events indicates that the following events are the most traumatic in any one’s life.

Losing a spouse, losing a child, a parent or a relative. There are of course events like moving house, losing one’s job, injuries leading to disability etc. Did you know that losing a pet can be extremely sad and painful?

Losing one’s spouse is the most tragic and traumatic event and can alter the course of your life due to grief, anxiety, and helplessness. We actually spend more time with our spouse than our parents or children. We leave our parents when we get married and our children leave us to lead their own lives. It is the love, the quality of bonding, the companionship, the sharing of joys and sorrows that make the relationship between husband and wife like none other.

But reality can strike hard. One day you are married. The next day you are single and full of grief. Your spouse is no more. The intensity of your emotions, the forced lifestyle change and practical necessities make you helpless and afraid.

Time is a great healer,it is said. Some may say it is only a concealer, but there are ways that you can start building a new life for yourself. Death is inevitable but life offers much more than we can imagine.

Your mind is full of several reactions to your grief. You may feel guilty that you are still alive or may be relieved that your spouse’s pain and torment are over or that your spouse is no longer suffering.

Get hold of yourself

There is no right or wrong way to feel after losing your spouse. So many variables contribute to your reaction, including how long and happy your marriage was, how your spouse died, how old your children are (if you have them), and how dependent you were on one another. You may cry a lot or be angry that you could not help. Remember your grief is unique to you.

Your relatives or friends may be at a loss for words or uncomfortable talking, but that does not mean they do not care. If you can tell them what you need and if you or they want to talk about the deceased, it may give you solace to share memories with them

Pay attention to your health

Sorrow and grief can be harmful for your physical well being. You may not be able to eat or sleep well, but you must take care of yourself. Ask your doctor about your health and try to be in the company of relatives or close friends. Studies show that the risk of death of the survivor in the first two or three months is high. Try not to entertain negative thoughts for yourself.

Let your support system help

The days and months after the death of your spouse can be very lonely, confusing and painful. The chances of it affecting your mental well being cannot be ruled out.  You may feel depressed and feel futile about living. Depression not only affects your mood but can have an impact on your ability to think, function normally and leave you feeling hopeless, life can seem dark. Reach out to your doctor or a counsellor.

 It is important for you to reach out to family and friends for help. You may feel otherwise but support is always helpful. If you are religiously inclined, prayers have proven to soothe your feelings. Whichever religion you practice, remember, faith is the biggest healer.

Resume Social Activity

Getting back into your social circle may be difficult initially, especially if you are single and have a lot of couples as friends. Wait for some time if you feel awkward and let your friends know that one on one meetings are more suitable.

Think of being a volunteer for social or needy causes or consider learning something new, like a language, music, a new craft like painting or embroidery. If you are already good at some of these, think of starting a class.

Remembering the good times

 Anniversaries, birthdays, milestone events, vacations etc may be difficult. Sharing these memories with your close friends and relatives may ease the pain. Think of them as cherished memories that belong only to you.

You need time and strength to go through your spouse’s belongings like clothes, photos, files, books. Remember this is for you to decide. Don’t force yourself or listen to advice that you feel you do not need. Each person’s grief, joy, and decision is unique. Try to be brave, your spouse belongs in your heart.

Healing does not mean forgetting. Memories are like a treasure that you can revisit and find comfort in from time to time.

It is very hard to lose a dear one, but it is possible to create a new life for yourself. It may not be the same as with your spouse, but your loved one surely wished it for you.

I remind you, read the blog by Revathi Bhasker. It will be worth your time.

May the soul of the departed rest in peace. Om Shanti shanti shanti

by Mr V Krishnan, resident of Covai S3 Retirement Community

  – Reblog – originally published as a podcast at CovaiVani

1 thought on “Coping with grief”

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