Tuesday, April 10, 2012

How to Cope with Death and Grief

As we age, we all face the fact that there is a finish line looming up ahead.  At some point, we will need to not only accept our own impending death, but also the deaths of those we love.  As much as we don't like to think about these events, it can be helpful to have a better understanding of how to cope with death when the situation arises.

Recognize the Five Stages of Grief

In 1969, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross interviewed hundreds of dying patients, and used the results to write a book called "On Death and Dying." (available from Amazon).  In her landmark book, she listed what she considered the five stages of grief that most people will experience.  She learned that, while everyone will experience at least some of the stages, not everyone will experience all of them.  She also noticed that some people may spend a long time alternating between just two or three of the stages.  It may also take certain people much longer to reach the final stage of acceptance than others.

Whether you are facing your own death, or coping with the death of a loved one, it is important to understand and recognize the different stages of grief that we might be experiencing.  The stages are:

Denial -- refusing to admit that anything is wrong.

Anger -- raging against God, doctors or anything that may have contributed to the health problem.

Bargaining -- begging your Higher Power for more time; promising to change future behavior.

Depression -- feeling helpless, hopeless and despondent. 

Acceptance -- willingness to prepare for the inevitable, including finalizing plans, writing letters to those who will be left behind, talking about your good memories, etc.

Accepting the Inevitability of Death

Death is something we will all have to face at one time or another ... whether it is our own death, or that of a loved one.  Most of us will experience at least some of these stages of grief.  It is helpful to understand what we are going through, and realize that we will eventually pass through these different stages and reach acceptance, no matter how hard that may be to believe.

Once we reach the stage of acceptance, we can begin to take constructive action.  If you are the person who has been told you have a terminal disease, you may want to read my article called:

Redesigning Death - Bringing Joy to Your Final Days

This article offers a number of tips on how you can change the mood surrounding your death, so that you can make things easier for yourself and your loved ones.

If the death is that of a loved one, it can sometimes be even more difficult to reach the stage of acceptance.  The article on Redesigning Death is also a good way to open up the conversation about how to celebrate that person's life, rather than focus on their death ... as hard as that may be to think about.

If someone you care about is experiencing the death of someone they love, be patient with them and recognize that it may take some time to go through the various stages of grief.  There is no way to hurry the process.  The best things you can do for your friend is to be there for them, listen, and let them take their time processing the situation.

If you are interested in more articles of interest to Baby Boomers, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page for links to hundreds of additional articles.

You are reading from the blog: http://www.baby-boomer-retirement.com

Photo courtesy of morguefile. com

2 comments:

  1. This is such a well written article. I recently had to deal with this subject and wish I had had the book you quoted. Thank you!

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  2. Thank you so much for your comments. I have had to go through this experience several times with friends, and I am sure I will deal with death and grief more in the future. Researching this article was helpful to me, too.

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