After funeral week has passed, survivors need to effectively manage and recover from the stress brought on by grief. Survivors may find it helpful to explore and incorporate stress management activities. Our goal is to manage and change our bodily reactions and stress responses to our grief. Historically, the following management activities have been helpful to my clients.
One of the most effective and instant game changers for my clients has been acceptance. Only upon acceptance of the death can one begin to restructure one’s future. One must realize that life has changed, accept that it will never be the same, and begin to reorganize their existence without the companionship of their decedent by their side.
Acceptance is the process of letting go of things we cannot change. If we resist this acceptance, we are unable to move forward, and we are in constant turmoil with our environment and ourselves. Turmoil is rat poison to peace. Acceptance allows us to rid our souls of chaos and begin reconstructing our inner peace.
Learning to relax mentally and physically can bring about a miracle in healing. Progressive muscle relaxation and meditation techniques have been able to calm the troubled minds and tense bodies of those suffering ill effects of debilitating stress. Once the body and mind are clearing themselves of toxins and irrational thoughts, rational energy and thoughts will begin to resurface.
Rational or Positive Thinking and Believing
Once the turmoil and hysteria of stress begin flowing out of our bodies and minds, we are better able to manage our thoughts and determine our course of recovery. Thinking is our inward communication with ourselves. It is where we determine our feelings, develop our strategies, and chart our courses for success or failure. With the exception of the mentally challenged, our thinking is the one thing in life over which we have complete control. When concepts are presented to our sub-conscious, our conscious interpretation allows us to accept them willingly as good, worthwhile, and truthful, or to deny them as evil, unacceptable, and false. Our thought process (our manner of interpretation and thinking) makes these determinations. Herein lays our responsibility and ownership of ourselves.
In the beginning, irrational, negative, and hysterical thoughts will rule your mind. As you begin practicing methods of relaxation, you will find your head clearing and little moments of logic returning. Concentrate on those moments of clarity, write them down, and expand upon them. Eventually, as you focus on positive and rational thinking and believing, you will see your mind returning to its normal functionality.
Positive Affirmations or Goal Setting
Actively define your new life. Where do you want to be? What do you want to accomplish? What do you need to change? At first, it may just be the cessation of tears or the debilitating pain within your heart. That’s okay; it’s a good place to start.
Write your goals down. As your thoughts clear, develop and practice strategies for recovery and accomplishment.
Post your goals around the house. Put them on your refrigerator door, the mirror, on top of your TV, anywhere your eyes scan during the day. Seeing your goals repeatedly reinforces your commitment to achieving them, and keeps them ever fresh in the forefront of your mind.
Visualize your goals. See yourself as having already accomplished your goals and experience your new life within your thoughts.
Track your progress. As you complete each step (sub-goal) toward your goal, mark it off of your list. If you find that you need to restructure your strategy, do so. Tracking your progress helps you to realize your success.
Healthy Habits and Check Ups
Do not forget to take care of your physical needs too. Be sure that if you have chronic illness or disease to monitor your progress and care. Observe a healthy diet plan, exercise plan, and get plenty of rest. Failure to take care of yourself physically will result in illness, fatigue, and failure in other areas of your recovery.
Rely on a Higher Power
Whether they believe in God or not, my clients tell me that, the number one recovery tool for them has always been, and continues to be, prayer. Prayer clears the mind of irrational thoughts and hysteria. Prayer infuses knowledge and purity into one’s being. It allows the mind to accept and understand truth beyond its normal capability. It comforts the deepest wounds and heals the broken soul. It brings glory, comfort, and peace back into one’s life.
As a funeral director, I am often asked, “What is the most important task of funeral week?” The answer is to survive.