The loss of a loved one is agonizing and traumatic. And if the loss is sudden and unexpected, studies have shown that the shocking event can trigger psychiatric disorders, and double the risk for new-onset mania in people aged 30 years and older. 

Even when we believe we are prepared for the loss of a loved one — such as after a long and debilitating illness — the impact is severe, and it can take significantly longer than expected for the healing process to take root and start transforming the pain, despair, and anger into acceptance and peace, comments experienced funeral director and licensed embalmer Henry Vinson. Healing is not a linear process and most people have good days and bad days. There are times when they think that they’re moving towards acceptance, and then there are times when they feel as if they haven’t moved forward at all since the death happened. People need to be patient with others and especially themselves; if for no other reason than because it’s what their loved one would have wanted.

In light of the core, fundamental truth that people grieve differently based on their respective cultural background, spiritual inclinations, past experiences, psychological and emotional characteristics, physical condition, economic stresses (or lack thereof) and many other variables and factors, according to Henry Vinson here are three general tips for dealing with grief and fostering the healing process.

Talk about the loss with a loved one, friend or mental health professional.

Many people convince themselves that they have accepted the loss of a loved one, because they outwardly appear to be relatively peaceful and stable. However, even the most stoic individuals are deeply impacted by the experience, and often need to recognize that they haven’t accelerated through the grieving and healing process; rather, they have circumvented it. Talking about death with a loved one, friend, or if desired or required a mental health professional, can help bring these suppressed feelings to the surface, and enable authentic, lasting acceptance and healing over time.

According to Henry Vinson, who holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Mortuary Science: when people deny that a death took place, they risk isolating themselves from the people and support system they need and deserve. Talking about loss is never easy, but it can be — and often is — cathartic and transformative.

Reach out and help others coping with the loss.

It may seem counter-intuitive, but one of the most effective and positive things that an individual can do to facilitate their own healing after the loss of a loved one, is to reach out and help someone else who is also struggling to re-calibrate and recover their lives in the aftermath of death. 

Commented Henry Vinson, who is a member of the Ohio Embalmers Association: something as simple as making a phone call or writing a heartfelt handwritten letter to someone else who is suffering the loss of a loved one, can be remarkably helpful for everyone. When people connect through their mutual suffering, their combined compassion and empathy is very powerful. Just knowing that one is not alone can be the difference between lying in bed, and getting up in the morning to do what is required, such as walking the dog, putting out the garbage, and other ordinary tasks that can be extremely difficult.

Remember and celebrate the life of a loved one.

In the first few days, weeks and possibly months after a death it can be virtually impossible for some people to remember and celebrate the loss of a loved one. Despite their best efforts, they are overcome by immense sadness, despair, anger, guilt, and shame. However, over time it is helpful, wise and, indeed, necessary for people to recall the good times and positive experience that made their loved one such a meaningful part of their life.

Henry Vinson, who also advises death care providers on how to effectively and appropriately market and advertise their services claims that journaling and scrapbooking can be highly effective ways for people to remember and celebrate the life of a loved one. Over time, the pain and despair for what has been lost, can be replaced by gratitude and joy for having known and loved someone so special and unique.

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