You can recall clearly the day your father took you for your first bicycle ride. It was a crisp autumn day and the sun was shining on your brand new Huffy. You remember his hand gently guiding your bike along the road that ran by your apartment building. You even recall his smile as you began steering your bike on your own.
The memory lingers with you as you begin to make preparations for your father's burial. He had had a long illness—cancer—and you knew that the end would be coming soon. Yet, you now think that nothing could have prepared you for the day when he actually died. While you anticipated a period of mourning, you failed to realize that you would encounter a great deal of stress as a result of his death. You may be surprised—even shocked—by the amount of stress you feel.
We seldom associate death with stress, yet the death of a loved one is one of the most stressful events that can happen in our lives. Whether it is the death of a parent, a spouse, a child, a sibling, or a beloved friend, death makes us anxious—not only about our loss, but about our own mortality. The most stressful aspect of death may be the fear of the unknown—you may not know what to expect next, and you may wonder how you will handle the next obstacle that comes your way.
The most important thing you can do to deal with death-related stress is to recognize it for what it is. Realize that it is perfectly natural for you to feel worried and anxious during this difficult time. Try to give yourself some time to pause and reflect. Don't feel as if you have to "hurry up and get over" the death. Allowing yourself an opportunity to grieve should help to reduce your stress level—and make you a healthier person, emotionally speaking.
One thing you can do to help you deal with the stress is to do something positive to remember your loved one by. In other words, consider planting a tree, making a contribution to your loved one's favorite charity, or volunteering your time at the nursing home that cared for your loved one in his or her final days. Discovering that life still offers pleasant possibilities gives you hope—and can help you to deal with your stress more effectively.
Give considerable thought to how your loved one would want you to carry on after his or her death. Chances are great your father, mother, husband, or brother would not want you sulking in the corner for the rest of your life. Give yourself permission to go on with life. As a result, you should feel less stress—and you should enjoy life more.
Another effective stress-reducing technique is to commit your thoughts to paper. Writing can be quite therapeutic and can help you gain perspective on your situation. The process of writing can improve your problem-solving skills, making you better able to cope with your situation. Also, give yourself time to re-read your journal entries. You might be amazed at how much you've grown, emotionally-speaking, over a short period of time.
If the stress of death becomes overwhelming, by all means seek the help of a professional. A counselor can help you to sort out your feelings and recommend coping techniques. You might find it quite liberating to talk to another individual about everything you're feeling inside. In some cases, you might also want to consult with a psychiatrist to see if there is some medication you can take that will help you deal with death-related anxiety.
All of us will experience the death of someone close to us at some time in our lives. Therefore, we can expect to deal with the stress of losing someone we love. However, it's good to know that there are positive things we can do to help us deal more effectively with the stress related to death. While, in a certain sense, we may never get over a loved one's death, we can learn to cope with the loss. We may even learn to smile again
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