Coping with Loss, North Carolina, self care after loved one dies

Supports for North Carolina Families Coping with Loss

hand reaching out after loss
share post

Image by Jackson David via Pixabay

It can be overwhelming to deal with the financial, emotional, and physical needs that crop up when someone passes away, but self care after loved one dies is important to consider as a major component in the healing process.

Self care while grieving can likewise be difficult and even seem selfish. However, if you’ve recently suffered a loss, self-care activities may be the best way to ensure that you’ll be able to process the grief and still handle the many things that may be required of you.

Resources in Your Community

Navigating grief is, of course, an intensely personal process. Still, self-sufficiency doesn’t mean you have to do it all on your own. Anyone can benefit from knowing the resources in their area, even if you aren’t currently in the thick of a grieving process yourself.

The North Carolina Funeral Directors Association offers a list of resources both in-person and online for those looking for support with grieving.

A Grief Support Group

A support group can be an invaluable resource for a grief journey. They can offer a place where you can work through the grief process with others who know exactly what you’re going through.

Check in with local churches, funeral homes, or hospice organizations to find a group that fits your needs in your community. In Winston-Salem, NC, for example, Trellis Supportive Care offers grief support groups and workshops that can help you cope with the normal emotions that arise after a death.

One-on-One Counseling

Therapy and counseling can be useful for anyone practicing self care, but especially after a death. Maybe you’ve had a longer time frame to process a death, due to a terminal illness. Maybe it occurred suddenly or unexpectedly. In either case, the death of a loved one can be a traumatic event, and trauma lives in the body, not just the mind.

Sometimes we believe that we “should” be getting better faster, or we spend time feeling guilty for our inability to move on. Self compassion is just as important as self care, and a therapist could help us recognize that our feelings are normal and part of a natural process.

Friends and family can be a wonderful support system, but sometimes it’s helpful to have someone who’ll listen and offer words of advice who isn’t impacted by the same grief event. Just as you would see a medical professional for physical pain, it’s perfectly reasonable to see a mental health professional for emotional pain.

Family grieving together

Image by Silviarita via Pixabay

Your Existing Support System

It can be helpful to take a sort of inventory of the supports already in your life. A trusted friend or family member could be able to help you identify your needs and practice self care.

A Family Member

Sometimes people fear to rely upon their close family members for self care while grieving. They may expect that others have it worse or fear they will cause stress to their loved ones if they admit they need help.

If you reach out to someone you love, fully acknowledging that they may also be experiencing the pain and stress of grieving, it’s more likely than not that your effort will give them a sense of belonging. Grief can feel lonely, and good self care can also mean relying on others.

Sometimes, in trying to protect the well being of our family members, we risk accidentally sending them through their feelings of grief alone. One moment of vulnerability might make a connection that supports everyone in their grieving.

A Best Friend

Friends and family are all people likely to place high value on your well being during a time of grief in your life. Sometimes, though, a best friend could prove even more instrumental to healing than family!

Close friends may not have been as connected to the loved one you’ve lost as your family, and can therefore put more focus on taking care of you and validating your emotions. Don’t be afraid to let your loved ones know what you need. Common friend support might include:

A Regular Check Up

The stress of dealing with the emotions that result from the loss of a loved one can profoundly affect your well being. Friends can check up on you periodically and proactively with phone calls or visits that give you a sense of connection.

Just Listen

Sometimes, all a grieving person needs is to be able to be heard. When your feelings are too big for your body, a friend can simply listen and, in doing so, allow you to vent some of that stress.

In another sense, friends may listen when you talk to the nurse, the funeral director, the real estate agent, the lawyer, or the will’s executor. After the death of a loved one, you may have hundreds of conversations that require a certain presence of mind that may be challenging. Others may be able to focus better and retain important information to deliver back to you when you need it.

woman and her dog

Image by Seaq68 via Pixabay

An Animal Companion

If you’ve got a pet that is part of the family, it may not surprise you to know that a study published in PLOS One found that “animals were ranked the highest among all forms of social support, which included categories like friends, family, community members, faith leaders, therapists or counselors, support groups, and faith leaders.”

In other words, many people in the study found more comfort from their pets or other animals than they did from other humans. Pets could be an excellent resource for someone experiencing grief. For one, they never say the wrong thing!

Self Care for the Body

Self Care for the Body

Grief is hard on every part of a person, but we sometimes don’t recognize the enormous stress that grief puts on our bodies. Getting adequate sleep but not too much sleep, eating healthfully to fuel ourselves, exercising appropriately — all become harder while grieving.

Finding ways to maintain routines to your life that keep your body strong can make healing from grief a little easier. The self-care tips for supporting your body’s health are helpful anytime, but they may be especially important during times of grief.

importance of sleep

Image by Claudio Scott via Pixabay

The Importance of Sleep

There is no magic formula for grief, but if there were, sleep would probably be involved. It’s normal when experiencing grief to sleep too much or to be unable to sleep, but doing what you can to balance the amount of sleep in your life can work wonders for the body and the mind.

Even if you find it hard to fall asleep, intentional relaxation can be restorative. Good sleep hygiene can be a big part of self care. Try these common recommendations:

A Quiet Place

Set up your environment for success. A quiet room with few distractions is generally a better bet for sleeping.

This also applies to the time leading up to bedtime. Try to avoid screens and sound-rich environments in the hour or two before you lie down. Relaxing music, however, may be a way to help yourself wind down.

A Warm Bath

Taking a bath 90 minutes or so before bedtime may have a calming effect on the nervous system. It encourages your muscles to relax as well, paving the way for an easier time falling asleep.

Deep Breaths

Some people find various meditation and mindfulness practices helpful to their grieving. They aren’t necessarily designed to help with sleep, but some may have that effect.

By soothing the fight-or-flight system, which is often overactive when you have a lot of stress in your life, deep breathing can provide the body with the calm space it needs to fall asleep.

Meal for a grieving family

Image via Pixabay

Food for Thought

The human brain requires quite a lot of energy to run. When you’re in grief, your brain may not be working optimally, appropriately controlling stress hormones and other systems. Compound this with the tendency many people have to not eat or overeat during stressful times of life, and the brain may not be getting what it needs for us to run at our best.

Food as self care may be challenging at the best of times, and grief makes the challenge deeper. If you are able to eat nutritionally-balanced meals, though, you may find that you feel better both physically and emotionally.

Eating Enough

During normal times, this may sound like a ridiculous idea, but if your response to grief is to forget to eat, you may consider setting yourself an alarm. Making a recurring reminder to feed yourself is a perfectly reasonable way to outsource your executive function so that you don’t have to use scarce mental resources to remember.

This may be another area in which your community can help. Often, neighbors will bring a grieving person food, or maybe someone at church could organize a meal train. There’s no shame in asking for help with something that may at first feel small. After all, food is essential to life!

Eating Constantly

On the flip side, some people respond to grief and other large life events by eating too much. Emotional eating is a common way to handle overwhelming emotions, but it doesn’t often serve us.

Taking care of your emotional needs by visiting groups for the grieving or talking with a counselor could help you avoid some of the pitfalls of having food around all the time. It’s also an option to invite people over to help with the inevitable outpouring a food that seems to always accompany grief.

family coming together in grief

Image by Pexels via Pixabay

Making the Grief Journey an Actual Journey

Exercise is another helpful tool in the self-care toolbox. It’s also one of the first things to fall by the wayside when grief is demanding lots of attention.

Regular exercise benefits the body, the brain, and the ability to stay calm in the face of incredible difficulty. Exercise doesn’t have to mean spending hours at the gym, either!

The CDC recommends “150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity” each week. One 15-minute walk twice a day could be enough to reap the benefits of increased clarity and calm that are conferred by exercise.

Nature Walks

If you can make that walk out in nature, that could be even better. A study from 2019 in Frontiers in Psychology found that spending as few as 20 minutes outside in nature significantly lowered levels of cortisol, a hormone that accompanies stress and can have negative effects when present for long periods.

man walking with his grief

Image by Pexels via Pixabay

Comfort in the Everyday

Grief can make you feel like the world is topsy-turvy. How are others simply driving their cars and eating their lunches and going for bike rides when you’re experiencing a profound loss?

It may be that the best self care at a given moment is simply doing something you’d usually do. Fix your tea the way you like. Take the dog to the park you always go to. Put on your worn-out favorite sweater.

Confidence in Competence

Try doing something you’re good at. It could be a hobby or something you enjoy, or it could even be taking on a project at work. Reminding yourself that you are more than your grief and that you add value to the lives of those around you may help you overcome the off-kilter feelings of being alone in grief.

A Journey Without a Map

Grief isn’t linear. There is no destination, as if you’ll be feeling grief one moment and stop feeling it the next.

Instead, grief involves a process with setbacks and unexpected difficulties along the way. Thoughtful self care may help you to minimize the impact of these setbacks, like providing a compass to help you find your way back to the path when you’re lost.

Explore the resources in your area for navigating grief. Do your best to ask for help when you need it. After all, humans are social animals, and reaching out for support is self care in and of itself.

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Receive an exclusive once-a-month insider real estate market update. Stay up to date on trends and future forecasts. Market updates every month.

Every hour a homeowners requests a cash offer from Connect Home Buyers

Stay Informed

Subscribe to receive an exclusive once-a-month insider real estate market update. Stay up to date on trends and future forecasts. Market updates every month