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Coping With Grief When You Can’t Be With

Your Family

Losing a loved one can take an enormous toll on your mental well-being, and when there are issues that keep you from being with your family members, it can be even more difficult to get through. For those who live far away from their loved ones, the cost of travel can be too overwhelming, or it may be next to impossible to get away from work or from personal obligations. This can cause stress on top of your grief, so it is important to lean on your faith and focus on your health at this time and learn the best ways to cope with your feelings, especially if you have children or a partner who is also grieving.

When my uncle passed away, there were times when I felt so helpless as I watched my mom struggle from afar. I wanted to physically be there for her, but life has a funny way of making the best option impossible, so I had to learn how to adjust.

It’s important to let your family members know that you’re there with them in spirit, and find ways to be there for one another from afar. There are many ways you can do this; talk to your loved ones to find out what works for them. My mother and I found that setting aside time twice or more a week to Skype gave us the deeper emotional connection we needed. Although you might feel like you are all alone, remember that God is with you, wrapping his arms around you and providing the comfort and peace you need.

Here’s how I learned to focus on myself, cope with my grief, and help my loved ones at the same time, and hopefully it can be of help to you as well.

Stay in touch

Grief can bring about many unpredictable emotions, such as anger and sadness, and you may find that you have mood swings or are prone to depression. This is normal in those who have lost a loved one, but it’s important not to isolate yourself, no matter how much you feel like being alone. It’s crucial that you talk with family members and friends, but you need to stay in touch with God too via prayer and scripture. Reciting prayer or simply having a conversation with God is a great way to express and tackle all the emotions and thoughts you are having. It can be hard to talk about how you are feeling with others, but God is always there to listen, and never passes judgement.

In addition to strengthening your relationship with God, talk to your friends and family members, and find out if anyone is interested in joining a grief counseling session with you. These can sometimes be done online, which is ideal when you live far away. Social media, Snapchat, and Skype are great ways to stay in touch with your family members during this difficult time. If possible, set up a day and hour to sit down and chat or send a video to your loved ones to let them know you’re thinking about them. For me, I used this as a way to not only check in with my mother, but check in with myself. Sometimes, my mother would notice that I looked tired, or I would see that the dishes were piling up in the background. Staying in touch is a great way to check up on your loved one, but also use it as a means to make sure both of you are taking care of yourself.

Make healthy choices

This can be easier said than done, especially if you have battled substance abuse in the past. The temptation to numb your feelings of sadness and grief can be overwhelming, so it’s important to stay on the right track and find healthy ways to cope. Call your sponsor if you feel you’re having trouble, and use the tools you already have in your personal arsenal to stay focused. This means using art therapy, daily exercise, counseling, or a favorite hobby to channel your feelings rather than using drugs or alcohol. Find a way to cope together, such as working on a knitting project or having your own little book club.

For more tips on how to keep those temptations at bay, has you covered with tips on how to make good choices for nurturing your recovery and staying on the right path.

Be patient

Many families experience discord after the death of a loved one, especially if they’ve lost a matriarch or patriarch. Try to be patient with your family and understand that grief sometimes makes people behave in ways they wouldn’t ordinarily. Learning to accept their grief can even help you accept your own and move forward when you’re ready. There were some days when my mother or I just didn’t feel like talking, or the anger and sadness just seemed to bubble over. It is important to remember that grieving is different for everyone, and some days will be harder than others -- and that’s okay. Be patient with yourself and with God. You might find that you are mad at God at this time. He understands your grief and is walking with you through it, so if you want to yell, cry, or scream, then go right ahead. This is not a time to turn away from God but a time to turn toward him, even if you want to give up on him for not giving you what you wanted.

Share your feelings

It may be hurtful at first to talk about your memories of your loved one, but in the end, it may help you feel better, especially if you can share those memories and feelings with someone else who loved that person. According to the American Psychological Association, a remembrance of the one you’ve lost can be highly beneficial.

Remember that grief takes many forms and affects everyone differently. There is no time limit; it may come and go for weeks or even years. Reaching out when you need to talk can be very helpful, as can finding a routine and sticking to it. Daily exercise, eating well, and staying social can have a positive impact during this difficult time, as will letting God take control during a time when you may feel powerless. Together with your loved ones, you will get through this.

--Lucille Rosetti

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