Health & Medical Self-Improvement

Coping with Tragedy and Loss

On Monday, hundreds ofthousands of people felt Hurricane Katrina's impact not only losing loved ones but their homes, belongings and jobs.
In the wake of tragedy, taking care of ourselves is important.
Allowing time to overcome the numbness, the shock, the disbelief--these are all parts of the grieving process.
Brook Noel, co-author of I Wasn't Ready to Say Goodbye: surviving, coping and healing after the sudden death of a loved one (Champion Press, Ltd.
) offers these tips: Take Care: For the first few weeks, do not concern yourself with what you will do, where you will go or what lies in the future.
Now is not the time to demand resolution, answers or forward movement.
This is simply the time to cope, to get by, to survive.
There will be time to cope, to understand, to process--later.
Right now, you simply need to take care of you.
Treat Yourself as if You Were in Intensive Care - The challenges you have already faced both physically and mentally will leave you vulnerable, exhausted and weak.
It's imperative that you focus directly on yourself and on any dependents.
Find ways to get your needs met first in these few weeks.
Children: If you have small children, contact friends and relatives to help you care for them.
Consider having someone stay with you for the specific task of caring for your children since some children may be further traumatized by separation.
While it is human nature to want to help and care for others, we must understand at this trying time we will barely have enough energy to care for ourselves.
Even if we want to help those around us, we won't have the resources.
It's in our best interest to allow this time for our own grief.
Someone to take Calls - If the person that has died is of your immediate family, you will be receiving many phone calls, visitors and cards.
Have a friend come by to take messages, answer the door and answer the phone.
Most callers do not expect to speak directly with the family but simply wish to express their condolences.
Have someone keep a notepad handy to record the names and messages of callers.
Occasionally people will ask a strange question or perhaps write a note in a card that seems a bit "out of place".
Realize that this is not done to hurt you, these are just people who are inept at handling loss and the thought of loss.
Seek Assistance - In addition to getting help to answer the phone, seek out your most trusted friend to help with any final arrangements that are your responsibility.
You may be the person who needs to organize the funeral service or you may have insurance agencies to contact or an estate to settle.
While you can, and should be involved in these areas at some level, it is important to find someone who can do most of the calling for you, make trips to the funeral home, find out information and then let you make the final choices.
In the direct aftermath of loss your judgment may also be impaired and a trusted friend can act as a guide in decision making.
Consider a support site, such as http://www.
which offers free services to help those who are mourning.
Don't Worry about Contacting People - In the first few days you will make initial calls to immediate family and friends.
Beyond that, try to limit the number of calls you are personally responsible for.
At this time, you are unlikely to have the energy or the will to make these calls.
Let Your Body Lead You - Grief affects us all differently.
Some of us may become very active and busy, while others may become lethargic or practically comatose.
Let your body lead you.
If you feel tired--sleep.
If you feel like crying--cry.
If you are hungry--eat.
Don't feel you need to act one way or another.
There are no "shoulds" right now, simply follow the lead of your body.
Caution: With the shock of losing someone tragically it is not uncommon for people to turn to medication.
This can be as minor as a sleep aid or as major as consuming large amounts of alcohol.
Try to resist these urges.
This will not make the grief easier.
If you must engage in some sort of self-medication be aware that this will not take away from any of the grief you are feeling, it will simply postpone it until you cease the self-medication.
Wills and Arrangements - While those that die a lingering death often have wills and have told the living what they would like as far as funerals, burial, etc.
, one who dies a sudden death has frequently not indicated to friends and family how they would like to be treated in death.
This presents an extra burden to loved ones, since they are required to go ahead with arrangements under assumptions of what their loved one may have wanted.
With our emotional and physical levels depleted, these decisions become even harder.
You may find it helpful to discuss your options with a group of close friends that knew the deceased.
Expect to be Distracted - During the first few weeks your mind will be filled with racing thoughts and unfamiliar emotions.
Many people report having difficulty with simple tasks.
Losing one's keys, forgetting where you are while driving and sluggish reaction time are all commonly reported problems.
With everything you are mentally and physically trying to process, it's normal to be distracted.
Take special caution.
Try to avoid driving and other activities where these symptoms may cause injury.
Have Someone Near You - If possible, choose a close friend to keep near you through the first week or two.
Let this person help you make decisions, hear your fears or concerns and be the shoulder for you to lean on.
Later as you move through the grieving process it will be very helpful to have someone who has "been there" and understands what you are talking about thoroughly.
These days will be long and challenging and there may seem no resolution for any of the pains that plague you.
That's all right.
It's all right to feel hopeless and like all has lost its purpose.
These are natural and normal feelings.
Trust that life will go on, and that in time, you will reestablish your place within it.
For now, simply take care of yourself.
Trust that there will be light again.

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