Although traumatic events such as bereavement, heartbreak and redundancy can lead to psychological damage and even post-traumatic stress disorder, the same can be said for a person who experiences no major life upheavals. Indeed, some hardship is beneficial in the long run and helps us cope with life’s ups and downs…
How to cope
Feelings can include numbness, shock, guilt, anger, fear and pain. One of the most helpful things is to talk about the person who has died and your relationship with them, exploring memories and feelings. Who you talk to will depend on you. It may be friends, family, a spiritual adviser, your GP or a support organisation. Helen Butlin, helpline manager at Cruse Bereavement Care, says: “Look after yourself, eat properly and try to get enough rest, even if you can’t sleep. Tell people what you need and give yourself time and permission to grieve.”
Psychotherapist Martin Sharp says, “If we are bound in loving relationships, we are never alone. Not even when that person is gone. We carry people inside us, so we needn’t feel isolated. Their presence, their voice in your head and memories of them are not gone from your life. Who that human being was to you lives on in you.”
SERIOUS FAMILY ILLNESS
How to cope
The impact on family and friends can vary enormously when a loved one is seriously ill. “While one family member may become very vocal, another may be withdrawn, so allow space and time for each person to deal with it in their own way,” says psychologist Rhona Clews. Explain simply and gently what is happening to your children, keeping them included but also protected from painful details and feelings.
“And ask friends for support with practical arrangements: if you need washing done, meals prepared or pets walked and fed, don’t try and do everything by yourself,” adds Clews.
Give yourself time with the family member who is ill and reflect on what you need to communicate with them if the worst were to happen. “If your loved one is terminally ill or battling an illness that could shorten their life, voicing ‘I love you’ and ‘I’m sorry’ will help lay any guilt or regrets to rest, and this will be vital to your peace of mind in the future,” says relationship coach Shelley J Whitehead.
How to cope
“There isn’t any right or wrong way to feel if you are made redundant. But it’s important to know that you will go through some sort of emotional roller coaster and you need to let yourself do so,” says personal-impact coach Debbie Smith.
“Take a break so you can cry, punch pillows, talk it through and get it out of your system. And share your feelings with people who are positive, who energise you, and preferably who’ve been through this journey themselves.”
Getting independent financial advice will mean you worry less about how you’re going to survive financially – and don’t jump at the first job that comes along. Make sure you’re in an environment that puts you in a positive mood.
Whatever helps to lift your spirits – fitness, friends, hobbies – do plenty of it. “Let yourself think bigger picture,” says Debbie Smith. “This may be the first time you’ve been able to think, ‘What is it I really want to do?’ and explore that.”
How to cope
“For many people, heartbreak and divorce feel like grief – especially if the split comes out of the blue – so shock plays a very real role in the early stages,” says author Anita Naik. It’s OK to feel immense sadness: “Your future hopes and expectations now won’t come true, so you need time to grieve.”
If you have children, be honest in an age-appropriate way, making sure they feel safe and loved even if they’re teens or adults.
Remove upsetting reminders such as photos and mementos from your home environment. “Set healthy boundaries around your ex and, if necessary, create rules for yourself, like not going on their Facebook page and letting friends know that you don’t want to hear updates about how your ex is,” says Rhona Clews.
Another key factor to your recovery is reminding yourself how loveable you are: surround yourself with people who you love and feel loved by you to ease any anguish.
How to cope
Family arguments between parents and children often get worse as the offspring get older. “Negative family dynamics are often maintained via ‘the drama triangle’, ie one person is the victim, one the rescuer, one the persecutor, then you all switch roles,” says Clews. “It can be a merry-go-round of ‘he said’, ‘she said’ that can feel hard to leave. Put an end to this by not engaging with it via gossip.”
Activities such as country walks, yoga and swimming can help you feel calmer. If arguments have been going for a long time, accept that it won’t be easy to resolve them. “Remember you cannot change another person. Become clear about what is OK with you and what isn’t, set healthy boundaries around these and maintain them,” says Clews.
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