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08-29 How to prepare for grief

How to prepare for grief

Nothing is more traumatic than sudden loss. Anyone who’s ever experienced a late-night phone call from a hospital or police station understands how quickly grief can enter life. Losses aren’t always sudden; sometimes, life forces people to prepare for grief in advance.

Having a relative diagnosed with late-stage cancer is the sort of situation that makes people take stock of themselves. Yes, the doctors will try their best and loved ones can hope for the best, but sometimes all you can do is prepare for the storm. It’s a subject nobody wants to think about, but sometimes, mental preparation can make grief easier to bear.

Preparing for the inevitable

To be clear, nobody should spend all their time plotting their reactions to grief, loss and death – it’s no way to live. But, when a friend, parent or relative is facing the end, it’s a good idea to plan out some strategies to negotiate what is usually a very challenging period in life:

  • Remember to take care of yourself: It might sound selfish, especially when a person’s dealing with a dying loved one, but someone dealing with loss can easily forget to attend to their own health. Managing the many end-of-life tasks – insurance, funeral planning, caretaking – can be overwhelming; it’s important to remember to eat regularly and get rest as often as possible. It’s the same advice a writer for’s Adequate Man blog advises in an article about his wife’s early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.
  • That last piece of advice includes substance abuse: Drinking as a way to deal with grief is almost traditional. Sure, a hedonistic night out in memory of a friend – especially in a group of other friends – can help a person celebrate memories. But it can also be a dangerous trap into steady drinking. Remember, the relief from alcohol and drugs is only temporary, and prolonged use can bring addiction with it. Also, patients who are dying after a long struggle with disease often have access to powerful and addictive medications. In an article for New York magazine, writer Lisa Miller describes how easy it is to get access to prescription tranquilizers like Ativan when a parent is dying.
  • Try to create a support network: A person who will soon be dealing with grief shouldn’t be afraid to let others know they may need more help than usual. For one thing, suffering in silence is a mistake. Secondly, help can come from surprising avenues – a neighbor might be willing to run an errand during a day busy with funeral preparations, for example. Finally, consider joining a support group which specializes in grief and loss – sharing one’s story and experiences with others can help greatly.
  • Avoid creating taboos around the grief process: Death, grief and loss are painful. They’re also a normal, natural part of life – and they can (and should) be discussed without shame or fear. Also, people shouldn’t be afraid to express their feelings during times of grief – nonprofit mental health advocacy group Mental Health America says this can help a person through the grieving process.
  • Now isn’t the time for major life changes or decisions: Try to postpone stressful, major decisions during and after the grief process. Loss requires a lot of attention, and starting a new career, a move or even a new marriage will only complicate things.
  • Be patient: Loss takes time. Nobody gets over losing a person overnight – a lifetime spent with somebody may take a lifetime to recover from now that they’re gone.

Treatment can help

Grief is normal and grief passes. However, depression – sustained sadness that interferes with daily life – isn’t normal. Left untreated, depression can lead to substance abuse, deepening mental issues and even suicide. Sovereign Health’s Rancho San Diego facility gives troubled teens aged between 12 and 17 specialized help in a residential treatment setting. Our compassionate staff helps heal their clients, allowing them to reach their full potential. For more information, contact our 24/7 helpline.

About the author

Brian Moore is a staff writer and graphic designer for Sovereign Health. A 20-year veteran of the newspaper industry, he writes articles and creates graphics across Sovereign’s portfolio of marketing and content products. Brian enjoys music, bicycling and playing the tuba, which he’s done with varying degrees of success for over 25 years. For more information and other inquiries about this media, contact the author and designer at

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