Table of contents:
- Is avoiding discussions healthy?
- Actively embracing grief
- Accepting the loss
- Work through Grief
- Adjust to the absence
- Create concrete ways to memorialize
Last revised: November 5, 2018
Grieving the Death of a Loved One: How Taking Action and Creating Lasting Memorials Can Make the Process Easier
Death can be a difficult topic to discuss. The loss of a loved one brings people’s own mortality to the forefront of their minds. Talking about their loved one can often feel uncomfortable and after a certain amount of time, there is an unspoken assumption that mourners will get on with their lives and stop talking about the deceased. That is, perhaps, why so many people avoid the topic. They would rather bury their grief and their memories of their loved one in order to avoid the discomfort that thinking about death brings.
Avoiding discussions about death can be more painful than embracing them.
The truth is that treating death like a taboo subject can actually be more painful than confronting it head on. This pain comes from the fact that grief doesn’t just disappear when it is ignored. Instead, as psychologists have discovered, it needs to be expressed if it is going to be dealt with successfully. In addition, not talking about the loss of a loved one can make the grieving individual feel alone in their sadness. They have no way of expressing their grief or connecting with others who feel the same sense of loss.
Grief expert, J. William Worden, has pointed out that death causes people to feel out of control. When a loved one dies, their death can feel scary because it was uncontrollable. Ignoring the subject of death makes these feelings of powerlessness and fright stronger, because the mourner cannot do anything to confront the death or the subsequent grief they feel.
Actively embracing the topic of death can lead to better grieving.
Faced with the need to embrace death rather than avoid it, Worden created a set of four tasks of mourning. These tasks remove the sense of helplessness that death creates by giving the mourner ways to take charge of their grief.
These “4 tasks of mourning” have gained the attention of the grief counseling world, with those involved in providing solace to the bereaved acknowledging that grief itself is a natural, passive process but that intentionally attending to these tasks allows us to come to terms with it more effectively.
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These four tasks of mourning consist of the following steps:
Accept that the loss is real.
The mourner must emotionally and not just intellectually recognize the fact that the loss has occurred. However, the mourner must give this process time to happen naturally, instead of criticizing themselves for not accepting the loss quickly. Some people feel that making cremation diamonds is something that helps them with their loss.
Work through the grief.
The mourner must take the time to confront and accept all of their feelings related to the loss of their loved one. For example, sadness, anger, guilt, and fear should all be recognized as they are felt. No emotion, no matter how uncomfortable, should be ignored.
Adjust to the absence of the loved one.
The mourner needs to take steps to adjust their lives to the loss of their loved one. This task often includes learning new routines and skills that were unnecessary when the loved one was alive. For example, a spouse might need to learn how to balance the budget, or a close friend might need to find another confidante. The particular steps necessary in this step depend upon the individual.
Create a concrete way to remember the loved one.
Finally, Worden recommends creating a lasting connection to the loved one, such as a scrapbook or a tattoo. For some people, the ideal way to concretely remember their loved one is to have a diamond crafted out of their loved one’s hair or cremains. The diamond can then be set in a piece of jewelry (such as a ring) to keep the loved one’s memory close at all times.
Death can be an uncomfortable topic, but treating it as a taboo subject will only make the discomfort, loneliness, and sadness worse. Instead, embracing the four tasks of mourning, and taking charge of the grief, can help people to more effectively process their sadness. In particular, crafting a cherished object to assist in remembering their loved one (such as a cremation diamond from Heart In Diamond), can help to keep the memory of loved ones alive.