DEALING WITH THE STRESS OF GRIEF
How you respond to the stress associated with grief (see my previous article entitled “Grief and Stress”) is directly related to how well you are able to identify your stressors and respond to them in a healthy manner. In this article I will identify seven strategies that we can use to help minimize the impact of stress on our lives during the period of grief.
1. Facing your grief head-on is the only way to get through it. Trying to get around it, or avoid it, simply will not work. Be in touch with what you want and need. If you have a number of friends and family members that are supporting you at this time, it is easy to fall into the trap of allowing them do things for you that you really need to do yourself. They may be well-intentioned in their offers of help, but may inadvertently “take over”. Being assertive and standing up for what you want may not be easy, but it may be the only way to ensure that you are facing your grief rather than trying to run from it.
2. The sense of loss of control of your life after the death of a loved one can be an additional source of stress and distress. You have been thrown into utter chaos that involves every area of your life. Although you had no control over the death of your loved one and the unbearable feelings of grief that followed, there are still many areas of your life where that you can make your own decisions. It is important that you continue routines and activities that you enjoyed before. Find ways to take incorporate these into your daily life.
3. Exercising moderately is a very effective stress-buster. Even if it involves only a walk around the block, it will help to shift your focus from the tension that has accumulated with your grief. If you can find a partner to walk with you, it will add the element of social support.
4. Eating properly will give your immune system the boost it needs during this highly stressful time. Experts recommend 5-10 servings of fruits and vegetables a day, 2-3 meat or meat alternative servings, as well as dairy products and whole grains. It is OK to indulge moderately at a time when friends and neighbours are bringing platters of tempting sweets and cakes, but it is also important to keep in mind that a balanced diet goes a long way to reducing the negative effects of stress.
5. Being honest about how you are feeling, both to yourself and also to trusted family and friends shows strength, not weakness. Trying to hold in emotions that are boiling over can be more stressful than letting them out. If the tears come to the surface, do not force them back. You do not need to put up a brave front for anyone. You may be afraid of falling apart into a million pieces so that all the king’s horses and all the king’s men cannot put you back together again. This is a very real fear, but one that has no validity to it.
6. Talk about the emotions you are experiencing. Seek out a friend or family member whom you can trust to share your pain and distress with. Sometimes there is nobody that you feel you can trust. In this case try making an appointment with a grief counsellor who is trained to be compassionate and understanding in this situation. Many people have been helped in a very positive way by speaking to a professional about their grief.
7. Expect to experience intense emotions and reactions to the loss that you have experienced. The death of a loved one is not easy to get through. You will experience the most intense feelings of sadness, anger, shock, denial, confusion and guilt you have ever felt. When your expectations are realistic, you will not be blindsided when grief hits you and your stress level will be more manageable.

The seven strategies that I have suggested, are only a few ways to deal with the stress of grief. If you are able to be mindful of some of these ways of dealing with this very difficult time in your life, you can learn to decrease it’s harmful impact on your life.

Author's Bio: 

Grace Tallman, Bio
Passionately compassionate for people living with grief
Grace received her nursing degree from UWO and has been a practicing RN for many years. She has worked in a large variety of nursing specialties including Emergency, ICU, community nursing, and mental health. These experiences have honed her compassion and made her keenly intuitive to the grief process that is associated with life’s various losses. Her extensive medical background allows her to understand illness and the dying process, and the very real physical manifestations of grief and depression. Her skills as a mental health nurse include training in cognitive therapy. This aids her in identifying her clients’ emotional wellness and to help them to reframe their thought patterns in order to promote their emotional healing.
As a hospital chaplain for 8 years, she compassionately and actively listened to deeply hear people’s stories of loss and pain. She has been honoured to be part of the intimate journey of life with many individuals and families who were facing death and serious illness. As a Chaplain she was often called upon to address spiritual questions regarding major loss.
Grace recently graduated with a Certificate in Grief and Bereavement from King’s College at UWO. This extensive training program prepared her to work with people during the difficult stages of dying and grief. With her medical background, chaplaincy and specific academic preparation in this field, Grace is well qualified to provide support to people on their grief journey.
As a facilitator Grace has abundant experience in providing a safe and therapeutic environment to assist people to process their grief in a group setting. She has also developed and facilitated several training programs to help groups of volunteers gain insight and skill in working with dying and bereaved individuals.