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Good Grief: A Guide to Navigating Loss

Written by Halah Flynn

Each year 2.5 million people die in the U.S. Loss is an inevitable part of life. And, people increasingly must cope with the death of loved ones over the course of older adulthood. While the instinct may be to brace yourself against the emotional wave of grief, studies show that exploring all the accompanying feelings is a critical part of understanding, navigating and accepting a loss.

The coping process affects the mental, physical and emotional well-being of all those affected by loss, so it’s important to address the changes in your body, mind and soul, whether it’s with a family member, caregiver, doctor or nurse practitioner. Here are a few places to start:

  1. Practice mindfulness. Avoiding the pain of loss lets it build internally over the course of time, so it’s better to address your feelings as they come. Acknowledging your feelings is the first step to mindfulness, which is the practice of non-judgmental awareness of your conscious thoughts and feelings. And keep in mind that it takes time to mourn a loss.
  1. Talk to caring friends, join a support group or get professional help. Many adults see a grief counselor at the onset of a loss, but talking to a mental health care provider or caregiver repeatedly can help establish emotional and behavioral patterns that might affect the grief process. Consistent visits to a counselor can help you get more comfortable with opening up about your thoughts over time.
  1. Pay attention to your diet. Grief can manifest in appetite changes, which lead to under- and over-eating. Keeping track of new eating habits, cravings and weight fluctuations can highlight a need to readdress your nutrition. Sharing a meal with a family member can be a simple and fulfilling way to stay accountable for your eating habits.
  1. Get closure. You can pay homage to loved ones by visiting their grave, writing a letter, creating an artistic tribute, or talking about them to your friends or family. There’s no limit to the opportunities for closure, and many adults pursue more than one method.

These are only a few of the dozens of ways adults can pursue healthy habits when navigating the loss of a loved one. If you or someone you know needs help, visit https://www.mentalhealth.gov/get-help/ or talk to a health care provider today.

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