People helping people: Learn how to cope with grief

Grief is defined as "deep and poignant distress caused by, or as if by, bereavement" and anyone who has experienced the death of a loved one has also experienced some level of grief.

Feeling overwhelmed at first is very common. Daily activities such as getting out of bed or getting ready in the morning feel monumental and often we are without tools on how to take care of ourselves during this difficult time.

Experts have some basic recommendations in order to take care of ourselves while grieving:

n Sleep. The powerful emotions associated with grief may leave us exhausted. If you are not able to sleep at your regular hours try exercising a few hours before your scheduled bed time and do not drink caffeinated or alcoholic drinks since they may compound the problem. If you are still not able to sleep, go see your doctor.

n Delay serious decisions. Our ability to make decisions may be clouded during grief. It is suggested to wait at least one year to make major decisions such as moving (unless it is absolutely necessary).

n Love yourself. During grief we often neglect our physical, emotional and spiritual self. We need to allow for grief to run its course. You may feel like crying or your may feel anger and it is important to allow ourselves to feel these emotions. At the same time we need to be conscious of our other needs and allow friends and/or family members to take us out to eat or to other events that fill our emotional needs.

n Be safe. Often we are uncomfortable with emotions such as grief. Sometimes we may want to numb these emotions with unhealthy behaviors, such as excessive drinking, multiple sexual partners and driving at high speeds. These behaviors may numb those powerful emotions but that feeling will not last long.

n Exercise. Exercise is one of the healthiest ways to cope with grief and its powerful emotions. Doing some type of physical activity for at least 30 minutes a day often produces better results than even some medications.

n Eat. Sometimes during this difficult time it is common to not feel hungry. Eating small healthy meals or snacks throughout the day, even when we do not feel like eating, will also help restore us back to emotional health.

n Writing. One mechanism often overlooked is writing. Putting pen to paper and writing our current state of mind is very healthy. It does not have to make sense but you will feel the results of this exercise almost immediately.

n Honoring the life our loved one. Another recommendation is to honor the life of your loved one by making a small donation to his/her special cause; planting a tree; or volunteering.

n Seek medical help. We cannot deny the benefits of today's advanced counseling and pharmacology. Studies show that the combination of regular therapy and medications provides the best results for overcoming difficult situations. Many people are afraid of utilizing these tools, primarily due to the stigma associated with it. But we must remember that it is a tool, and a very good one.

Death is the last chapter of life. We are all going to be faced with the loss of someone close to us, someone we loved or someone we cared for. When faced with these situations, we must welcome grief into our lives. It is one of the most powerful emotions and processing it in a healthy fashion will enrich our emotional life.

Pierluigi Mancini, Ph.D., NCAC II is the executive director of CETPA, which has offices in Norcross and Sandy Springs. Dr. Mancini serves in the Governor's Advisory Council for Mental Health, Mental Retardation and Substance Abuse and is also the Chairman of the State of Georgia Mental Health Planning and Advisory Council.