The Coping Corner – Stressful Changes


The following strategies may help you better cope with the stressful changes that follow a loved one’s death:


  • Take time when making major decisions. The year after the death of a loved one is very emotional. Mental health experts suggest waiting at least a year before making any major decisions, such as moving or changing jobs. Consider making a list of decisions and tasks, and figure out which ones must be completed immediately. Try to hold off on the important decisions that can wait.


  • Share new responsibilities. It takes time for you and your family to adjust to new responsibilities and settle into a new routine. As a family, discuss household chores and who will be responsible for which tasks. Also, talk about changes in the family routine. This is especially important for younger children who may be particularly upset.


  • Ask for and accept help. Friends and family will want to help you but might not know what you need or how to ask if you need help. Be specific about your needs, and have a list of tasks that others can do. If you are learning how to perform unfamiliar tasks, such as cooking, ask someone to show you what to do. Or consider taking a class.


  • Get help handling financial and legal matters. The many financial and legal tasks that follow a death often seem overwhelming. This is especially true if you are not used to handling your own financial and legal affairs. If possible, talk with a legal or financial expert, such as a lawyer, accountant, or financial advisor. These services can help you plan your legal and financial future and save money in the long run.


  • Get advice before returning to work. If you are returning to work after a long time or going to work for the first time, consider talking with a career counselor. A career counselor can help you write a resume and search for a job. He or she can also help you decide which career choices suit you best. Many state and county governments offer free job training and career counseling services.


  • Consider keeping a journal. Keeping a journal or a diary can help you make sense of the changes that you are experiencing. In addition to writing about your feelings and thoughts, you can use your journal to help organize your tasks, priorities, and plans. Looking back through your journal can help you see how your priorities and goals have changed and how your ability to cope has improved.


  • Consider joining a support group. Support groups offer you the chance to talk with others who share your feelings and experiences. Other people who have lost a loved one have likely experienced many of the same changes. And they can offer you emotional support and practical advice as you adjust.


  • Remember the positive. Shifting your priorities, developing new interests, and learning new skills can bring positive changes to your life. Allow yourself to feel proud of new accomplishments. And remember that it is not disloyal to your loved one to enjoy new activities or set new goals for the future.

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