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Supporting Mental Health Through Bereavement Services

May is Mental Health Awareness Month so we thought it fitting that we would explore how bereavement services can support the mental health of our patients and their families in Alameda County and elsewhere. Psychology Today says that grief affects people on many different levels, impacting our behaviors, thoughts, social interactions, spiritual beliefs, and physical well-being. Thus, there are many reactions to grief, such as loss of appetite, loss of sleep, weight loss or gain, stomach pain, headaches, fatigue, and muscle pains. Nothing is wrong or right. It just is.

One thing’s for sure, though: you should never be alone in your grief. To support your mental health, engage in bereavement services that are offered to you, such as support groups or counseling. It’s important to talk about your feelings, reach out, and not keep it all in. Here are some ways in which bereavement services can help.

Support Groups

One major component of bereavement services is the role of support groups, which are in place to help you cope better and feel like you are less isolated while making connections with others facing similar challenges and stresses, says the Mayo Clinic. Whether you just lost your dad after a long battle with cancer, your mom from heart disease, or a young child from a terminal illness, you can find support groups out there that specifically deal with those losses. These resources are readily available through your hospice care provider, social worker, nursing home, hospital, nursing home, doctor, library, school, or online.

Here at Pathways, for example, we have a multitude of support groups for people facing the loss of a spouse, child, or parent. These groups are put in place to explore common issues that affect grieving, such as coping skills, lifestyle changes, anger, and loneliness. There’s no need to suffer on your own. That’s why we believe support groups are a critical part of the grieving process. Sure, it may feel normal at first to feel intimidated and embarrassed when sharing your feelings with strangers in a group setting. You may even have feelings of resentment for even being there to begin with. But those people won’t be strangers for long once you give yourself to the purpose of the group. You may be surprised to learn support groups can help you in developing new skills to relate to other people experiencing the same problems while suggesting new ways of dealing with grief, points out WebMD.

Other Resources

Bereavement services don’t stop at support groups, There are many other resources available to you to help you explore and cope with grief, such as healing workshops (Pathways offers them), journal writing, memorial gardens, meditation, group walks, and more. We also put you in touch with one-on-one grief counseling that will connect you with a counselor trained in grief to offer additional support. You can also take part in memorial services at your local place of worship, hospice provider, or community center. Pathways offers a Celebration of Light Memorial Service the second Sunday in December and Afternoon Remembrances in May to honor deceased loved ones. All are welcome to attend.

The Process of Grief

Now let’s take a look at the process of grief and mourning. Did you know they are universal and experienced by all cultures and walks of life? Elisabeth Kübler-Ross wrote about the five stages of grief in 1969 in her book called On Death and Dying. Those stages include:

  1. Denial and isolation
  2. Anger
  3. Bargaining
  4. Depression
  5. Acceptance

Not everyone goes through them in order; some skip around or even get stuck in one. Most make it through all of them in one form or another, but some can never fully achieve that coveted acceptance of loss. Everyone shows their loss differently and at varying intensities, says PsychCentral.

It’s also common to experience conflicting emotions of panic, sadness, regret, guilt, and anger. These emotions can hit us all at once or for brief moments of time — so much so that it feels like you’re on an emotional roller coaster. But the bottom line is, they’re all common and they all are necessary. Not many people talk about it, but the social withdrawal that comes with grief is a very real thing. Friends and acquaintances, while they may expect you to go through a brief grieving period and support you through it, may fail to understand why you’re not just “snapping out of it” within a reasonable time frame.

Thus, they may attempt to “fix” you while urging you to move on. However well-intentioned this may be, you may resent them for their constant pushing and just want to be alone with your feelings so you don’t disappoint them or bring them down. This is why bereavement services are essential in your recovery from loss.

Contact Pathways Home Health and Hospice

Please get in touch with us to learn about our many bereavement services in Alameda County and elsewhere.