Dealing with Death

Suggestions for When You First Learn of a Loss

Grieving is a process that no one experiences just the same way.

It often involves intense sadness and sometimes includes feelings of shock and numbness.  You can feel devastated and overwhelmed.  These feelings can be completely exhausting.  They are emotionally draining and can affect your appetite, your sleep cycles and your immune system.

We all experience grief, yet no one ever seems to talk about how to deal with it or even how to integrate the loss in into our lives.  It can affect us not only emotionally, but also physically, mentally and even spiritually.

It is essential to practice good self-care while grieving so as to remain healthy and emotionally centered.  And, it’s important to move through grief at your own pace.  Grieving isn’t linear; there is no time line for grieving.  We offer the following suggestions for when you first experience loss.

Slow down.
Move slowly, eat slowly and speak slowly. Experiencing a loss is a shock to the body so take your time in whatever you do.

Focus on your breathing especially on the exhale.  We use our breath to hold our emotions. When we feel stress, we often either hold our breath or feel like we can’t breathe deeply or fully.  A simple breathing technique is the “Box Breath”, which helps calm the nervous system.

Box Breath

  • Start by exhaling.
  • Breathe in through your nose, slowly, for a count of four.
  • Hold your breath for a count of four.
  • Then exhale through your mouth for a count of four.
  • Hold out your breath for a count of four.
  • Repeat this Box Breath for a minimum of three cycles.

Keep yourself warm when experiencing a loss your physiology changes and you can easily get chilled to the bone.  Even in the hottest weather you might still feel cold.  Throw on a sweater or add on some layers of clothing and keep your body warm. You may want to add an extra blanket while you sleep.

Water, Water, Water. Water is tremendously healing when grieving.

Drink more water.   Water is your body’s principal chemical component and makes up about 50% to 70% of your body weight. Every cell, tissue and organ in your body needs water to work properly.  Not drinking enough water on a daily basis can lead to dehydration. Even mild dehydration can drain your energy and make you tired.

Take a shower or bath.  Even if you already took one just a few hours earlier take another quick shower to recharge.  Find the time to luxuriate in a hot bath to release stress and to feel revitalized.

Wash your face and hands Water can cleanse us both physically and emotionally.  Simply by washing your hands or throwing some water on your face you can refresh yourself.

Sit by the water.  Long Island is surrounded by water making it easy to find a place to sit and watch and listen to the water.  This is very soothing and healing for your soul.

Look at Photographs of Water.  Even merely looking at photos of water can feel very peaceful.  We encourage you to try this little experiment.  Sit comfortably in front of your computer. Click here  to view the rolling water, while you practice the Box Breath (above).

Eat comfort foods.  They provide a temporary sense of wellbeing and can make you feel good.  Soups, pasta, PB & J sandwiches, etc.  Limit your intake of processed foods that contain high amounts of poor-quality fat, added sugar and salt.

Listen to your body.  Grieving can leave you feeling very tired.  If you need to rest, take a nap.  Recent research has shown that a 20-minute power nap boosts concentration, alertness, creativity, and mood.  If you are having trouble sleeping try Havening Techniques®.  You can find natural remedies online.

Avoid Alcohol and Excessive Caffeine.  Due to the change in your physiology drinking one glass of wine can have the effect of having twice as much.   Too much caffeine will make you feel anxious and stressed.

Take a nature walk. If we walk on the earth, rather than pavement, (barefoot is best), this gives us direct physical contact with the vast supply of electrons on the surface of the Earth.  They neutralize free radicals and stabilize the electrical environment of all organs, tissues, and cells.  Scientific research suggests that walking in nature can create a stable internal bioelectrical environment for the normal functioning of all body systems. 

Watch your sugar intake.  Too many sweets can make you feel jittery, fatigued, shaky and woozy.  This has to do with your pancreas secreting insulin to nudge that extra sugar into your cells.  Too much insulin can deplete your normal glucose levels and depress your immune system.

Stay focused.  As much as possible maintain your daily routine and also continue with any hobbies.  Don’t give in to the dark side of grief.  Learn to integrate the loss into your life in a way that works for you.

Stay close to your loved ones, your extended family and friends.  Allow people to help and support you in whatever way you see fit.  You don’t have to go it alone. Ask for company when you want it, or ask for space if you need it.  If you feel like you are struggling join a Grief Support Group where you can talk openly and honestly about your feelings with those who are sharing a similar experience.

At the Guiding Light Foundation, we are here for you.

Please don’t hesitate to contact us

Dr. Janine H. Burns is known to be well spoken, poised and heartfelt in her work. Her compassion and gentleness make her memorial and funeral services comforting while putting all at ease. Dr. Janine’s caring heart will support you at your most difficult time and her soothing manner will console and reassure you. She offers comfort and peace with her ceremonies that celebrate the life of the departed with dignity, honor and respect.

Dr. Janine is an Interfaith Chaplain and Celebrant who was ordained in 1988. She promotes the use of ceremonies to mark the milestones and transitions in the lives of individuals, families, and organizations. Dr. Janine returned to school and in 1997 received her Doctorate of Divinity degree from Emerson Theological Institute. In 1999, she earned her Interfaith Ministry credential. Then in 2001, she founded the Guiding Light Foundation and serves as their director. In this capacity Dr. Janine presents personalized “Celebration of Life” memorial and funeral services. She “loves to do weddings” and has performed marriage ceremonies for more than 900 couples on Long Island. In 2021 she became a Certified Havening Techniques® Practitioner offering techniques to reduce stress and raise resilience.