How do I deal with grief

Coping with grief: what helps after a loss

Death is independent, we don't have to worry about it. It's much more about how you can go on living. The preoccupation with grief is also preoccupation with life.

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Coping with grief: what helps after a loss

EMOTION: We all know we're going to die. Why does it blow so many people when they are faced with death?

Anemone Zeim: It is human nature that we focus on life. We cannot think about death from morning to night while living a full and happy life, falling in love and procreating. It is natural that we think positively and generally concern ourselves less with the topic. To find out that someone has passed away is an enormous shock. Especially nowadays when we can renew and repair everything. Because it is not just information, but also resonates with everything that we have experienced so far. In this sense, every bereavement is an encounter with one's own fear of death.

Asking what happens after death is the only thing you can't google.

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What triggers this fear?

When something as sinister as death happens, there are many rituals and procedures in other cultures. Not in our culture. Where in the past the church provided ritualized support, faith has lost its importance today. And with it many rituals. We have little idea what happens when a loved one dies. And the question of what happens after death is the only thing you can't google.

Can we prepare to deal with a loss?

I think so. From my own experience, I know that the more you sweep under the carpet, the bigger the bump you will eventually fall over. One cannot escape this subject. So I think it's important to talk openly about death with your partner and children. It always helps to have a plan, even if the plan doesn't work out. Talking about it is good because it can dissolve the uncertainty. And don't worry: a conversation doesn't evoke bad omen.


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How does grief feel

Grief is a whole mess of emotions. A state in which everything is called into question: if someone I loved very much just dies like that, I can no longer rely on anything else either. What is still safe at all? What's the point in my life? There are also various emotional states. First the shock and not wanting to believe. With this, your subconscious protects you from realizing what happened so that you don't completely fall over. You feel like you are wrapped in cotton wool and continue to function for the time being. Often people in this state cannot cry either. Much later, other feelings come, such as anger that the other has died. So grief doesn't just mean being sad.

You can get to know your grief in order to cooperate with it.

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Can one speak of coping with grief?

I find the word difficult now. You can conquer a mountain, then I'll be up and down again. I take grief with me all my life, but grief also changes. From this indescribable pain to an almost amicable grief, like a dark but strong love. Coping with grief sounds like struggling and exerting a lot of energy. I think the term cooperation is more appropriate: you can get to know your grief in order to cooperate with it. So that you can go on living without grief dictating your life.

What helps with this cooperation?

First of all, it helps to know what state you are in at the moment. Are you in shock right now? Then you need protection. The main thing is to take your time and let your body calm down. Was it a few weeks ago that you experienced a loss, and your environment has already come to an end with your fate? But you're sitting on the bus and suddenly start crying because you realize that a loved one has passed away? Even in three months, half a year and for the rest of your life? You probably need a way to express your feelings. Sometimes the feelings are packed in so many layers that you can't do it yourself. What then helps is a creative use of the facets of feeling.

What does such a creative work look like?

For example, I know people who have sung their way through grief. Instead of grief counseling, they took singing lessons. In this sensual and emotional experience, they were able to let in their feelings. Grief can be like a build-up of emotions in which everything builds up internally and causes pain. When that comes back into the flow, you feel better because something is moving. And whenever something moves, it is a sign of life.

Could it be that you won't stop crying?

No, the crying stops by itself if you let it. And at the same time it is so healing. When we cry, pain-relieving messenger substances are released in the body. It can be like the weather - with different tears: for example, slight tears with emotion when you remember a nice moment. Or a painful, bitter crying fit. Or tears when you laugh and cry at the same time. Crying is a great tool in grief.


Also read: Crying - why it's good for us


Are you allowed to laugh in grief?

This is a big issue for many. When you laugh, you quickly feel bad because you think: Actually, I shouldn't be feeling better yet. Part of the development process in grief is to allow yourself to feel bad, but also to allow yourself to be fine again. This is a special topic, especially with widowed women, who quickly feel like they are being judged when they laugh again. For me it is a task of society to create a culture in which everything belongs and joy and sadness are allowed to stand side by side.

Grief often leaves you speechless. Why is it important to talk about it?

To realize that you are not alone. If you don't want to confide in family or friends, it can also help to speak to a grief counselor who is unaffected and has an unobstructed view of it. To whom you can honestly tell how you feel, even if it is not politically correct. Most people are amazed that in a grief counseling one is not only sad and crying. The preoccupation with grief is also preoccupation with life. Because you talk about life and your memories of the loved one. It's always about what you've experienced and how you can use it in the here and now.

If someone tells a story about the deceased that you did not know yourself, this memory can become a real treasure.

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What role does memory play in grief?

Memories are important to understand that the other was really there and left their mark. If someone tells a story about the deceased that you did not know yourself, this memory can become a real treasure. That is, every shared memory is like a gift. In our “Forget My Never” memory workshop, we create mementos with those affected, with which they can convey their inner feelings to the outside world and make the incomprehensible tangible.


Anemone Zeim is a communication designer and grief counselor. She founded the memorial workshop "Forget My Never" in Hamburg, where she designs memorabilia and funeral gifts for and with mourners.

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