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How To Cope With Death – Insight For The Supporter And The Survivor

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In lieu of a recent loss of a loved one to someone very dear to me, and from my own experience having lost my father over the summer, I began thinking about what a strange anomaly death is, for the survivors of the lost one, and for the supporters of those who want to be there for the survivors.

As people’s hearts ache for the loss of someone dear, or for the broken hearts of ones they love who lost someone dear to them, we struggle trying to figure out ways we can help. Our intentions are sincere when we say, “Let us know if you need anything,” but we don’t always know exactly how to follow through with that. After all, death is a very delicate matter.

I’d like to offer some of my own advice (from personal experience and through observation) for the supporters, regarding how to help survivors as they’re dealing with the loss of a loved one. Hopefully this will provide a guiding light for those that want to help another who lost someone, but just don’t know how to go about dealing with a delicate situation.

  1. “Let me know if you need anything.” This is the most sincere of intentions and words, but as we lose a loved one, we often lose our own sense of direction or self for a while. We become stricken with grief and sadness. We are wrought with conflicting emotions and thoughts. We become overwhelmed with all the busy work following a death, like funeral planning, burial or cremation, notifying friends and family, writing an obituary, costs of funeral services, closing out their bank accounts, shutting off their bills, wrapping up any loose ends they had, going over wills and legal paperwork, going through their personal belongings, dividing and donating their belongings, figuring out how to manage their large assets, closing/forwarding their mail, and figuring out how to pick up the pieces now that they’re gone. All while we, being the survivor, are probably in one of the worst mental and emotional states we could be in. During this time, it might possibly be the worst time for us to know what we want or need, or to have the energy or mental capacity to delegate tasks or ask for help where we need it. Because of this, I suggest to you – being the supporter – if you did sincerely mean “let me know if you need anything,” spare the person the trouble of more thinking, and find a way *you* would like to help. Take the initiative to get creative or be supportive, because we more than likely aren’t in a good spot to reach out or know what it is we even need. But just because we don’t ask for anything does not necessarily mean we don’t need anything. So if you want to offer support, don’t wait for the survivor to come to you, rather, go to them.

  1. Figure out what it is that could help your survivor and what would also make you feel like you’ve helped them. Does the deceased have a lot of belongings? Tell your survivor you’ll be there to help them sort or move any heavy furniture they need, and actually show up to do so. It’s classic, but send them a card or some flowers. It is really nice to know, as the survivor of a lost loved one, that you’re thought of, and have life around you, in a time of loss. Make your survivor food. We (survivor) get so busy and caught up in the loss and what we have to do, we even forget to eat, don’t have time, or don’t care to cook. Make meals, and bring them to your survivor. They will greatly appreciate it and most absolutely need it. Find something sentimental or personal, and present it to them. Whether it’s photos of their lost one, an item that reminded you of their lost one, something you were given when you lost someone…. A special something really does feel special.

  2. Be there for your survivor physically and verbally. It’s so easy to Facebook your condolences and move on. But sometimes it’s hard to realize, this is someone’s current situation they’re really dealing with in their life. If you’re not very close to the person, it’s totally fine to keep condolences more informal. But if you are a good friend or family member, give your survivor a call. Better yet, show up for them in person. Sometimes we could really just use a hug or a shoulder to cry on. Other times, we may not even know what to say, until we’ve mustered up the strength to form words and analyze our thoughts. But to have someone there for us in any physical form is really handy because, I promise you, there will be a moment where the survivor needs someone in some physical form, whether it’s a hug or a voice.

  3. If the surviving person or family is struggling financially, figure out a way to reach out and help them. Many people have plans set in place for their time of passing, whether that be a will, life insurance, or some savings. But there are certainly people or families who are not in a strong financial situation. Funeral costs can be very expensive: obituaries, flowers, rental hall space, caskets or urns, burial plots, burial stones, memorial and food cost…all these expenses can add up very quickly. If you know of a family in need of financial support, get creative in helping with the costs – whether it’s volunteering some of your own time to help set up, reaching out to a church or rental hall that will host the service at little to no cost, starting a Gofundme.com page, or hosting a fundraising event or dinner with friends, family, and coworkers. The worst feeling for a survivor, beyond simultaneously dealing with the loss of their loved one, is for them to feel like they aren’t able to fund the burial/cremation or honor their deceased in a way they would have liked.

  4. If you are close to the survivor and/or their family, offer to help with setting up the memorial service. Whether that’s collecting photos, writing a eulogy, putting together a slideshow or music playlist, buying/bringing flowers, decorating, reaching out to a catering group, making food, or putting together a remembrance pamphlet, there is plenty of work that needs to be done. The survivor may not ask for help, but don’t be fooled. They’ll definitely need family or friends to step in.

  5. Try to find something for them that will make them smile, laugh, or feel happy. Rent a comedy movie and watch it with them, take them to a standup show, ask them to go for a weekend jog with you, invite them to your church if you’re both religious, or offer to join them at theirs, send them a funny meme or email, make them a photo collage of their lost one with happy memories, take them on a weekend getaway, treat them to a spa package, go dancing with them, grab a couple beers together at their favorite spot, get them out of the house and do something they enjoy, do something physical to release some Serotonin, buy them a self-help coping book, take them to a sports game, or bring over some nice wine and good music. Respect their process; however, booze and other substances can help alleviate some of the present stresses and numb the pain temporarily, but try to steer clear of letting your survivor fall into a path of strict substance coping, as it doesn’t actually address the pain they’re feeling, it simply masks it.

  6. Give the survivor time to mourn; handle supporting and giving them space, delicately. It’s an interesting process, losing someone close to you. Immediately following the loss of someone close, survivors are often bombarded with calls and emails, but this may be the time they don’t want to talk at all. The initial loss often puts the survivors into a state of shock. Everyone has their own process for how they deal with death; however, many people fall into a sort of cloudy, comatose state of being. The amount of time a person will be in this phase varies, but for a period of time following the death of a loved one, it feels very surreal for the survivor. During this time, the survivor might distance themselves. They might need to take a personal leave of absence from work or school; they may isolate themselves from others, drop their hobbies or social activities, lose interest in things they used to enjoy, eat a lot or not eat at all, drink more, stop talking or communicating with others, or even fall into a state of depression. This is normal. As the supporter, it’s important to realize this is not a personal attack or reflection on you at all. The survivor is dealing with a serious transition and going through a very distraught and unpleasant mental state. The survivor will come out of this phase. But everyone’s healing time is different.

  7. Keep in mind that everyone’s healing and processing time is different. Just because your survivor went back to work, started picking up old hobbies, or is beginning to seem like themselves again, does not necessarily mean they’re resolved and feeling fully healed. They may still continue to go through ups and downs. Often it takes many weeks, to even months, before the survivor really starts to feel and notice the loss of their loved one. Even after a few months have passed, it may still be a good idea to pull your survivor aside, or give them a phone call, and with genuine interest, ask how they’re doing. This is also typically a more normal time for survivors to open up, since they’ve had more time to process the loss of their loved one. They may have had a better chance to accept the passing of their deceased and can better articulate what they’re feeling or thinking.

Sometimes people need therapy, sometimes people need religion, sometimes people need antidepressants, sometimes people need meditation, sometimes people need space, sometimes people need support, sometimes people need a change in their lives, and sometimes people simply need time. Whatever it is that your survivor needs, know they might not know right away what will best help them, either. Be delicate and give them space if it seems they want or need it. But also remember to be proactive about being supportive. Don’t wait for them to come to you. They have a lot to deal with on their own in this time of loss. Find a way to be supportive and just do it. They will be so grateful later.

Featured image from Bluntmoms.com


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Filed under Advice, Death, Help, Kysondra, LeDerp, Mourning, Psychology, Self Help, Therapy

Education vs. Working Up The Ladder – Which Has The Bigger Pay Off For Our Generation?

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Lately, I’ve been having many discussions with people: peers, friends, loved-ones, co-workers, and mentors — ranging from “The Lucky Few/Silent Generation” all the way to “Generation Z” – regarding how much a standard 4-year college degree pays off for people, at this day in age, or whether it’s a better decision for most, especially current generations from Generation X to Generation Z, to simply try to gain work experience in a field and work up from there. Upon spending much time pondering this situation, I have started to wonder how other people feel about education vs. working to establish a career at this current day. (Before I go on, I’d like to apologize for any mechanical errors, as this is mainly a stream of conscious thought rather than a formal piece I’ve been working on.) So….here’s my question:

What do you feel is a smarter decision for one’s financial security and future, for our generation: To go to college for a bachelor’s and pay for it with student loans, or to jump into a field and try to establish a career through work experience?


Do you remember that time where you could, out of your own pocket, and maybe with a little help from your parents, afford to put yourself through college? Do you remember the days where you started making plans to be a full-time student while working a part-time job and were living independently – perhaps on a Top Ramen diet – but in the comfort of your own apartment, flat, or studio? Do you remember the time where you knew, as long as you went to school and acquired that 4-year degree, that you would be able to land a job, establish a decent career, and provide for your family? ….. Yeah, neither do I, because it seems the notion of a basic college education keeping you afloat for the remainder of your life, is just a romanticized nostalgic idea from when our parents and grandparents were growing up. I grew up in a household that preached, “Education is crucial to your professional future.” And although I personally have a fondness for academia, I have often discussed with family members whether that is still practical advice.
Now, there’s no denying that education is something — we as a country — can always benefit from (and currently are lacking in, on a global comparison). Furthermore, that being more well-rounded and educated as an individual is beneficial for our personal growth. Also, that we can certainly establish a higher-paying job from the get-go, along with having competitive opportunities open to us, when we have obtained our college degree. I cannot deny that my college education has been very beneficial for my personal growth and development of my mind and potential. Ironically enough, I find myself enthralled with the academic lifestyle: being surrounded by scholars and experts in a multitude of fields, participating in intellectually stimulating conversations, exercising areas of the brain I otherwise wouldn’t use on a regular basis, discovering my capabilities of hard-work and accomplishing goals, thriving in an environment thirsting for knowledge, and contemplating concepts I never would have fathomed on my own.

It also should be noted that these attributes do become valuable in desired professionals. However, my point is not to dabble over the personal benefits an education offers to an individual: personal qualities and individual growth, pursuit of happiness, intellectual broadening and stimulation, and honing of interests. I am not advocating for either option regarding establishing a career from a college degree vs. working one’s way up the ladder. I am simply interested in the opinions and observation of others, as to what my peers think, regarding the pay-off of working with (mostly) work-experience or working from an education. My main goal is to discuss whether education is still the sure-fire path to a strong and secure financial and professional future, or if perhaps the long-practiced “keys to success” now require some reevaluation given current and shifting economic times.

Given the above, one has to ask the question, why go to college? For some, it’s purely intellectual growth, but for most, college serves as a means to a better end. The structure of our educational system has been used to, ideally, prepare us for our futures and ultimately, our careers. It seems good-paying jobs one would obtain, from a 4-year bachelor’s degree, are getting harder to come by, and often some fields don’t promise much of a decent-paying career at all. Honestly, the term “decent-paying” might be too much of a stretch even-still, as we watch the disparaging rates of our middle class dwindle away year by year. There are most certainly fields booming in high demand: information technology, engineering and robotics, the medical field, and bio-friendly power/energy efficiency — and with high demand often comes better wages — but for a strong majority of other fields, comes a question about whether it will pay off for a desired household income, gaining some profit and live comfortably while trying to pay off student debt.

When our grandparents and parents were going to school, it was much more affordable to be in college, and to make a living while doing so. People could go to college, a private institution, or a public university by a simple combination of working and some savings without racking up bankrupting levels of student loan debt. In addition to that, people could also afford to work alongside school, and a full-time college student, working as a waitress or busboy 3-4 nights a week, could put themselves through school and afford to get themselves a quaint one-bedroom apartment while enjoying their college years.

However, it seems times are definitely changing, and that what once was seemingly attainable to go to school, maintain a standard level of independence, and then land a career that would pay for itself, is merely a dream of the past or a luxury for a rare few whose interests fall into one of those high demand fields.

Personally speaking, I know people who have had to go back to school, because whatever they got their bachelor’s in the first time, didn’t get them anywhere professionally that would provide them with the means to keep up with the cost of living . I also know of others hitting their late-20s to even early-30s, picking up the phone to tell Mom and Dad they need to move back home, because the cost of living is escalating at an exponential rate and they can’t afford to stay in their one bedroom apartment. I know people who are in their late-20’s to early-30’s, whom even past working a 40 hour work week, can’t even dream of what it would be like to have their own place, as they share their living space with (often more than one) roommate(s). I know of many people in my age bracket, who are consciously avoiding having children or getting married — despite their actual relationships or desires — due to the fact they “can’t afford it.” I know of people who are struggling to pay off their student loans and had to go back to school, just to have some more time to come up with the money, or are struggling to get deferrals because they can’t seem to pay off loans plus interest, while simultaneously providing for themselves and their loved ones. For goodness sake, I know of people with PhD’s who can’t find work or have been homeless at some point after receiving their college degree. The notion of anyone with a doctorate not finding work is beyond absurd and almost completely counter intuitive.

So I ask you, with regard to certain high demand fields offering a six figure salary, is the promise of a secure economic and financial future — from a bachelor’s degree — merely a retired concept of the past for many, or should it still be the prime focus for anyone who is looking for job security and the financial means to provide for themselves and their family before they hit 40? What are your thoughts?

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Filed under Career, Debate, Education, Finances, Future, Philosophy, Success