Grief looks different for everyone, but it can be especially difficult to process a loved one’s passing when you’re also responsible for planning the funeral. Funeral planning can be a whirlwind logistically, financially, and emotionally. There are several decisions to be made and things to plan within a short period of time, making processing your loss more difficult.
Even when working with experts who can help, funeral planning can be stressful, especially if your loved one didn’t leave any direction. However, during this time, it’s critical to take care of your own mental health and ensure you’re caring for yourself as well.
Here are a few simple mental health tips to keep in mind while planning a funeral.
Accept your emotions
It’s ok to feel sad, and suppressing that sadness or other similar emotions can take an even greater toll on our mental health. While it’s easier said than done, try to accept those emotions as part of the grieving process. Remember everyone grieves differently, but creating an environment that is accepting of feelings of sadness, anger, or even depression can be helpful.
Talking with a friend or loved one, writing in a journal, or participating in similar outlets can be helpful ways to express and accept your emotions. Be honest with yourself and your feelings and avoid bottling them up as that will likely only lead to more stress and even outbursts.
Planning a funeral requires making a lot of decisions and talking to a variety of people, like friends and family of the deceased, the funeral director, the monument and memorial company, florists, doctors, legal representation, clergy members or officiants, and more. But remember, not everyone needs to be contacted and spoken with at the same time or even within the first few days.
Take breaks between these conversations and decisions. This can be taking a walk, talking to a friend, watching some of your favorite TV show, or anything else that you enjoy. Ask a family member to take over for the time being. After some time has passed, you’ll feel refreshed and better equipped to continue.
Care for your physical health
Loss of a loved one and planning a funeral can create physical symptoms like digestive issues, loss of appetite, fatigue, aches and pains, and others. Keeping up your physical health is important, and it will help support your mental health and ability to get through this process easier.
• Try to eat a sensible diet.
• Stay hydrated.
• Get as much sleep as you can.
• Stay active by walking or exercising at home or the gym.
Maintaining physical activity and taking care of your body may seem difficult to prioritize, but it’s an important part of this journey.
Schedule time for self-care
With so much going on, it’s easy to lose yourself in the planning process and needs of others. That’s why it’s critical to take time for self-care, even if you have to physically schedule time in your calendar. Take a walk or a hot bath, read a book, journal, meditate, exercise, get a mani/pedi or massage, paint, or do any other activity that you enjoy. While it sometimes seems selfish to focus on yourself during this time, it’s essential for maintaining positive mental health.
Avoid the drama
Bringing the family together can be a time of joy and celebration, but it can also be a time of tension, arguments, and conflict. The conflict may start while planning and it can even continue throughout the funeral itself. Do your best to steer clear. Avoid those who are instigators, step away from unpleasant conversations, and set clear boundaries when necessary.
Be mindful and present
It may be difficult, but try to avoid getting trapped in negative emotions. Recognize and acknowledge your feelings and thoughts as you work through this process. Practice techniques like deep breathing or grounding techniques, or accept your feelings and share them with loved ones.
Be in the moment to experience what is happening without rehashing the past or worrying about the future. Accepting your feelings and this process, though extremely difficult, can actually be freeing.
Ask for help
You are not alone during this time.
Ask for help from friends or family, whether with actual planning or just for someone to talk to or spend time with. Talk to your boss or coworkers to get time off work or to have patience with you while you go through this time. Talk to your doctor or a therapist for professional help if you need it. Work with a funeral director and others involved in the process for advice, tips, or help with planning.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it.
Choose healthy ways to cope
There are a number of ways to cope with grief, stress, or other negative emotions. Some, like alcohol or drugs, are counterproductive and can be much more harmful than good. Choosing healthy ways to cope, like exercise, meditation, journaling, or others can ensure you’re protecting your mental health and keeping your body and mind in the best place possible for yourself and those around you.