Dealing with Loss and Difficult Times
Last updated: 7/16/2002; 8:05:36 PM
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Dealing with Loss and Difficult Times

A good friend of mine, someone I've known for years and years now, went to high school with, and is now on the other side of the country, is dealing with a difficult situation – the potential loss of a parent to cancer.  I've been unlucky enough to have gone through this twice – in 89 I lost my grandfather to cancer and then in 97 I lost my father in law to cancer.  I've also buried both grandmothers, a sister and miscellaneous friends and professional colleagues over the years (and I am still in my 30s, yikes!).  So, while I don't know much in this area, I've dealt with it more than most.  Here are some thoughts for my friend.

  • Don't Travel.  Stay close to home.  Loss is tremendously difficult and stressful.  You don't want to be away from your family if you can help it.
  • Be Honest with People.  Be up front with your boss and / or co-workers.  People will usually step up to the plate and cover for you if you are honest with them.  Figure out the 1 or 2 things that only you can do and get them done if you can.  And if you can't?  Guess what – it will still get done anyways.  No one is indispensable.
  • Don't Bother Trying to Always be Strong.  It's ok to have the emotional breakdown if you need it.  We all do it from time to time and, if you are with a loved one or friend, they'll understand.  There is a lot to be said for a shoulder to cry on.  Even just venting steam is good.  Yoga is also supposd to be excellent.
  • Be Connected.  Carry your cell phone everywhere you go and always keep it on.  Why?  Because if something takes a turn for the worse you want to know.  You'll kick yourself otherwise.
  • Don't Be Alone Very Much.  I strongly recommend that you keep people around you at all times.  In this day and age, when we all seem more separated from the next human being than ever before (this whole work from home stuff), it's just not healthy in times of high stress.  Having people around keeps you focused.  If you work from home then do it in a cybercafe or at a colleague's house or have other people work at your house. 
  • Keep the Music Flowing.  I'm not a huge music guy but I do think it gives a nice background distraction.  It's all up to your preferences but I find the old maxim "Music hath charms to soothe the savage beast" is truer than we admit.  I'd personally advise Enya and Dido but it's all relative.
  • Stay Busy.  People take different positions on this one.  Some want to constantly be busy since work is a way to not deal.  Others want to not be stressed out by lots of tasks.  At least for myself, and a lot of people I know, busy is good.  It shouldn't get in the way of taking time out to see the ones you love but it's a good coping mechanism.
  • Spend Your Time Wisely.  To be really honest, my personal opinion is that this situation you should spend as much time as you can take with the person in trouble.  A favorite activity of mine in this case is home movies or photos.  Just before my father in law passed, we made a video of our new house, and took it down to him as he just wasn't up to the trip.  It made his day and that special smile that he had is still in my memories.  Go out, buy an iBook, take all your digital photos, stuff them into iPhoto and then just make a slide show (COMMAND+A and then the >> play button – it's just that easy).

Remember – there's always time for work – people are what really matter.

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