An Ancient Coping Strategy That Still Works

Are you looking for a way to ease the pain of your great loss? Have you tried the common admonitions to keep busy or try not to think about what you have lost, and they don’t seem to help? It will be worth your time and energy to consider what has proved useful to millions down through the years.

I am talking about the miraculous way that finding opportunities to be of service to others has eased the heavy burden of coping with the death of a loved one. Stop–don’t dismiss this off hand, before giving it an honest try. You can’t help another, without helping yourself.

It all begins with having sincere intent to serve and embrace the truth that making the world a better place is worth the effort. Intent is critical in any commitment we make and sets the frame of mind that begins healing.

How does helping others help us deal with the death of a loved one? Here are some of the insights that have been gained and shared by others.

1. Selfless service compels you to interact with others in a variety of ways. As adults we all possess the natural tendency to give love, attention, and assistance. Perhaps it is because of the way such acts of kindness bring us closer to others. But we must be open to searching for the opportunities to bring our skills, experiences, and treasures to those in need. As Robert Louis Stevenson said, “So long as we love we serve.” We need each other.

2. Accomplishments always have a positive effect on the way we think about ourselves. This is especially important when we are dealing with a great loss, as we are sad and our spirits are low. We need the pick-up that comes with easing the pain of another or brightening their day. Perhaps that is why Emerson advised: “It is one of the most beautiful compensations of life, that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself.”

3. Serving others reduces the time we spend on repeating the painful recollections of thoughts surrounding the death of our loved one. A single thought can cause great pain or start bringing peace. Serving others takes us outside of ourselves as we direct attention to another. It can be as simple as making a phone call to a shut-in as you are lying in bed or stepping up and taking your place in a serving line for those in need of a meal.

4. Your service will positively affect your biological response to the death of your loved one. Grief is not simply an emotional response. Every thought we have affects our physiology, either in a positive or negative manner. Getting out, interacting with others, and reflecting on the way you are helping those in need will affect your physiology in a healthy way; it will especially give your immune system a boost and reduce stress levels.

5. You will be on the road to inner peace. Part of your lifelong journey can be filled with moments of gratitude that come to you through your work with others. It may put in perspective what you still possess but has eluded you–the capacity to find peace. It will show you the importance of all of the little things you have that we commonly take for granted. And, the joy of acceptance, approval, and appreciation from what you accomplish through service, will bring peace back into your life.

And never forget; be sure to allow others to give to you. In doing so, you are giving them the very things we are talking about here: good feelings, good physiology, and an opportunity to express their love. True service is always a two-way connection.

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