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Loss is a part of life, but that doesn't make it easy.

Ten Ways to Prepare for the Loss of a Loved One

Are you expecting to deal with the loss of a loved one in the next few months or years? Are you terrified of what will happen and how it will affect you? Are you already experiencing grief, even though the loss hasn't happened yet? If this is you, be gentle with yourself. As a licensed grief therapist, I know that these feelings and emotions are completely normal. Loss is a part of life, but that doesn't make it easy. However, there are ways that you can soften the experience by being prepared ahead of time. Here are ten ways to prepare for the loss of a loved one.

1. Accept That Loss is Coming

Acceptance is the first and often hardest step when dealing with a future loss. While your loved one is still with you, it is easy to avoid the thought of loss. After all, you want to enjoy the time you have with them, right? This is true. However, the truth is always better than avoidance. Coming to terms with the fact that you are going to face a loss will help you treasure your time. Consider working through your feelings with a professional therapist to help you prepare mentally and emotionally.

2. Speak Intentionally and Compassionately

What are the most important words you could say to your loved one? What do you really want them to know? For many of us, these words would be, "I love you." Some of us need to say, "I'm sorry" or "I forgive you." Remember, words are powerful. And they become all the more so when you realize that you only have a short time to say them. So be intentional about what you say to your loved one. They will never get tired of hearing that you love and appreciate them.

3. Fill Your Time with Memories

When the loss of a loved one is approaching, you begin to feel how precious time really is. So, use it well! Talk often. Bring family members to visit. If you have children, let them play their instrument or perform their school speech. Do family traditions together (if you need to do a Christmas in September or celebrate a birthday months early, that's ok - just do it). And take as many pictures and videos as you can!

4. Laugh Together

Loss can be a scary thing, and many of your conversations with your loved one may be serious. However, it is important to remember to have fun together too. So, find joy in the little moments. Tell funny stories. Watch a comedy together. Relive happy memories. Laughing together will help you both relax and simply live in the moment.

5. Understand Your Loved One's Wishes

No one likes to talk about end-of-life care, funeral preferences, wills, etc. But you can give yourself and your loved one peace of mind by discussing these things together. It is important to know your loved one's wishes so that you can create a plan that will make them comfortable and at peace. While difficult, this can also become a very intimate and bonding time for you and your loved one.

6. Create a Post-Loss Plan

When the loss does occur, you do not want to be left scrambling with all the details and logistics. You need to give yourself space so that you can deal with your grief individually and with your family. It helps to create a plan ahead of time so you have that space when you need it. Move your beloved to the place where they are most comfortable. Sketch out funeral plans. Have an idea of where out-of-town family can stay if necessary. Plan how and where the burial will take place. Ask friends to be ready to support you. Knowing exactly what will happen ahead of time will be a huge win for you when you are battling grief head on.

7. Educate Yourself on the Signs

No one likes to be taken by surprise. While you know that loss is coming, you may want to get even more specific and learn the signs (medical, emotional, etc.) that will tell you the time is short. Talk with your loved one's caretakers and medical professionals. Ask them what to expect as your loved one draws closer to the end of their life. They will help you know what to look for (and how to act when you see it) so that you can be prepared when it is time.

8. Get the Finances in Order

Money is the last thing you will want to be worrying about when you are facing the loss of your loved one. Yet it often plays a big role in loss. There are expenses that come with the funeral and burial. Often, there are medical expenses to deal with as well. And then you have to figure out how to distribute the possessions of your loved one (in accordance with their will). Set aside a certain amount (or make an advanced payment) for these things so that you will not be scrambling when the time comes.

9. Accept Help From Others

Often, grief leaves us reeling. We don't even know what to do or how to handle it. And this is when we must accept help from other people. In fact, we should ask for help! Before your loved one passes, touch base with your close friends who have your back. Ask them if they would be willing to "be on call" so to speak when you need them. Enlist friends to cook you meals, text you when you need it, or even clean your house. This will give you space to process and heal.

10. Have a Safe Place to Express Stress and Grief

You probably want to keep a cheerful face around your loved one, especially since your time together is limited. However, even before they actually pass away, you will need a safe space to let out all your anxiety and grief over the upcoming loss. This is why having a professional grief therapist can be incredibly helpful. A therapist will help you navigate the tough situation; they will give you an outlet for your strong, difficult emotions; they will offer you strategies to help you cope.

While loss of a loved one is never easy, you are not alone. Grief is normal and natural. You do not have to be afraid of it. In fact, when grief runs its course, you may find yourself a wiser, deeper, and more compassionate person because of it. Feel free to contact me so that you can begin preparing now.

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