5 Tips for Dealing With the Loss of a Loved One
1. Allow Yourself to Mourn
You’ve lost a teammate in life, and possibly in diabetes management. That’s an intimate relationship, says Janet Doucette, MA, LMHC, a behavioral medicine specialist who works with people with diabetes and has type 2 herself. You may feel you are selfish when you are mourning the loss of that partnership with the person on whom you relied, Doucette says. That bond was an important part of life, however, and it’s natural to feel its loss. Take time to grieve—a bereavement counselor can be a helpful resource.
2. Find Emotional Support
If you’re not doing the activities you once enjoyed, or you’re not taking care of your diabetes, you could be facing depression. It’s not uncommon: People with diabetes have a higher risk for depression, and life events such as the death of a loved one can also trigger depression. A mental health professional can help you. Look for one in your area, or ask for a referral from your doctor. You may also want to lean on a support group. Your local hospital should have a list of support groups in your area, and your place of worship or community center may have resources as well. “You might be tempted to stay in bed and isolate yourself,” says Connie Yip, NP, a psychiatric nurse practitioner. But the opposite is more effective in helping you recover. If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.
3. Monitor Often
In times of stress, you may be tempted to forgo blood glucose checks. But while grieving, it’s smart to check even more frequently, says Doucette. Unpredictable schedules, sleeplessness, a calorie-dense funeral or shiva basket—all can lead to blood glucose variations. Physical and emotional stress can both raise blood glucose levels. On the flip side, if you’re not eating enough or checking your blood glucose as directed when using insulin or sulfonylureas, you could find yourself headed toward low blood glucose (hypoglycemia).
If you are at risk for hypoglycemia, and especially if you can’t feel the symptoms of hypoglycemia, be sure to update your plan for emergencies. Stash fast-acting glucose nearby in case of lows; talk to your doctor about adjustments to medication or pre-bed snacks if you experience frequent overnight lows; and consider using a continuous glucose monitor (CGM), which sounds an alert when it senses that your glucose is dropping too quickly or when it reaches a low threshold.
4. Enlist a Helper
You may find that without your loved one, you have difficulty managing your diabetes on your own. Diabetes educator Connie Hanham-Cain, MSN, RN, CDE, who has type 1 diabetes, recommends enlisting a diabetes partner—someone who understands the condition, can sympathize, and can support you when you’re unable to advocate for yourself. Most important, this person can help with day-to-day management. If you require a little more help, there are professional services you can call upon. Hospitals, hospices, and local councils on aging all have resources for you to get the medical and emotional support you need—from someone to dose insulin to people who can prepare meals—even if you’ve never used their services before. Your primary care provider may also connect you with a nurse navigator, whose goal is to help people with chronic conditions live on their own.
5. Mind the Money
The death of a loved one could mean the loss of income or insurance. If your loved one made explicit written plans for his or her end-of-life accounts, the executor of the will, sometimes with a probate attorney, will ensure that you are provided for. If not, review statements that come from your loved one’s financial institutions. An accountant or attorney can help you navigate these and plan next steps, such as making sure your health coverage is uninterrupted.
If possible, plan ahead. According to Cheryl Mothes, CFP, a financial advisor with Edward Jones, a trusted financial advisor can coordinate with you, legal and tax professionals, and others (such as your diabetes care team) to design and update a comprehensive plan for maintaining your income and insurance coverage if your spouse or partner dies. Many communities have grant- or government-funded resources to assist families and seniors. AARP advocates could help as well.
Helping in the Name of a Loved One
If you’d like to make a donation to the American Diabetes Association in your loved one’s name, call 888-700-7029 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.