How to Manage when Coping with a Long-Distance Loss – by Janice Miller

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How to Manage When Coping with a Long-Distance Loss

Sometimes, no matter how much you want to be physically present for a funeral, it isn’t possible. Finances, distance, and other commitments can prevent us from participating in the way we would like. Even when you can’t attend, you can still support your loved ones following a loss. Here are a few suggestions on how to be there when you can’t be there.

Dealing with grief. Grief is a very personal and complex process. While we would like to simplify bereavement by categorizing or sorting emotions into the traditional five stages of grief, some experts feel the process can be far messier in certain respects. Your experience might reflect those stages in many ways, or you might jump between stages. Perhaps you linger in some for longer periods, or skip a few entirely. Maybe you even experience your own unique set of stages. It’s important to understand those stages were originally meant to describe the process for the dying person—not the people left behind. Either way, you are not wrong in the journey of your bereavement. Your grief may take more or less time than that of others, and it may look different, but that’s okay.

Bereavement and self-care. They say you can’t pour from an empty cup, and now more than ever you will benefit from making your own needs a priority. Be gentle with yourself so you don’t become run down during this difficult time. Participate in healthy self-care habits to stay on top of your emotional and physical health. Just like grief, your self-care regimen is personal and it can be helpful to develop a plan that suits your needs. It’s essential to include things that make you feel good. Take a class at the gym, read a good book, spend time with your pet, or simply lounge over a cup of coffee in the mornings. Think about what will feel restorative, maintain your energy levels, and help you to keep a positive outlook.

Helping others. Sending traditional floral arrangements can be a pleasant and comforting way to remember lost loved ones. However, many times we want to be more active in our method of helping survivors, and in remembering our loss. Thankfully, we live in a technological age that offers many practical ways you can provide support from afar. You can reach out through phone calls or emails, arrange to have groceries delivered to those doing the hands-on planning, or send financial assistance with final expenses. Time suggests being particularly sensitive about what you share on social media and whether you tag grieving friends and family members when posting about the loss. It’s fine to communicate your feelings and memories, but the timing can catch others off guard.

Planning from afar. You may need to make the funeral arrangements remotely. This can feel especially complicated if there is nobody to rely on locally for assistance. One suggestion is to find a funeral home experienced in long-distance funeral planning. Be selective in whom you choose. While most people working in the bereavement industry are likely to have your best interests at heart, Huffington Post warns you should not feel pressured by any funeral homes into spending a certain amount or choosing a particular sort of service. Depending on the circumstances, you might also wish to review the general timelines for scheduling a funeral or memorial service, since the deceased wishes, certain religious beliefs, burial methods, and cultures or traditions can factor into your plans.

Losing someone you love is never easy. Remember to take care of yourself and connect in whatever manner will best fit the circumstances. When you live far away you might feel helpless, but there are means for offering support.


Psychology Today. “Why the Five Stages of Grief Are Wrong.” July 2017.

What’s Your Grief. “The Unprecedented Nature of Individual Grief: Trading answers for understanding.” March 2017.

Rehab Village. “Self-Care Checklist for Mental and Physical Health.” 2018.

Life as a Human. “Supporting a Grieving Friend from Afar.” April 2016.

Time. “21 Ways to Help Someone You Love Through Grief.” Jan. 2018.

iMortuary. “Planning a Long-Distance Funeral.” May 2012.

HuffPost. “The 8 “Must Dos” Of Funeral Planning.” Dec. 2012.

Une Belle Vie. “When to Schedule a Funeral or Memorial Service.”


Janice Miller – When she isn’t writing for Safety Today, Ms. Miller fosters dogs and helps place them with forever homes. Janice has always been an advocate of keeping the community safe, may it be in the neighborhood or on the internet platform.

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