Problem Solving Strategies
When Dealing with Grief

Looking at problem solving strategies may be the last thing you want to do at the moment. However, the death of a loved one can create enormous problems on top of dealing with your grief and loss.

If you have lost your life partner or a significant person in your life you have probably realised that your life has now changed forever. You may be faced with a number of significant problems or issues which are needing resolution.

The Funeral
Firstly there are the many decisions and choices to be made regarding funeral arrangements. The universal questions of how, what, when, where, why, who, can help here. Often this is when a friend or relative will step in and assist. However, if this is going to be you, then you will need to give these issues some thought. The funeral director can help with all the questions that need to be answered regarding funeral arrangements. You are probably the person who has the most intimate knowledge of your loved ones wishes. Use this time to acknowledge their wishes and to be involved in the arrangements for your own need to be part of the funeral process.

Practical Issues
Once the funeral is over it is likely that people will disappear just as quickly as they appeared. You may now be on your own to deal with your changed life circumstances. Some issues you may need to address with problem solving skills could be:

  • Financial circumstances. Where does this leave you financially? Do you need to make any significant changes? Can you continue as before the death of your loved one?
  • Housing: can you stay where you are? Do you have to sell up, down size or move out?
  • Employment: Do you need to find employment, change employment or give up work?

Relationship and Emotional Issues
Suddenly relationships have changed and no one is quite sure how to deal with it.

  • Have your relationships changed with family, friends or work colleagues? Should they? What do you need to do about this?
  • Has your relationship changed with yourself? What do you need to do to support and nurture yourself?
  • What plans do you have for today and for your future?

Whatever your circumstances or your problem solving skills, you will be faced with many changes when dealing with grief. Changes consequently create more problems.

Problem Solving Process

Problem solving and decision making can involve any issue or task that you need to complete or resolve. Make sure that it is something that you need to address and not your grief or emotions taking over. For instance if your financial situation is such that you must sell you home or move, then this is what you need to do and you can work on some problem solving strategies to help you. However, unless you actually must make a significant change it is best to wait for a while, let the grief and pain subside a little before you take on huge changes.

Use the following problem solving process to clarify the problems and find appropriate solutions. Write it down and ask someone to go through the process with you.

1. Define the Problem

This is the starting point of the problem solving process and sometimes the toughest one to conquer. Whatever is happening, it must be your problem, not someone else’s problem or someone else’s fault. OK then these questions may help.

  1. Answer the what, where, when, why, how and who questions of the current situation. This will tell you exactly where you are now.
  2. Again answer the what, where, when, why, how and who questions of what you feel should be happening. This will tell you where you want to be.
  3. If the problem seems to be too big or overwhelming, break it down into smaller chunks and go through each of the above questions for each of the smaller parts of the problem.
  4. Prioritise and determine which problem needs to be addressed first (those will be the ones that have the most dire consequences if not addressed).

2. Analyse the Problem

An important problem solving skill is analysing the problem. Make sure that you complete this step to ensure that the solutions finally reached will be effective ones.

  1. Collect as much information as you can about the problem. Again ask the what, where, when, why, how and who questions. This time to determine the extent of the problem and where it is coming from.
  2. During this process resist the temptation to jump to the solution.

3. Develop a Range of Solutions

  1. Be creative and have a brainstorm session. Yes, you can do this by yourself however, you can come up with some very good solution ideas if you involve other people.
  2. Be open to all ideas for solutions. There is often great value in some of the weirdest solution suggestions.
  3. Sometimes the best solution for the problem at the time is to take no action at all.

4. Decide on a Solution

  1. Of all the possible options from step 3, now is the time to choose your solutions.
  2. What is the risk for each solution? How likely is it that the solution will work? What will you do if it does not work?
  3. What costs and resources are involved in implementing the solutions? Determine what you need to do and what others need to do.
  4. What is the time frame? When the solutions must be completed.

5. Implement the Solution and Follow Up

Implementation and follow up complete the problem solving process. Make sure that you continue to maintain a written (or electronic) recording of all aspects of the problem solving process.

  1. Obtain agreement from all involved.
  2. Establish a task schedule and time frame
  3. Monitor progress
  4. Evaluate the outcome (is it working).