Life can throw you a curveball at any minute – it is ever changing. As they say, life happens when you are busy making other plans. Sometimes these changes are special and beautiful, but just as often, it can be heart-breaking – ultimately causing immense stress.

Mopani Pharmacy consulted clinical psychologist, Nicola Munro on the biggest life changes and how to manage the stress and grief that comes along with it.

The death of a loved one – what to do with their belongings


Some may box up their belongings, donate, sell or throw it away. Others keep everything as is, and their homes may become a shrine to the one who passed. The fact is, there is no right or wrong way to deal with the matter.

“Grieving the death of a loved one is a personal process, that only the individual will be able to answer. When one experiences grief, it is as if one lives in a parallel reality. They do not occupy the same reality as everyone else. Their world has come to a standstill and seemed to stop when their loved one passed. They cannot fathom that life could go on or should go on.  It feels alien and strange when they see others continue with everyday life and it can even feel hurtful.  This is all normal”, Nicola explains.

Separation, break-up or divorce – how long is it acceptable to mourn


“This process can vary significantly from person to person.  If an individual initiated the breakup, they may have also begun the grieving process even before the act of terminating the relationship has taken place.   For the other person, they may not see it coming, be in shock and may still have very strong feelings and therefore are not as far along the road of healing,” she explained.

“Sitting on the couch eating ice cream is probably okay for a while, but it does nothing to address the actual grief associated with loss.  It is more of an avoidance strategy unless you eat ice cream while intentionally grieving”.

Permanent or long term major injury or illness of a loved one


“Depression or stress can result from many aspects of injury or illness. In order to prevent this you have to examine the impact of the illness or injury on one’s protective factors. Protective factors are things in our lives which protect us from the effects of stress. It includes sleep, exercise and nutrition.  They are also highly personal and can include an individual’s ability to be outdoors, spirituality, connection with others, alone time, sense of independence, amongst others,” Nicola explained.

“It’s vital to remain vigilant on the effects of the illness or injury on one’s protective factors and to compensate for the loss - we need to be proactive in anticipating these with significant life changes and making sure our needs continue to be met in healthy ways”, she continued.

How to deal with the stress


As mentioned before, one can manage stress by taking care of your protective factors such as having a healthy, balanced diet, exercise, rest, social interaction or relaxing activities. If you need to grieve, you can practice intentional grieving.

“Intentional grieving is more of a deliberate act where you are fully present and may encompass activities such as writing unsent letters to the other partner, writing yourself a closure letter, journaling or seeking therapy. During the grieving process, both intentionally processing your grief and living your life simultaneously are advised in differing ratios as you progressively heal”, Nicola explained.

There are some guidelines that you may follow, should you come to an emotional stop:

  • During the grieving process, both intentionally processing your grief and living your life simultaneously are advised in differing ratios as you progressively heal
  • Many feel that they may forget their loved one or have an overwhelming sense of guilt when contemplating giving their items away – You can make a memory box or a scrapbook with the most meaningful items
  • Sort items into five categories; to keep for yourself, to keep for others, to sell, to donate and to throw away to make this process easier
  • If you are going through a break-up, it is useful to remind yourself that it was not always rosy and make a list of reasons why the break-up is not all bad for you and why the relationship may have been toxic
  • Keeping constant reminders of an ex-partner makes it difficult to heal. Unless you have to keep contact for the sake of children it is better to allow a period of 6 months to 2 years to pass without contact or seeking out information about them (Social media)
  • Too often we verbalise when the other has done something wrong, made a mistake or not done something and do not often verbally appreciate everything the other may do for us
  • When it comes to difficult financial decisions such as an ante-nuptial contract, asset division or your will, arrange a professional setting with a mediator (broker or attorney)


  • Don’t do everything for your injured or ill loved one, they will feel helpless and less willing to try something for themselves, break tasks into smaller steps and allow them the independence to try the easiest part:
    • Cut the food into small pieces, but let them try feed themselves with a spoon or fork
    • Help them into a wheelchair but let them wheel themselves forward, don’t push them all the time
    • Adjust the settings on their phone for the buttons to be larger, so they can see better or utilise it rather than letting you text or placing their calls all the time

Warning signs

If you notice the following signs in yourself or others it is important to consider professional help or therapy:

  • Sleeping too little or too much, not able to get out of bed
  • Self-isolating
  • Not eating or over eating significantly
  • Negative thoughts
  • Feelings of hopelessness

Mopani Pharmacy also offers a variety of homeopathic / natural remedies to alleviate some of your stress and help to keep you calm. It is important to discuss the use with our pharmacists for possible contraindications and correct use.


You can book an appointment with Nicola on 072 268 3743. You can find her practice on 31 Melkweg Road, Nelspruit.

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