Grief: How to cope with the loss of your loved one
Coping with the loss of a close friend or family member may be one of the most challenging things you have to face. The grief associated with the loss of a spouse, sibling, or parent can be particularly intense. Loss may be a natural part of life, but that doesn’t make it any less shocking or confusing, or less likely to lead to long periods of sadness or even depression.
As time passes, the intensity of the feelings typically diminishes. However, the grieving process is important in helping you to overcome the feelings following the death of a family member and look at the time you had with your loved one in a positive way.
Grief is something you feel when you suffer the loss of something or someone important to you. Sometimes, the pain of the loss can be completely overwhelming. Together with such a feeling, you might experience a range of other unexpected and difficult emotions, ranging from anger and shock to guilt, disbelief, and extreme sadness.
Grief is a very individual experience. No two people experience grief in the same way and there is no right or wrong way to do it. How you grieve depends on several factors, including your personality and how you generally cope with things, your life experience, your faith, and how significant the loss was to you. There are, however, some common factors and things you can do to ease the pain and take care of your own physical and mental health.
● Acknowledge your pain
● Accept that grief can trigger different and unexpected emotions
● Understand that your grieving process will be unique to you
● Seek support from people who care about you
● Take care of yourself physically
Grief is a natural response to losing a loved one. There are no hard and fast rules as to how you deal with it. As such, there is no set time in which you will feel better and come to terms with your loss. Some people recover very quickly, while others take much longer to recover.
People react to loss in different ways, so each person deals with grief differently and for different lengths of time. What works for one person might not work for another. How you overcome the initial period of grief also depends on many things.
There are many popular models for explaining the complicated experiences of loss. The most commonly quoted is the 7 stages of grief. You might feel all of them, just a few, or none at all. Everyone grieves in their own way. It can help if you talk to someone about your feelings. That person can be a professional, family member, or friend.
The seven stages of grief are:
Shock is an automatic coping mechanism. It happens because we need to protect ourselves from being overwhelmed. It is normal to be shocked upon finding out about a loss, especially if it was unexpected and sudden.
Denial doesn’t always mean that you deny the event, it could also exhibit itself through the way you express your emotions; such as denying that you are going through a difficult time, or that your loss has had a profound effect on you.
Guilt stems from the desire to go back in time and do things differently. It can lead to thinking it is your fault, as your mind doesn’t determine between emotions that are logical or not.
Anger could be towards the situation, yourself, or the people around you. You might also try to reason with yourself by doing something different, reflecting on the past with “If this, then that” statements.
You may start to accept the loss, however, feel unable to cope with it. Feeling overwhelmed is normal, depression can come and go in a person’s life, and will help you towards peace.
As time goes by, you will be more functional, but you’ll also still have feelings of sadness, anger, depression, and guilt. This is a period where you can move forward by dealing with your grief.
This is the final stage, where you accept your loss and start to feel okay again. This doesn’t mean you’ll “be over it”, but you will be able to think and talk about your loved one without incredible pain or emotion.
Grieving a loss is an inevitable part of life, however, there are things you can do to help cope with the pain, come to terms with your grief, and eventually find a way to pick up the pieces and move forwards with your life.
When you lose someone you loved, you’re going to experience a wealth of emotions. Potentially, it’s a time when you might feel almost any emotion imaginable. You may find there are times when you feel more than one emotion at a time and wonder whether you’re really “going crazy”. The important thing to remember is that this range of emotions is perfectly natural. It’s also normal to experience a number of different feelings at the same time.
Tell yourself that your feelings are normal and play an important role in the way you’ve chosen to deal with your grief. Understand there’s no wrong or right way when it comes to emotions about losing someone you love. Give yourself time.
The pain of grief can lead people to withdraw from others and retreat into their shell. However, a vital part of the healing process is having the face-to-face support of other people. If you’re not comfortable talking about your feelings in normal situations, being able to express them when you’re grieving is crucial. The burden of grief is easier to carry if you learn to share your loss and express your feelings.
You might think you’ll be protecting your family by not expressing your feelings. But it’s just as important for them to know how you feel and be able to acknowledge their own feelings. It can be particularly important to show children that it’s ok to experience these feelings of great sadness and that you can recover over time.
You can gain a certain amount of comfort by keeping to your routine. Get back to the activities that bring you joy and connect you with others because it will help you come to terms with your loss and help the grieving process.
A grief reminder or trigger can often catch you unawares and in an instant, cause a wave of grief to wash over you, or even knock you down. The cause can be anything that brings up a memory related to your loss. But there are many ways you can reduce the effect of grief triggers.
Planning ahead and being prepared are the most practical. Some triggers are obvious and easy to anticipate, such as a birthday or holiday. Dealing with grief over the holidays does include remembering your loved one at Christmas, too. You can engage yourself in the usual activities, such as decorating and organizing family reunions to get yourself busy. There’s also the option of simply battling through and finding ways to manage any public outburst of emotion.
However, other triggers can completely surprise you, for example, spotting someone in a crowd that looks like your loved one. You can also try to eliminate and avoid reminders such as people, places, and objects. Avoidance is all well and good unless it interferes with your regular day to day functioning. If this is the case, you need to work on tolerating such encounters and develop coping strategies to help you adapt.
Your mind is connected to your body, and when one is off tilt, it impacts on the other. Take care of yourself physically, and you’ll be better equipped to cope emotionally. If you want to combat stress and fatigue, the best way to do it is to get enough sleep, eat right, and get lots of exercise.
There’s always a temptation to use alcohol or drugs to numb the pain of grief or lift your mood artificially. However, all this does is delay the inevitable. To get past your grief, you have to face it and look for ways to cope.
Remember that you’re not grieving on your own and your family also needs you. Try to keep life as normal as possible and make sure there are lots of opportunities for everyone to express their feelings, share emotions and thoughts.
Try to hold off on making any major decisions or changes during the time you’re grieving. Give yourself time to adjust to your loss before you make life-changing decisions such as moving house, remarrying, changing jobs, or having another child.
Communicating with surviving friends and family members can be a very effective way to ease the grieving process. A supportive structure also goes a long way to helping bereaved people come to terms with their loss.
Support can take many forms, from reciting comforting prayers or affirmations to returning to the established routine as soon as possible. All of these help grieving individuals regain a sense of normalcy in their lives.
There are lots of different ways you can remember a loved one when they have passed away. Traditionally, it would be a memorial service. However, more and more people are looking for unique ways to remember their loved ones.
One very popular idea is to create an online presence for your loved one. It’s very easy to create a place where family and friends can honour and remember those who are no longer among them. Pure Memories is one such example that allows you to create an online memorial page to share with family and friends.
Home based remembrance is practiced by many faiths, setting up a small area with photographs and candles creates a space where you can spend time purposefully remembering the person you have lost. Cooking their favourite meal, watching a favourite programme, going on a special walk can all bring remembrance into your everyday activities.
It has been said that ‘time heals all wounds’, but that’s not always the case when it comes to grief. For some people, the pain of losing a loved one never goes away.
You may need help if your emotions are so intense you feel you can’t carry on, or you struggle to cope with your daily life. If you’re struggling to go to work, look after children, or socialise with your friends, you may need additional support in the form of bereavement or grief counselling.
What’s available depends on where you live and what services are available in your location. We know that dealing with grief and loss is not easy, so we’ve provided a list of useful organisations that can help and support you through bereavement. Click here to see our Additional Links & Support Services.