How to Cope With the Loss of a Loved One
At some point in life, everyone loses someone they love. This is one of the most difficult life events imaginable. You need to be able to cope in a way that's healthy, even if it's painful. In the direct aftermath, allow yourself to work through your emotions. As time goes by, strive to care for yourself. If necessary, seek support from a mental health professional.
Addressing Your Emotions
Allow yourself to experience your feelings.Losing someone you love is an emotionally devastating experience. In the aftermath of loss, you may find yourself grappling with a variety of feelings. It's very important that you allow yourself to feel what you are feeling, even if it's bad. Suppressing your feelings is not a good idea in the aftermath of loss.
- Avoiding feelings of sadness can prolong the grieving process. Also, suppressing grief can lead to things like anger, anxiety, and substance abuse. Even if pausing to consider your feelings is painful, it's important you allow yourself to feel. Do not shy away from feelings of devastation and heartbreak. Allow yourself to cry when necessary.
- Certain types of death or loss may be particularly difficult to process. Losing a child may provoke feelings of anger and injustice, for example. A suicide can lead to anger at the person who has died. With these kinds of losses, people often feel bad about their emotions or think how they're feeling is inappropriate or insensitive. Keep in mind no feelings are inherently good or bad. How you choose to act on your feelings can have negative consequences, but having a range of powerful emotions is normal. You should not judge yourself for feeling what you're feeling.
- Not all emotions in the immediate aftermath of loss are negative. It's not uncommon to feel gratitude for having been close to someone, even if they're gone. You may also find yourself smiling over fond memories. Many people find, when coping with loss, that they veer between laughter and tears. Understand all these emotions are healthy and necessary when it comes to processing loss.
Express your feelings to others.Talking to others is very important following the loss of a loved one. Your friends and family members may not be able to provide you with direct advice, but simply having someone to listen can be cathartic. Sometimes stating your feelings out loud can help you work through them. After a loss, seek out understanding friends and family members. Express your feelings to them and seek comfort and support.
Find creative outlets.Even if you're not typically a creative person, using a creative medium to express your feelings can give your grief a tangible form. Make a scrapbook or photo album commemorating your lost loved one. Write a poem, essay, or short story about your relationship with that person. Draw or paint out your feelings in abstract images and colors. This can help you get your feelings outside your own head in a concrete manner, helping you better process your emotions.
Prepare for reminders.After losing a loved one, reminders are constant. Reminders can be obvious, like holidays and birthdays. They can also be somewhat less tangible. Certain sights and smells, for example, can trigger memories. It's not always possible to know when you'll encounter a reminder. However, when you know a reminder is coming try to prepare.
- The anniversary of someone's death can be very painful. The first birthday without that person, as well the holiday season, can also be difficult to endure. During these times, it can be helpful to simply brace yourself for an emotional reaction. Acknowledge the fact you may very well be sad on these dates and remind yourself it's important to allow yourself to experience these feelings.
- However, you should also make sure you care for yourself. Make sure you have someone to call or go see if you know a certain date or event will trigger feelings of grief. You want to make sure you have adequate support. You can also have something to distract. While you should acknowledge your grief, if you become overwhelmed by it it's okay to have something comforting in mind to do. You could plan to go see a movie or call an old friend.
Caring for Yourself
Take care of your physical needs.In the wake of grief, people often neglect their physical needs. Even if it's difficult, make an effort to care for yourself. Not engaging in basic self care can affect your mood for the worse.
- Eat right. Many people suffer from a loss of appetite after losing a loved one or have an erratic, somewhat unhealthy eating schedule. However, strive for a healthy and well-balanced diet after losing someone. Eating quality foods, like fruits and vegetables, can help regulate your mood.
- Try to engage in very basic self care rituals. When you're grieving, these can sometimes be forgotten. Remember to brush your teeth twice a day, shower regularly, and try to get some exercise. Some self care rituals will inevitably slip during the grieving process. However, try to keep up as best you can given the situation. Simply caring for yourself can help with your emotional wellbeing.
Avoid numbing the pain.Alcohol and drug use can be tempting after grief. It can help numb the pain. However, you are at higher risk to develop a substance abuse problem when you're grieving. It can also be bad for your emotional health to avoid addressing your grief. Try to avoid drinking and drug use in the months after losing a loved one.
Sleep.Much like your diet, maintaining a solid sleep schedule is important in regulating your emotions. When you're going through a traumatic experience, it's important you make sleep a priority. Strive for 7 to 8 hours of high quality sleep each night.
- It may be very difficult to sleep after losing someone. If you have prolonged difficulty sleeping, talk to your doctor about temporarily trying a medication to help regulate your sleep cycle.
Maintain a schedule.It may be very difficult to maintain a regular schedule after losing a loved one. However, having some semblance of normalcy during your grief can provide comfort. A simple routine can help ground you and help you deal with negative emotions.
- Things like eating, sleeping, and exercise are important to incorporate in a routine. Make sure you make time for those basic needs.
- You should also try to see people at least once a week. Many people isolate themselves after a loss. However, you need support from those who care about you to move forward.
Let people know what isn't helping.You will get a lot of sympathy, advice, and feedback when you're grieving. Unfortunately, not all of it is helpful. People are rarely trying to be hurtful or insensitive when they say the wrong thing. They may simply be unsure of how to help. It's appropriate to respectfully let people know when they're not being helpful. You can also tell them how they can better help you cope with your grief.
- People sometimes inadvertently say things that come off as hurtful or insensitive to the bereaved. For example, a friend may say something like, "Be grateful for the time you had." If your loved one died somewhat young, this may bother you. You can try gently saying to your friend, "I really appreciate that you're trying to help, but my cousin died very young. Being reminded of the time I had, which wasn't very much, just makes me feel angry. Could you please not bring that up anymore?"
- You can also let people know what is helpful. Most people genuinely want to help. Even if they're saying the wrong thing, it's because they care. Letting them know what does and does not help will allow them to better assist you. For example, you could say to that friend, "The next time you want to help, maybe just ask me how I'm feeling and let me express it without offering any advice. Sometimes, I just need to vent."
Join a support group.Some people find support groups very helpful when dealing with a personal loss. Talking to others who've been through the same experiences can provide you with insight on how to cope. You can see if there are any support groups at hospitals or counseling centers in your area. If you can't find anything close by, consider an online support group.
Recognize when you need psychological care.It's normal to feel sad after losing a loved one. However, sometimes grief can spiral into depression. You should seek psychological care if you experience any of the following:
- Your emotions are so intense you are unable to cope with day-to-day life
- Your have difficulty sleeping
- Your personal relationships are suffering
- Your professional life is suffering
- You're having sexual problems or becoming accident-prone
Find a therapist.If you're experiencing symptoms of prolonged grief, make an appointment with a therapist. You can find a therapist by talking to your insurance provider or asking for a referral from your regular physician. If you're a student, you may be entitled to free counseling from your college or university.
QuestionIt's been about a year since the passing away of my great-grandmother, but I still randomly burst into tears sometimes when I think of her. How can I prevent this?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYou might not be able to "prevent it", but that's okay. You never truly get over the death of a loved one, especially if the two of you were close. Just try to think of all the fun times you had together, and remember that she still loves you, no matter where she is.Thanks!
QuestionHow do I stop being depressed over the loss of a loved one?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerFirst, don't expect that to immediately happen. It takes time, and accepting your feelings can help a lot. Try not to feel so guilty about being depressed over it, especially if it was recent. Healing takes time and acceptance is key. Seeing a therapist would be a good idea.Thanks!
QuestionHow can I get over feeling guilty whenever I'm feeling happy?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYou owe it to yourself to be as happy as this life permits you to be. Life is meaningless without happiness. Tell yourself that the person you lost wouldn't want you to be miserable for his or her sake.Thanks!
QuestionHow do I prepare for a funeral?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerWear something suitable - clean, pressed, not revealing and not distracting. Bring tissues and rely on your friends and family to help get you through it.Thanks!
QuestionWhat should I do if I randomly burst into tears?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerJust excuse yourself from the room and maybe go to the bathroom to calm down. People will understand that you're still grieving.Thanks!
QuestionHow do l ever get over losing my mum and brother in such a short time?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerIt takes time to recover. It helps to distract yourself: treat yourself to a movie, that new store you've always wanted to check out, etc. Talk to someone close to you: family, a significant other, a member of the clergy, or a therapist or counselor. Last but not least, mourning: allow yourself time to grieve; cry and let it all out.Thanks!
QuestionWhat should I do if I am depressed?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerWatch a favorite movie or video, or anything that makes you smile. Be with friends, and tell them about your depression. Read your favorite books, or go on a walk. You could go to a park, sit on a bench and enjoy the weather. Listen to your favorite music, or some positive music.Thanks!
QuestionHow can I avoid feeling guilty about a death, even if I did my best?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYou have to accept that there's only so much that you, as a human being, can do. Acknowledge that you did do your best, and remember the good times with your loved one.Thanks!
QuestionI lost my grandmother yesterday. She died in her reclining chair at home in her sleep. She was like my second mom. How do I deal with the loss?Sadie JustCommunity AnswerThanks!
QuestionMy Grandfather is ill, and my parents say that it is nothing to worry about. Should I believe them?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerDo you have a reason not to believe them? If the situation were serious, they would surely tell you so you could be prepared for the worst. Ask them again, expressing your concern, if need be.Thanks!
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Video: When Someone You Love Dies,There Is No Such Thing as Moving On | Kelley Lynn | TEDxAdelphiUniversity
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