How to Deal with the Death of a Loved One

We live every day with the knowledge of our mortality looming over us. Loss of life is an integral part of our reality; it is this understanding of an eventual death that causes us to reflect on what is important to us. We value our time because our time is limited. As we age this becomes especially relevant. The longer we live, the more our losses increase in number.

When a loved one dies, it can feel as if a part of us goes with them. The grief process is slightly different for everyone, but some common themes for many people include a deep and aching loss that can manifest in physical and well as psychological symptoms, feelings of guilt, anger and numbness. Grief can result in a wide variety of symptoms and can impact sleep patterns, food intake and changes in social behaviors. Often these symptoms are worsened by co-occurring challenges with depression and anxiety.

Coping with Loss

When facing the loss of a loved one, it is imperative that you take time to pay attention to your grief process. Here are some suggestions for coping with loss:

  • Don’t try to avoid it: Attempting to avoid grief will not actually let you ignore it. You might postpone the process a bit, or stall it out for a short time, but the grief will be waiting for you. Let it happen and allow yourself to ride the wave of the feeling, knowing that it will come and go and that this is normal.
  • Accept tears as a new part of your daily routine: You may feel like you have cried all the tears and that there could not possibly be more to come. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you find yourself crying at the most unexpected moments. Accept that right now, you might have limited say over when you cry; trust the grief process. The tears will stop when they are supposed to.
  • Talk about your loved one: Sometimes people have this misconception that they shouldn’t talk about their dead loved one for fear of upsetting people around them. The opposite is true. The healing process is propelled by talking openly about your loved one; talk about their life and their death.
  • Work on releasing guilt: Guilt is one of the more nebulous emotions that grief carries with it. Often when we experience guilt as a part of the grief process, it isn’t clearly defined. Grief-guilt is often a vague sense of having not done enough for the deceased loved one. Sometimes this can show up as survivor’s guilt. Guilt that is related to grief is usually without good cause and even though surviving loved ones can intellectualize this concept, the feeling of guilt can persist. Work on releasing guilt by talking about it with a trusted professional or close friend.

Be patient with yourself. Grieving takes time. There is no rushing the process and the more you try to avoid it, the more difficult it becomes to manage it. Reach out to a professional counselor. It might help to sort through complex feelings and develop coping strategies to manage the more difficult moments.

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