Losing a loved one can be one of the most painful experiences in life. The grief and sorrow that follows the death of someone close can often feel overwhelming and all-consuming. Though the journey through grief is different for everyone, there are some effective strategies that may help you slowly work through your feelings of loss, integrate the reality of the situation, and eventually find a way to accept what has happened.
Understanding the Stages of Grief
Psychologist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross identified five common emotional stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. It’s important to understand these are not linear steps, but rather fluid emotional states that people tend to move between following a major loss. You may cycle through some or all of these stages multiple times as you come to terms with the death over weeks or months.
Knowing these stages are normal can help you be patient with yourself and your process. Don’t feel rushed to move from anger and depression into acceptance before you’re ready. Allow yourself to fully feel and express the complex emotions that arise. Bottling up feelings tends only to prolong the grief.
Finding Support From Family Members and Friends
Don’t underestimate the importance of remaining connected to those around you during this difficult transitional period. Sharing memories and emotions with family members, friends, colleagues, or neighbours who knew the deceased can help you feel less alone in your grief. Others who have experienced a similar loss can often relate better and offer invaluable perspective.
Consider joining a support group for people who’ve lost loved ones. Connecting with others going through the same struggles can validate what you’re feeling and remind you that you have people to lean on. If in-person meetings aren’t feasible, there are also excellent online grief support communities.
Talking With a Mental Health Professional
For some, professional counselling provides the listening ear and coping strategies needed to navigate the grieving process in a healthy way. A therapist experienced in grief counselling understands its complex emotional, cognitive, physical, social, and spiritual impacts. They can help you process feelings like guilt, regret, fear, rage, and resentment in an empathetic, nonjudgmental space.
Counselling can also assist those who feel completely debilitated by their grief and unable to resume daily functioning. Long-term, unresolved grieving may necessitate medication and more intensive treatment. There is no shame in seeking whatever help you need to recover from a major loss.
Reflecting on Memories and the Legacy of the Person Who Died
Though it may initially seem too painful, allowing yourself to reflect on your favourite memories with the person who died can help strengthen a sense of connection during the grieving process. Looking at pictures, watching old videos, listening to meaningful songs, or visiting significant places together facilitates continuing an inner relationship.
Consider also writing a letter to the deceased expressing everything you wish you could say to them now. Appreciating the special legacy left behind by someone who died, and how they positively impacted your life, can ultimately help bring a sense of meaning and peace.
Learning to Integrate Loss and Look Ahead
The death of a loved one indelibly changes us. Yet while moving forward without someone who’s gone feels impossibly hard at first, over time, you can adjust to a new reality. Keeping usual routines, distracting yourself with work and hobbies when needed, and taking care of your physical and mental health helps facilitate healing.
The grief process has no timeline. Be patient and compassionate with yourself. Honour what the person who died meant to you while also rediscovering sources of hope, purpose and joy. Acceptance enables us to reinvest emotional energy into life. In time, you can find your way to carry loss, while moving forward.