Dealing With the Loss of a Loved One

Coping with the loss of a loved oneThere is no doubt that no matter how prepared you think you are, losing a loved one is extremely difficult. When someone has touched your life in such a profound way, there is no way to get around the inevitable feeling of a hole forming in your heart. While you will probably never stop missing that person, fortunately the sharpness of the pain will eventually ease with time and hopefully be replaced by warm memories.

Deep sadness is a normal reaction to the passing of a loved one, but there is no right or wrong way to feel. Everyone experiences these moments in life differently. Some take a week to regain their typical emotional state, while others feel the weight of grief for much longer. It is highly personal and no one is ever able to understand the exact way you feel, because their relationship with that person was not the same as yours.  This realization can add to intense emotions. Factors that may contribute to your grieving style include your personality, life experiences, faith, and the way you cope.

Myths about Grief
When coping with the loss of a loved one, be patient with yourself and those around you. Other family members and friends are in pain, too. You may also feel that someone else is taking it harder than you are, which makes you feel guilty. None of these assumptions are necessarily true. There are several myths about dealing with losing someone you care about that should be dispelled.

  • There is no time frame for grieving. It could be days or years.
  • If you ignore the pain, it will not go away faster. Trying to do so can prolong the grieving process and do more harm than good.
  • You do not have to act strong for the benefit of others or to keep up appearances. Feeling sad and shedding tears is normal and healthy. If you have children, rather than attempting to protect them, share how you are feeling and teach them that it is OK to be sad, mad, cry, etc., even as an adult.
  • Not everyone cries when a loved one dies, and that is OK, too!

Common Emotions
Instead of trying to find the perfect formula for grieving, let the process unfold naturally. This may mean a roller coaster of emotions ensues, or perhaps only one. Once again, there is no right or wrong. You may find yourself feeling:

  • Denial. It may be hard to believe what has happened and the only thing you feel is numb. You may find yourself going to pick up the phone to call your loved one or expecting to find them in their room, only to be disappointed by the truth.
  • Sadness. Many people experience a deep sadness as they heal, which can accompany loneliness, emptiness, and a longing to be with their loved one again.
  • Anger. Anger is also common. You may find yourself feeling resentful towards medical professionals who could not save the person, a deity, or even mad at the person for leaving you.
  • Guilt. It is often the case that we felt we should have done more. Spent more time together, called more, and offered more support, prevented the death in some way. Or you may feel guilty about the way you feel, which can be the case when feeling relief that the person has passed away after suffering from a long illness.

In addition to an emotional toll, grief can manifest physical symptoms too. You may feel fatigued, experience weight fluctuations, and have stomach problems or changes in sleep patterns.

How to Cope
Remember that grieving does not need to be a solitary activity. Draw on comfort from various sources of support. Speak with family and friends and reminisce about fond memories. There are also support groups or counselors/therapists who can help if you feel like the emotions are too strong or that your family just doesn’t understand. For many people, their faith can also be a comfort.

During this time, it is also important to remember to care for yourself. It is easy to let your physical and emotional health decline when you feel sad. Depleted energy levels make it difficult to care about putting together the perfect outfit or cooking a full meal. It is important to continue to fill these needs though in order to cope in a healthy way. Eat right, get enough sleep, and continue to exercise. Continue to do activities you enjoy to boost your mood and maintain a sense of normalcy.

One thing you can do that often helps is to honor your loved one in some way. Make a scrapbook or display one of their favorite belongings in a room of your home. You might also do something special around a holiday or anniversary in remembrance of them. Although loss can be sad, that does not mean that happy memories die, too. Those last forever.

If you find that the grief is too much to bear and it is too hard to have even a few moments of happiness in between all the emotions, it may be sign of depression. Depression can make it difficult to function at home, work, or school normally and the feeling of despair is constant. Please seek the help of a professional if you feel your grief is emotionally damaging or may be life-threatening.

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