The loss of a loved one is a permanent, impactful change.
Someone who was a part of your life is now gone. This loss can bring sadness and feelings of emptiness as you try to adjust to life without someone.
Mourning can complicate life.
Suddenly plans don’t seem as necessary, and even simple tasks can be harder to keep track of. Your priorities may shift or be thrown out entirely. Loss can be a frightening time for most people, but there is a future to be had.
Coping with loss does not mean an erasure of your emotions. Instead, it means learning to accept the change in your life and move forward. For that to happen, you need to grieve.
Grief is painful, and we often try to avoid it.
While avoiding grief is understandable, avoidance can be more painful in the long run.
Burying grief and avoiding confronting the feelings of loss, sadness, and anger that accompany it will only delay proper healing. Suppressing the urge to grieve can lead to an even magnified feeling of loss that will always keep dragging you down.
After the loss of a loved one, the grief will likely always be with you in some way. You cannot expect to forget about someone who meant so much to you. However, by allowing yourself to feel and process the grief of their loss, you can emerge on the other side stable and whole.
Rather than being weighed down by continual grief, you can learn to move forward, but you cannot do this if you deny your grief entirely.
Part of what makes navigating the grief process so tricky is that your experience may not match everyone else’s.
People express grief in different ways. While some responses like crying and depression are expected, others like contentment or laughter may not be.
There is no wrong way to grieve. It is crucial that you understand this and don’t judge yourself if your response to grief doesn’t fit within the typical mold. Laughing at a fond memory, for example, is not wrong nor disrespectful.
Talking with a therapist or a loved one can be a great way to work through feelings of grief and loss. However, you may find just as much peace in solitary activities like walking, reading, or gardening. It would help if you allowed yourself to process grief in your way.
The process of grieving is about letting go of someone without losing them.
People who refuse to grieve may do so out of concern that working through their feelings will somehow erase their loved ones from their lives. There can be a fear that healing after loss means a betrayal of the person who is gone.
It is an extension of bereavement guilt, which can also manifest as a pang of deep guilt over things not said or done during the life of a loved one¹. A sharp sense of guilt over losing a loved one can be a serious sign that you should talk to a doctor. Other signs that your feelings go beyond simple grief include:
Doctors refer to these symptoms as complicated grief². Unlike a typical grieving process, complicated grief can significantly impact your life and may even become dangerous. Never hesitate to bring up grief complications with your doctor.
It is an extension of self-kindness. Don’t forget to take care of yourself during your time spent grieving. It can be easy to neglect our own mental and physical wellness for fear of seeming self-centered. Take the time to relax and give your mind and body what it needs, whether a nap, a relaxing bath, or a night out.
The goal is to accept your loss as part of your life and to move forward from it.
This does not mean discarding the person who is gone. Instead, find healthy ways to take them with you. This can include continuing a hobby or tradition that reminds you of them.
You may also find that your relationships with others have changed after the loss of a loved one. For example, someone may find themselves playing the role of two parents after the loss of a spouse.
Something as simple as holding onto a keepsake can let you move forward without feeling like you’ve left someone behind. Many people get small tattoos or wear particular jewelry to carry someone with them symbolically.
Grief can be an overwhelming and troubling time, but you don’t have to handle it alone. Friends, family, and professional counselors can provide much-needed support. Grief support groups can provide a welcoming space to work through your feelings with more anonymity. Reach out to the support networks around you and accept help when offered.
Grief comes from a place of love, and you should consider working through your grief as an act of love towards the person who is now gone.
(1) Stroebe M; Stroebe W; van de Schoot R; Schut H; Abakoumkin G; Li J (May 2014) Guilt in bereavement: the role of self-blame and regret in coping with loss
(2) WebMD (n.d.) What Is Normal Grieving, and What Are the Stages of Grief?