Grief comes in many forms. Each person copes with the loss of a loved one in a different way. The one constant is that it is never easy. You will experiences all kinds of emotions and at times it might feel like it will never get better. Then just when you think it is starting to get easier, something will trigger those emotions again. Grief is the natural response to a loss and is a process. There are no right or wrong ways to grieve; however, there are some healthier ways to cope with the pain that allow you to heal and move on, rather than get stuck in your pain and loss. Being that grief is a process, there are different ways to cope with each stage. After the loss of a loved one you may feel any range of emotions including; shock or disbelief, sadness, numbness, guilt, anger, or fear. These can last for any amount of time and don’t necessarily come in any specific order. They can repeat and you may skip some of them. Everyone grieves differently. There will be ups and downs but over time the difficult periods should get shorter, less frequent, and less intense. However, they can even occur occasionally years after a loss, especially at significant life events. There are no right or wrong ways to grieve; however, there are some healthier ways to cope with the pain that allow you to heal and move on, rather than get stuck in your pain and loss.
Let yourself all of the emotions: feel the pain, the sadness, and the happiness. Don’t feel guilty for any of them.
Get Support: talk about the loss, the sadness, the good memories. Don’t worry about protecting others and not talking to them. Ask for help when you need it.
Take Care of Yourself: eat well, exercise, and get enough sleep. If you let yourself physically wear down you will be less able to cope with the emotional demands of grief.
Be patient: it is a process and it can get frustrating when you want to be able to move forward but can’t. Getting frustrated and rushing the process will not allow you to grieve healthily.
Try to keep you life as normal as possible: don’t make any major life changes right after a loss, your judgment will not be the same in these moments of intense emotions.
Avoid using substances: alcohol or other drugs dull emotions but will only delay recovering from the grief and could potentially lead to addiction issues.
Don’t focus on regrets: you can’t regret what you did and didn’t do before losing the person. Forgive yourself.
Give yourself a break from grief: it’s okay to not grieve all day every day. It is okay to still enjoy life’s little moments, like time with your family, a movie, or getting a massage.
Join a support group: being around people who are going through the same as you can be immensely comforting and if it is guided by a bereavement specialist then they will be able to guide you all towards healing together.
When does grief become more than grief? The sadness of losing someone does not necessarily ever go away, but sometimes the grief remains at the center of your life. You are unable to move past the constant and severe pain of the loss, or move forward in your life. At this point it can become complicated grief or even depression. Grief usually consists of a series of ups and downs; however, if it becomes a constant feeling of loss, pain, emptiness, or despair it can be depression.
Symptoms of Complicated Grief:
- Intense longing for the loved one
- Being preoccupied by the loved one or the loss
- Being unable to enjoy pleasant memories of the loved one
- Feeling alone or detached from others
- Intrusive thoughts or images of the loved one
- Continued disbelief of the loss, unable to accept the loss
- Imagining the loved one still alive
- Searching for the person in familiar places
- Avoiding things that remind you of your loved one
- Extreme anger or bitterness over the loss
- Feeling that life is empty or meaningless
- Blaming oneself for the death
- Wishing to die to be with the loved one
Symptoms of Depression:
- Persistent down or depressed mood
- Increased anger or irritability
- Lack of joy
- Loss of enjoyment in activities
- Intense sense of guilt
- Thoughts of suicide
- Preoccupation with dying
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Feelings of worthlessness
- Slow speech or body movements
- Inability to function
- Weight or sleep changes
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it is time to ask for help. A therapist or psychologist can help you to cope with your loss, treat your depression, re-find your purpose and identify, and move forward in your life. They are trained to help you better handle the emotions that are overwhelming and cope with the loss when you are unable to. They can help build resilience and develop strategies to cope with sadness, fear, or anger. Every therapist is different, so it is important to find one that you feel a connection with in order to be able to rely on them to guide you through this difficult time.