Coping With the Death of a Loved One
Finding your way through grief can often feel like you’re tossed around by a storm. You look for any safe shore, unsure if you’re going to sink or swim. If you stop for a moment and look into the raging sea, you can still see a lighthouse beckoning you back to the shore.
Although everyone’s experience with grief is unique, you may have difficulty finding healthy ways to cope.
Here are a few ways you can protect your energy and pave a way toward healing.
Give Yourself Room to Grieve
When you first find yourself in the midst of grief, it seems like a dark tunnel with no way out. You’ll scramble for any tool that helps you see through to the other side. Of course, you should know that you’re not alone in this journey. You have friends and professionals who can help.
You can even help yourself, with the right support.
Here are a few ways that you can manage the internal struggle between your need to grieve and the need to resume various aspects of your daily life.
Embrace Your Grief
At first, grief might feel like your worst nightmare and your only companion. In the early days and weeks, it’s hard to feel anything but grief. You should let yourself do just that. Give yourself a little time each day to be free to grieve. Choose a time that creates minimal distractions and gives you the ability to express your emotions, whatever they are.
Find Your Support System
Surround yourself with people who can support you at this difficult time. People often don’t know what to say to a good friend or family member who is grieving, or how they can help. Some friends might look to distract you from your grief with familiar hobbies or entertainment, which can be helpful at times. You should also have a few people you can call or ask to come over when you need to process the really hard stuff. These people are the type to check in with you to see how you’re doing, long after the condolence flowers have wilted and the casserole train stops.
Let Grief Be a Personal Experience
When you first go through the loss of a loved one, you may struggle if your grief doesn’t proceed like everyone else’s. You should keep in mind that grief is a unique experience. You don’t have to “get over it” to suit anyone else’s timeline. Check out resources like GoodTherapy.org to help you figure out what you can do each day. Although your life has changed forever, you deserve to find a new, happy way of living.
Redefine Your Concept of Happiness
Grief is complex, and it affects you in lots of ways. When you lose a loved one, you’re often grieving the loss of experiences, traditions, and other happy moments in your daily life. For some people, reliving those fond traditions and finding ways to continue them is a great way to honor a loved one. For others, creating new traditions or memories provides a wonderful path forward. Although you might let some healthy habits lapse in the early days or weeks, you may need to recommit to healthy eating, exercise, and other forms of self-care.
Understand That Grief Depends on the Relationship
Even if you have some experience grieving the loss of a loved one, the type of relationship often means that your grief is going to be different this time. Losing a child or a spouse might feel completely different from the loss of a distant relative or work acquaintance. You don’t need to prioritize your grief based on the closeness of the relationship, of course. Just keep in mind that if your reaction is significantly heavier than past experiences, it’s not a sign that you’re grieving excessively.
Recognize When You Need Help
Some people need more help to navigate this path. Grieving for a loved one might feel odd or strange when others seem to move on, but it is a normal experience. If you’re struggling to get through the day months after losing a loved one, or if you’re having a hard time taking care of your basic necessities, you may need additional help from a professional.
How to Ask for Help
Family and friends can provide a lot of support, but they may not be able to direct you or help you to find perspective in the middle of grief the way a therapist or counselor can. Before you start looking for professional therapists, you should start by making a list of the things you need and can’t manage on your own. If you struggle to eat or sleep, maintain social obligations, or you’re thinking about self-harm, you should consult with a grief therapist as soon as possible.
Here are a few things to remember as you explore your options:
Research Options for Therapy or Counseling
Hiring a therapist can feel like a daunting prospect, especially if you haven’t done it before. Working with a therapist to process your grief isn’t easy, but it should feel like a good fit. Feel free to ask friends and family members for recommendations, or even request advice from a current or former therapist. Read reviews, and pay attention to clients who relate to the kind of experience you want to have.
Schedule Consultations With Grief Specialists
Even if you already have a therapist, you may need to find one who specializes in grief therapy. Ask for the therapist’s experience helping clients process grief. Be wary of therapists who seem to be working in too many therapeutic specialties, or who are constantly overbooked. Schedule a few consultations to get a feel for their personalities, schedule, and communication style.
Ultimately, you’ll get the best result by choosing a therapist who makes you feel comfortable and can help you address your problems. When you interview them, be sure to ask questions about their style and approaches, and listen to their answers. Don’t hesitate to bring up any concerns you may have. Trust your instinct to know which therapist you should choose.
Remember That Therapy Is a Normal Part of Grieving
Although it may seem odd or unusual to need professional assistance during a time of grief, it can be a lifeline. Therapists and counselors act as caring, compassionate third parties who work to help you feel better. You can feel free to prioritize your own needs and feelings throughout each session, building new resilience in other aspects of your daily life.
Find a Path That Works for You
When you journey through grief, your experience is unique, even if you’re not going through it alone. You need to make space and consider the following tools to help:
- Time and Support: Give yourself time to grieve, and ask for help when you need it.
- Enjoyable Activities and Distractions: Take the opportunity to fill your time with meaningful activities that give you a sense of joy or accomplishment.
- Self-Care and Professional Help: Make self-care a priority, and consider seeking professional help.
Grief can create a lot of difficulties in your life, but it doesn’t have to take over your life. Give yourself compassion for dealing with a devastating experience. You can reach the other side with a healthy mindset and the energy to create a new normal.