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How to Cope with Losing a Loved One

Losing someone you love is one of the hardest things you’ll ever have to go through. The grief can be intense and overwhelming at times and no matter how much support you have from other people, the pain still remains.

When you lose a loved one, you never truly get over the loss, but you can learn to live with their absence in the physical world. If you’re struggling with grief and need some effective coping strategies, here are some things that will help.

Seek legal help if appropriate

Legal matters are probably the last thing on your mind when you’ve lost a friend or family member, but if their death was caused by someone else’s negligence, you might be able to pursue a wrongful death lawsuit. Even if their death was accidental, if someone’s carelessness or reckless actions contributed, you might be able to hold them accountable in court.

Each state has different laws that govern wrongful death, but generally speaking, you can recover compensation for the emotional and financial impact of your loved one’s death. For instance, in Florida, there is a Wrongful Death Act that provides for reasonable and just compensation to the decedent’s survivors and estate. This can cover medical bills, funeral costs, lost income from taking time off work, and the loss of the deceased’s income.

If your loved one died because of someone else’s negligence, there is a statute of limitations so be sure to talk to a wrongful death attorney as soon as possible. It might not be the first thing you want to do while you grieve, but it’s in your long-term best interest.

See a counselor early and often

The biggest mistake many people make is believing they don’t need to see a counselor. After traumatic incidents, like mass shootings, survivors often feel like they can get by without professional help, only to realize years later that they haven’t processed their grief. Unprocessed grief can come out in unhealthy ways and has been known to damage relationships with other family members. If this happens to you, it’s not your fault, but the impact is often unavoidable. Trauma therapy can help you avoid this situation.

Whether you feel like you need counseling or not, see a counselor at least once so you can make an informed decision based on experience. You might find that one counseling session is all you need to see the benefit of continuing. 

If you try it and feel it’s not for you, then you don’t have to keep going. It’s hard to make good decisions when you’re emotionally distraught, so don’t write off counseling until you’ve at least given it a chance.

Don’t suppress your feelings

Allow yourself to feel your emotions, whether they’re positive, negative, or a mix of both. Suppressing negative feelings is harmful; you need to express your feelings freely or you’ll just feel stuck and more depressed.

If you need to vent or cry, ask a friend if they can support you and just hold the space for you in silence. Despite what you might think, most people don’t feel burdened when their friends need support, so reach out to people when you need some company. Resist the tendency to withdraw and don’t suppress your grief.

Keep your loved one alive in your world

Don’t feel like you have to stop talking about the person you’ve lost. Other people in your life should understand that talking about them is how you keep them alive in your world. Share your memories and experiences with them on social media, talk about them with friends, show their pictures to people in your life, and tell their story.

Talking about someone you’ve lost is the best way to honor them and keep their memory alive. You can also put up pictures of them around the house and do something in their name, like donate to their favorite charity or start a non-profit to support people in the same situation as you.

Honor the stages of grief

There are five main stages of grief:

  • Denial
  • Anger
  • Bargaining
  • Depression
  • Acceptance

Most people experience all of these more or less, and it’s important to know these stages and recognize where you are because you won’t stay in each of the first four stages forever. You need to know that there is a next phase in the journey and you will get there when the time is right.

Time doesn’t heal wounds – processing emotions does

Remember that time doesn’t heal all wounds; you have to process your emotions to heal. Start acknowledging your feelings and see a counselor to help you through the process. Your loved one would want you to feel better.

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