The death of a loved one is a painful event. You may feel that your world is coming apart, that nothing will ever be the same again. Feelings of fear and uncertainty about the future can overwhelm you. The more significant your relationship with your loved one was, the more intense your grief will be. Many people liken the grieving process to a roller coaster, full of ups and downs and highs and lows. It takes time to work through a loss. As the days go by, the difficult periods should become less severe and intense.
Though many before you have taken a similar bereavement journey, no one grieves in exactly the same way. Others may grieve for your loved one, too, but no one else had exactly the relationship you had with your loved one. Below are some suggestions to help you with this grief process.
Allow yourself to mourn in your own way. The death of your loved one may leave you feeling shaken and alone. Allow yourself to acknowledge your grief. Remember, there is no standardized way to grieve, and only you know what you feel.
Don’t repress or deny the wide range of emotions you will feel. Anger, fear, guilt and relief are just a few of the many emotions that are common grief responses. These emotions may follow each other in succession or may hit you all at once. Sudden attacks of grief can also overwhelm you at unexpected moments. You may wonder where these emotions are coming from, almost as if they are not a part of you, but they are actually a normal and healthy response to the loss you’ve experienced.
Express your grief openly. You may feel the urge to hide your sadness to protect others, but this is not helpful. Allow yourself to talk about your loved one. Reminisce about the things he or she loved. Review the circumstances of his or her death. Give your feelings of loneliness and pain a voice. There is no need to worry about “losing control.” Talking about your feelings is healing.
Take care of yourself. Grief can adversely impact our bodies, so be sure to maintain your health. Exercise regularly, eat healthy and inform your doctor about any changes in your health.
Seek out those who can provide a support system for you. At this difficult time you need the support and care of friends and relatives who can walk with you on this journey. Although it may be difficult to ask for or accept help, don’t deny yourself the comfort of others. You may find some well-meaning people say unhelpful things, such as “Time heals all wounds,” or “Keep your chin up.” While they may be trying to comfort you in their own way, you do not need to accept these platitudes. Spend time with those who accept and support your feelings.
Plan ahead for grief “triggers.” Special milestones like holidays, birthdays or anniversaries can remind you of your loss and intensify the feelings of sadness. If you’re sharing a holiday or life event with others, let them know of your feelings and discuss their expectations.
Give yourself time. Our society may expect you to move through your grief and return to “normal” as quickly as possible. You may feel an unrealistic expectation to “recover” from your loss. Healing takes time and involves integrating the loss of your loved one into your new life.
Information on this page is compiled from various sources, including grief literature by Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph.D.