Bereavement is one of the most difficult and painful experiences in life, but it’s also one that comes to all of us. No one can tell you how you should feel, and though people often talk about the five classic stages – denial, anger, regret, depression, and finally acceptance – often people go back and forth from one stage to another, or miss out some altogether. Grief is intensely personal, but there are some recommended strategies for dealing with the heartache and emotional impact of losing a loved one.
Give yourself time
There is no fixed point at which you should “get over it” – the harsh reality is that often, you never get over it. Grief never goes away, but you can learn to manage it and to redirect your emotion into other areas as you get on with your life. Keep an eye out for significant dates, such as birthdays or anniversaries, when powerful emotions may surface once again.
Forgive yourself – and your loved one
Two very common responses to bereavement are anger and guilt. You feel a deep sense of resentment at your loss, along with a frustration at how helpless you feel. It’s easy to become angry about the pain that you’re suffering, and you may turn this anger against other people or yourself. You may even become angry at the person who died for leaving you behind.
Guilt is also common – a feeling that you could have done more, or that things were left unsaid, or that they suffered and died while you lived. The important thing to remember is that such negative emotions are normal and don’t make you a bad person. Be kind to yourself and they will pass.
Say goodbye with a funeral
When you’re dealing with the initial shock of bereavement, arranging a funeral can seem like the last thing that you want to think about. However, attending to practical matters can be a way of coping, and the funeral is an important ritual in which we can remember our loved one and say goodbye to them. Find an organization that offers cremation services and arrange a suitable service that will bring back positive memories of your loved one.
Look after your physical health
Grieving is a stressful process, so it’s more important than ever that you stay healthy. Eating well and exercising will also help with your mental health. Don’t be tempted to medicate yourself with alcohol as this will only make things worse in the long run.
Ask for help
Don’t be ashamed to reach out for support if you need it. Talk to friends, family, or a minister of your chosen religion. For more specialist support, you may want to see a bereavement counselor. Talking about your loved one, as well as the way that you are feeling, is the best way to cope with grief. It’s very important not to isolate yourself in the wake of losing someone close to you.
Whether we’re coping with the death of a partner, a close friend, or a family member, grief is a form of love. It can sometimes be devastating, but if we understand it and allow ourselves to feel, then the grieving process can ultimately be a positive and even healing experience.