Coping with the death of a loved one is never easy, be that a spouse, a parent or someone else dear to us. The truth about how to deal with grief is that there really is no right or wrong way to go about it, only what feels right to you in the moment.
Learning how to handle grief and navigate the world in the absence of a loved one isn’t a quick process, no matter how much we wish it was. No matter how hopeless it may feel, there are a few things you can do to help cope with your grief. Understanding that grief goes beyond the pain and emptiness you feel right now and the familiarising yourself with the five stages involved is a great place to start.
Healing takes time
One of the most important things to accept about grief is that it passes slowly, feeling smaller and smaller with each new day. You’ll never forget the closeness you shared with your lost loved one and there’ll be occasions where you wish they were still with you to share in the moment, and that’s okay. Dealing with grief and loss by learning to move on doesn’t mean having to forget about them, it just means you’re healing.
The road to recovery isn’t a straight one. You’ll have good days and bad days - days where the absence of their presence is most greatly felt and the grief feels inescapable, and days filled with laughter where you fondly reminisce with friends and family.
Grief heals at its own pace, however long that may be
Build a support network
When we go through a bereavement, it’s natural to want to shut ourselves away. When we’re feeling low we don’t want to be around our friends and family, especially when we’ve convinced ourselves that we’ll just spoil their fun by being sad. Sometimes you’ll need space, and being alone gives you time to reflect on your thoughts and feelings, but too much alone time can often make us feel worse.
One of the best things you can do is simply let your friends and family know that you’re still feeling low after your bereavement. Just as you’d be there for them during a loss, they’ll also be there for you. Try to make time to see friends and family, and if it begins to get too much, just let them know and excuse yourself.
At first, you may not be able to handle big social activities and that’s fine. Slowly work your way up and keep your loved ones informed of your feelings so they can help to ease the burden.
Keep their memory alive
Losing a loved one doesn’t mean forgetting about them altogether. In fact, many people find that talking about the deceased and keeping their memories alive is helpful. When we grieve it’s because the deceased person meant something to us, no matter how big or small that role may have been.
Many people find closure in taking on projects to honour the deceased and remember their life, like creating a photo album, a memory box or getting crafty with their old belongings. Others turn their attention to charity and community work, taking up causes that were important to the deceased. Journaling and scrapbooking are also popular activities during a bereavement, giving you an outlet to share your thoughts, feelings and memories together.
Grief can be physical
And finally, it’s important to understand that grief can affect us physically as well as mentally. Grief goes beyond a sinking feeling in your stomach and a heavy heart. Our minds and body are more connected than most think, so going through a bereavement can also affect us in physical ways. Common physical side effects of grief are:
Changes in appetite - You may find you eat more or less than normal.
Changes to sleep - Some people struggle to sleep or find themselves sleeping more than after a bereavement.
New aches and pains - Anxiety and stress can often manifest as physical pain and discomfort.
Lack of energy - Grief is a tiring experience and you may find yourself getting more tired than usual.
Seeing and hearing the deceased - When we miss someone so much, our minds struggle to accept their absence to the extent we may think we’ve seen or heard them.
The good news is, although it can feel scary in the moment, all of these are perfectly normal experiences when going through a bereavement. With time they’ll lessen and life will begin to return to a sense of normality.
While the grief is still fresh, however, our trusted bereavement partners, Cruse Bereavement Support, can offer a helping hand and a listening ear.