How do I cope with loss?
You can't predict how you’ll react. Health Assured explains, "It’s impossible to know how bereavement will affect you until it happens. People react in different ways – it’s important to know that this is normal."
Be compassionate with yourself. Allow yourself the freedom to experience and process your loss in a way that makes sense for you.
Here are some ways people find useful for coping with grief:
- Being alone
- Being with people who love you
- Finding outlets for creative expression
- Going for long walks
- Getting exercise
- Talking to someone
Remember, everyone has their own way of coping. Some might find that crying helps. Others might want to be alone. It’s important to allow ourselves to express grief in whatever way we feel is needed.
Understand the feeling of guilt
If you’re feeling a sense of guilt, that’s perfectly normal. Health Assured point out that many people feel guilt after losing someone. Whether you feel you could have done more or you're struggling with 'survivor's guilt', it’s okay to feel that way. It's a natural part of the grieving process. Let yourself understand the feeling, and if needed, talk it through with someone.
Don’t rush the process
Grieving is a slow process. Life after the death of a loved one is forever different. Time doesn't take that away. But it teaches you that you're resilient. You can cope. You can adapt. Over time, you'll discover new ways to be okay. At first, it might seem disloyal to the one you've lost. But in time, you may start to see it as a tribute to their memory and the joy they've given you.
Enjoy the memories
Another valuable method is to allow yourself the joy of your memories. Share these with a trusted friend or counsellor. It’s good to remember the happy times. Cruse Bereavement Care has noted the healthy ways to keep their memory alive:
- Talk about them
- Share your special memories
- Write down your memories
- Keep an album of photos
- Keep a collection of some of their special possessions
- Do something that commemorates them. Plant a tree. Sponsor a park bench. Support their favourite charity
Look after yourself
When you've just lost someone, the last thing you're likely to think of is how to look after yourself. The first thing to do is to let yourself feel what you feel. To quote Health Assured: "Grieving is hard work; exhausting and stressful."
Get enough rest. Exercise. Avoid alcohol - don't try to numb the pain with alcohol. It solves nothing and doesn't last. If you're struggling, speak to someone you trust. It helps.
Health Assured make a very good point:
"Plan ahead: the first year following a bereavement is hard. And after that year, the anniversaries begin. It’s important to prepare for the impact these can bring. Plan any time off work you need, and think about ways to commemorate those times."
Keep a few small reminders of how important that person was to you - it can help.
Also, remember that you're likely to feel stress after you've lost someone. There are many aspects of a relationship. When you lose someone you love, it can feel like these unravel. Be gentle with yourself. Slow down if you need to.
Whatever you do, give yourself time.
You're stronger than you think, and you will come out the other side of this.
And always remember to talk to someone
Health Assured has some great advice for processing loss:
"You may find that sharing your loss with others helps it to become more ‘real’. Many people find that they feel better when they have expressed their feelings openly. Use your support system, or speak to a professional counsellor at any time of the day or night."
"With counselling, communication is always a two-way process. It’s non-judgemental and it focuses on the problems and difficulties you identify. Most importantly, counselling gives you an opportunity to be heard, time to talk, cry, shout or just think. It may help you to look at your problems in a different way or bring relief by being able to talk to someone without being interrupted. It can also help you to sort out some of your feelings and confusion as a result of your loved one’s death."