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How to cope with grief following the loss of a loved one

When you lose someone you love, grief is inevitable. How it affects people will vary enormously, depending on the person. Feelings of anger, helplessness, or depression are all perfectly normal, but can be difficult to manage day to day. Reading our guide, How to Cope with Grief Following the Loss of a Loved One may help.

Adjusting to life without the person you’ve lost can be the hardest part of the grieving process. You may momentarily forget they’re no longer around. It may feel as though there’s a gap where your loved one once was, when you’d spend time together or speak with them on the phone. When you lose someone, it doesn’t matter whether they were a big part of your life or a small one. Grief affects everyone differently, and there’s no right or wrong way to feel.

Understand the stages of grief

Grief will look and feel different for everyone, but it can be helpful to identify that the emotions you’re feeling are normal. In 1969, psychologist Elizabeth Kübler-Ross established the five stages of grief:

Denial: When the world feels meaningless and overwhelming, but denial helps us to survive loss.

Anger: Anger gives a structure to the complexity of our feelings and ultimately helps us heal.

Bargaining: It feels like if only you could make a promise to do something, your loved one could be spared.

Depression: Once you realise that your loved one is not coming back, feelings of emptiness take over. 

Acceptance: Learning to live with the reality that your loved one is not coming back.

Explore options for seeking support

Talk to friends and family

Losing a loved one can trigger a whole range of emotions that you don’t know what to do with. You might feel numb, or feel angry. Processing these emotions alone can make you feel isolated, but talking them through with a close friend or family members can help. Be aware that people may not know how to react when confronted with grief, so try and be open with your needs. Try and make it clear that you need a space to talk and that you’re not in need of advice. 

Join a support group

The pain of grief can feel lonely, but talking to others who have experienced it can make it easier. Talking about grief to people who have experienced it can help, and a support group can be a safe space away from friends and family, where you may feel more open to talking about your feelings. Services such as Cruse Bereavement Care offer online support and resources for coping with grief. 

Turn to your faith

If you belong to a religious group, drawing comfort from your faith can help with the grieving process. Mourning rituals and spiritual activities may provide you with comfort, whether it’s meditation, praying, or going to church. Talking to a faith leader can also help if you’re questioning your faith following the death of a close friend or family member.

Keep up self-care

Try not to feel guilty for taking care of yourself. When you’re grieving, self-care is more important than ever. Your mind and body are connected, so looking after your physical health will affect the way you experience grief. Eating healthily, exercising and getting enough sleep will all help you to cope. Attempting to block out the pain of grief using alcohol or drugs will not help in the long run – it’s far better to focus on healthy ways of processing emotions.

Grief is complicated

Losing a loved one can be one of the most painful experiences you’ll ever go through. Grief can take many forms, and emotions can feel powerful and overwhelming at times. Some people find that talking to friends and family members about how they feel is enough, whereas others benefit more from support groups. Some people experience complicated grief which can result in feelings of depression. If it feels like grief is too much to cope with, talk to your GP. The most important thing to remember is that you’re not alone.

Need some support?

If you need support following the death of a loved one, there are many organisations that can help. Find out more about bereavement support.

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