Losing A Loved One
Losing a parent, child, spouse, partner, friend, or others result in feelings of grief that can be overwhelming. Grief is your body’s emotional response to loss. People often experience a variety of overwhelming emotions from anger, shock, and blame, to intense sadness, numbness, guilt, and more. This emotional pain and grief can also trigger a physical response to changes in weight and appetite, sleep disturbances, and other physical health problems.
Grief is one of the biggest challenges any individual can face. Having good support systems around and your overall emotional well-being has a big impact on how you will deal with loss. Grief does not just pertain to the death of a loved one, it can also be the end of a relationship. Losing loved one is an individual experience, each person processes and heals from the loss in a different way depending on one’s support systems and emotional well-being. There is no right or wrong way to process the loss, and when it comes to healing it takes time. There is no need to rush the healing process or force yourself along. During this time, remember your feelings are always valid and continue to show yourself compassion.
Five Stages of Grief
As you begin to process the loss of a loved one, you will enter the five stages of grief.
First stage is Denial, the emotions during this stage are numbness, confusion, and more. The second stage is Anger, remember your anger is valid, how you react to the anger may not be appropriate. During this stage, your only goal is to acknowledge and identify the anger and focus on managing the intense emotion. Anger is often a mix of emotions and it’s stemming from the feelings of pain and loss you’re experiencing. The third stage is Bargaining, this stage is often filled with questions of what you could have done differently. For instance, “What if I got there sooner?” It sometimes involves bargaining with a higher power, such as “if I can have them back I’ll never ask for anything else.” The fourth stage is Depression, this stage is filled feelings of overwhelming sadness. This is the stage where the pain of the loss hits the person full force. They often withdraw and isolate themselves from others and they begin to feel symptoms of depression. Specifically lack of interest and loss of pleasure in previously enjoyable activities, changes in sleeping patterns, changes in appetite, and more. Stage five is Acceptance. Acceptance is the hardest stage. It’s not about accepting the loss but learning to live with the loss.
Most people believe the stages of grief are linear, when you complete stage one you’ll move to stage two, three, and so on. However, it’s rarely linear. More often than not, people will jump for stage one to stage three, then back to stage two; or they may began at stage two and jump to stage five. Some people may not even experience the stages of grief. Healing from the loss of a loved is a personal experience and won’t be the same for everyone.
How To Cope With Grief
Fortunately, whatever type of grief you’re experiencing, no matter how intense, there are healthy coping mechanisms to cope with the loss of a loved one.
Seek Support - Often times when we lose a loved one we want to isolate ourselves from other people in our life. However, when healing from the loss of a loved one, it can be beneficial to lean on people around you. Making plans with family and friends to keep you busy and occupied will allow you to distract yourself temporarily from intense emotions.
Engage in Self-Care and/or Hobbies - It’s important to take care of yourself when experiencing the intense emotions associated with the loss of a loved one. Engaging in self-care activities or a hobby such as outdoor activities, getting your nails done, reading, painting, journaling, spending time outdoors, etc. Anything that helps you relax and lifts your mood is a great way to manage the pain.
Celebrate - It can be helpful to celebrate the loved one’s life. Create a memoir book, share happy stories about them, talk about them with love and joy.
Learn About Your Grief Triggers - Birthdays, holidays, and anniversaries can often trigger intense feelings of loss. Plan events during these times, such as making plans with friends and family, taking a trip, engaging in hobbies and self-care activities, and more. Just keeping yourself busy can help you get through these difficult periods.
Speak With A Professional - If the pain and loss is so intense, it may be helpful to speak with a professional. A trained professional will provide you with a safe place to explore your feelings and receive validation. It’s important to talk about the pain, as avoiding the emotions only makes them more intense.