Loss can be very challenging to deal with. At times, people may emotionally and physically prepare for the loss of a loved one, such as when someone has been very sick for a while or when someone is very old. However, many times, loss happens suddenly and unexpectedly, and people may be left wondering how and why it happened. All people deal with loss in different ways, but grief is a natural part of that process. Grief is a normal response to losing someone, but it can be a traumatic experience. When death happens, you may notice a wide range of emotions and changes in behavior. Common emotional reactions to loss include shock, confusion, denial, anger, nervousness, distress, and sadness. Grief may also manifest in other ways, such as withdrawal from others, sitting and thinking about the loved one to the point it interferes with work or school, changes in your appetite, and changes in your sleep patterns. Below are common reactions to loss. Many people typically fluctuate between all of these reactions or can experience them all at once.
You may struggle to believe it happened: When loss happens, it may be hard to think about the person being gone. You may want to avoid reminders, minimize the situation, or even deny that the person died. You may instinctually grab the phone to call this person. It may be hard to talk about or see pictures of this person.
You may start to feel angry: You may be angry at this person or at others. You may start to blame yourself or others for what happened. This is a normal reaction to loss, and it is okay to remind yourself that you did nothing wrong.
You may want to change what happened: You may start to think of things you can do to bring this person back. You may continue to talk about this person as if they are still alive. It may be hard to understand what happened and it is okay to want to change what happened.
You may feel depressed and hopeless: You may start to feel really sad about this person being gone. You may start to cry more than usual or think bad things will happen to you. You may stop doing things or going places you used to because they remind you of this person. You may want to withdraw from other people because it is hard to talk about it.
Although people may experience and respond to grief differently, it is a common and normal reaction to loss. It may take a while for the loss to feel real. It may also take a while to learn how to live without this person. Below are some ways to learn to live with your grief.
Give yourself time: It can be easy to ignore your feelings and to focus on what is next. It may also be too challenging to focus on the despair and sorrow caused by loss. There is no normal timeframe for how long grief can last. It may take some people months and it may take other people years to come to terms with loss. There may be periods of time when you feel better and not think about the person as much, and then grief comes back. These fluctuations are normal.
Build your support network: It is helpful and important to allow yourself to experience and express your feelings of grief. Research supports that many people can recover from loss on their own if they engage in healthy habits and have a support system. Accepting your feelings for what they are and expressing these feelings to others enables you to better understand the loss and to learn ways to live with it.
Remember your loved one: Although it may be very difficult to do, talking about and remembering your lost loved one can help you cope with your grief. Focus on the positive memories made with this person. This can help you cope by focusing on the good times shared with this person, rather than the lack of their presence in your life.
Learn to be okay with the loss: Through the grieving process, you may start to understand that it is okay to still miss who you lost, but that you can find ways to still be happy about other things at the same time. You may start to be with people that make you smile and laugh. You may start to talk about and look at pictures of this person. It may become easier to think of the happy memories you remember.
If you are struggling with loss, Restorative Psychological Services can help you learn how to cope with your loss!