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Moving Forward After Losing a Loved One: 20 Coping Strategies

Updated on January 22, 2012
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The 7 Stages of Grief

The loss of a loved one is devastating and unbearable at times. Sometimes, those around us who are not immediately affected by the trauma may not be able to fully realize its effect on the mind. There are several stages that one may go through in the process of responding to loss.


Have you ever wondered? How are we somehow able to survive without our loved one? Though it is hard. Our mind has a way of responding to grief in a way that is not overwhelming. We usually feel depression months after our emotions start to settle down. And we come to terms with the reality of it all. At first, we may feel angry and upset at why this has happened. A kind of denial phase before we actually start accepting our reality. It is only when we accept that this has happened that we can start coping with the tragedy. And, coping includes a certain degree of depression.


Depression is not a sign of weakness. Think of it like coughing and sneezing. These are symptoms that we exhibit when our immune system is coping with a pathogen. Depression is our mind coping with the difficulties of life itself. A different kind of pathogen. However, we have to distinguish depression as part of the normal grieving process from depression that is problematic. Depression that can lead to suicide or long standing lack of interest in anything. Its important to ask for help when we notice ourselves falling deeper and deeper into depression. Depression is a serious medical condition that may require the assistance of a doctor for therapy and medication. Its not to be taken lightly.


Grief is different for everyone. Some are able to cope better than others. However, its important for us to acknowledge the fact that some of us may take longer to normalize and be fully functional in the present moment. There is no definite time span that we can refer to and say, “I think you should be done with your grieving process now. Lets start focusing on everything else”. Some people may seem as if they are coping well; but when the loss is brought up in casual conversation; they can become tearful quite quickly. There is always residue that is left behind. We do not always completely move forward. The loss becomes bearable through the course of time. We are able to become ourselves again. But, not entirely. There is a lot more to grief than what we perceive through our own interpretations of others. Some may appear to be coping well, but may merely be very good at hiding their pain. However, those who are more emotional may be able to express their pain and suffering almost immediately. Its therapeutic. And it helps them come to terms with their loss with the support of those around them.


However, crying has to work for you. One cannot cry for the sake of crying. Personally, I have always had a hard time crying over the loss of a loved one. I feel immense pain that is almost unbearable. I could feel the weight weighing in on me. As if I have a pounding headache. Twitching at night is common. Waking up thinking about the person you lost. Having dreams about them. It seems that your mind is creating avenues for you to express your grief without crying.


During times of grief. It may seem as though the purpose of life has lost its meaning. It may seem as though one has lost track of time. Sleep may seem as the ultimate retreat from your mind. It may seem like sleep is the only way you can escape from the constant reminder of your loss. Sleep for some may become their coping mechanism as alcohol and drugs are for others.


I always try to tell myself that loss is subjective. People who are dear to your heart can never actually leave. They will forever be a part of our thoughts, experiences and our lives. They become a part of our being. That’s the assurance that I have; to have faith in the purpose of life. We are meant to learn something from life. If we lived forever; we would not appreciate the gift of life. Imagine if our parents would live forever; we would never have an opportunity to miss their existence. To think about the meaning of unconditional love. For all the times that we were annoyed at our parents for always being our constant critique; we now find silent solitude and peace in knowing that they loved us so dearly. There are not many people who would take ownership for your success as a parent would for a child. Its almost as if they had succeeded themselves. In relationships of such; we may find that the line between two lives are quite faint. The parent mimics the joy of a child’s accomplishments as part of their lives. As such, the loss of a parent or a loved one is irreplaceable in many ways. That’s what makes it so beautiful and tragic at the same time.


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1. Shock and Denial

I like to think of this as your mind’s own coping mechanism to help you from your own mind. Your mind can take control of you completely. Shock and Denial ensures that you do not fully take in the full extent of the loss at once. Loss in increments is manageable. Loss in its entirety can be devastating. Those affected by the loss may find themselves avoiding other family members or misbehaving or having temper tantrums. Your mind is trying to make things okay by refusing to accept the truth. Although, you know what is true at some level. At a conscious and rational level - your mind has decided to defer the acceptance to a later time. When you are better able to cope with the loss.



2. Pain and Guilt

Your on an emotional roller coaster. The loss is unbearable and cuts you like a knife. You may feel enormous guilt towards the loss of your loved one. Perhaps you could have been better at being there for them. Perhaps, we had not seen them for ages; because we were too busy to find the time. There will always be regret leading to guilt. For the ones we love; there is always opportunity for us to have done better. Like the old saying goes; there is always room for improvement. However, we should be careful that we don’t blame ourselves for not having done better. At times like this; our emotions are not always within our control. We may set ourselves up to unrealistic expectations that we had not lived up to.

Life in general may feel as though it is headed towards a brick wall. You may not see the light at the end of the tunnel. Everything may look downhill at this point. It’s a depressing place to be. However, we need to experience these emotions at some level in order to become stable again.



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3. Anger & Bargaining

We have to very careful that we do not cause damage to our relationships during this time of grief. We should not try to hold other’s responsible for the loss. Its important that we contain our emotions and be strong. At times like these; we may feel that the world is against us. Its important during such times that siblings hold each other and are supportive. The last thing that a parent wants is to have anger and resentment among siblings for one another. Its important to show more love and not always expect siblings to be there to hold us. We are all going through grief.

We may also feel angry towards life itself for having taken away our loved one. Why would they take our parent away? We may be willing to give up anything to have them back again. We may ask for forgiveness for everything that we had done to them directly or indirectly. Perhaps, its too late to mend past mistakes. Maybe, your loved one could have been the only person who understood you without you having to say anything.



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4. Depression, Reflection and Loneliness

Its during this stage that you actually come to terms, in the grand scheme of things, with the loss of your loved one. You realize the true meaning of the loss. It becomes very apparent of how your life is without the company or presence of your loved one. During times like this, you may feel comfort in reflecting on past memories. Perhaps, looking at an old album or talking to someone who may have known your parent as a child may bring comfort. It is during this stage that our loved one becomes a part of our past. They are not in our present moment. However, this is only a tangible reflection of our loved one.

The truth is that when we truly love someone. Out of sight does not mean that they are out of mind. They are still part of our intangible thoughts. They are part of our past and present. However, most likely, during the initial stages of grief; we may look more upon the tangible loss. The hugs, kisses and conversations that we had. Spiritual reflection on the intangibles will help bring the presence of our loved one into our present reality. However, this takes time and deep thought. At this stage, we may be expecting too much too soon. It takes time.


5. The Upward Turn

Your depressions starts to subside only slightly. You are moving forward with your life and begin to adjust your life without your loved one. Your family and friends may notice that you are smiling a bit more or are being more active outside. You are trying to make things normal again. This is part of the recovery process. Its as if you are learning to walk again after having sprained your ankles. You may be hopping with one leg. Slowly moving forward. The pain is still there. You are learning to cope with the pain while moving forward. It's a difficult balance that is tipped more towards a normal life than towards a predominant feeling of loss.


6. Reconstruction and Working Through

In this stage, you are learning to cope with many of the aspects associated with the loss of your loved one. You may have started coping financially with the loss by resituating to a smaller home or a higher income job. You may have started taking a course in the evening to re-channel your energy. Basically, your finding solutions to the loss in your life. You are learning to find the beauty in life again. Part of it maybe that you are learning to find yourself again. Perhaps, your life was always centred around this one individual. You are learning to diversify your energy towards friends, family, community involvement, travel, reading and learning.


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7. Acceptance and Hope

Now, you are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. You have accepted what has happened to you. You are no longer in complete denial. This does not mean that you are running around singing and dancing. It means that you have found the strength to accept the reality of your situation. That you are not without your loved one. However, you have also found the strength to move on. To see the purpose in life. However, do not try to be unrealistic in thinking that life will be exactly the same as it was before the loss. You can never go back to that stage. But, rest assured, that you will be able to move on. Have confidence and the will power to propel yourself forward in the many facets of your life. Life is worth your energy. Strive to emerge stronger through life's experiences. Never lose faith in yourself and in those around you. Believe in the possibilities of life. For life is beautiful.


How to Cope with Loss - 20 Strategies

 
1. Write about what your loved one taught you. There is a reason why they came into your life.
2. Write about your gratitude for them. Why are you thankful that you knew them.
3. Write about why you loved them. And learn to smile.
4. Talk to people about the things you wrote about your loved one.
5. Write a book about them - Blurb Book perhaps is a great tribute.
6. Join HP and write about them and the life lessons you learned. Blog about it.
7. Make a donation, sponsor a child, plant a tree, and light a candle.
8. Reflect on positive memories. Imagine them before you.
9. Do things that remind you of them. Visit places you have been together.
10. Listen to music that is soothing. Listen to her favorite songs perhaps.
11. Do anything that relaxes your mind. Meditate and practice deep and calming breathing.
12. Do Yoga. Connect body, mind and soul. Feel the energy within.
13. Spa Treatment, Manicure, Pedicure and Facial. Learn to relax.
14. Read a motivational and uplifting book. Beleive in the possibilities of life.
15. Walk down the beach and feel the waves against your feet.
16. Show how much you love them by hugging someone. A random act of kindness.
17 Show how much you love them by sharing your love with humanity and all life forms.
18. Carry their legacy by sharing stories about your loved one.
19. Write an autobiography about your loved one. So, they will not be forgotten.
20. Have gratitude for what you have. Appreciate the little things in life. Appreciate the little butterfly that lands on your porch every morning.

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    • jeyaramd profile image
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      jeyaramd 2 years ago from Mississauga, Ontario

      Thanks so much JN for your thoughtful comment.

    • profile image

      JN 3 years ago

      I'm so sorry for your loss. You write so beautifully.

    • profile image

      shekoofe 5 years ago

      I lost my youngest sister 5 years ago in car accident. She was only 27. I moved out of my home country when she was 17 and I was 21. During last 10 years of her life, I only visited her once 5 years before her accident. It happened just when we were planning on a reunion and may be living near by each other again. I could never get over it. We were 3 sister and one brother, she being the youngest sister and my brother being the youngest child of family. She was the only one that was always adoring me , loving me openly , thinking that I am talented and beautiful and unique and all the good. With my second sister, we never had close relation. We were just so different.

      Then 7 months ago, my 28 year old brother killed himself in Christmas day, out of depression. We were on cold relation during last year of his life. Losing him like this, when so easily could be prevented......... I don't know how to cope with it. and I have no one to talk to. My housband wanted me to be strong and move forward for him and my kids a week after my loose. I have no friend or familly to talk to. And the only sister that is left for me, is ignoring me 100%. I understand that may be this is her way od dealing with the loose but I can't live like this. I need her. I can't just loose her like this. It seems she dose not want me in her life. may be she hold me responsible or.....

      it is just so hard.

    • jeyaramd profile image
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      jeyaramd 5 years ago from Mississauga, Ontario

      PB - Thanks so much PB for your complement. I am glad that you found this hub helpful. Its definitely important that we look at how people cope with difficult life situations and be a little empathetic. When we are able to walk in other shoes then we can be a better judge of their life situation. Thanks.

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      PB 5 years ago

      Its really helpful. A good analysis of how people cope up with the situations.

    • jeyaramd profile image
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      jeyaramd 5 years ago from Mississauga, Ontario

      Its for good reason that doctors ask us if we have faith when all else fails. Believing in yourself is important when someone is diagnosed with a terminal condition.

      Faith is important when we grieve. Obviously, there are organizations that benefit from our suffering. On the same token, regardless of their motives; some have escaped depression with help. Thanks for your comment.

      Its very true that faith in God will strengthen us and allow us to see beyond our present lives. Our soul is eternal. God is our savior. Thanks for your comment.

    • sarmack profile image

      Sarah 5 years ago from Washington

      Community is never there in the appropriate aspect. Community organizations make money off the suffering of others, especially if they profess to be "non-profit". It is my belief that we are to seek out the suffering and do as God asks of us in regard to helping them through their grief. If a person experiences more than a surface level of grief, they have no Faith in a higher Power. Every religion has a higher power. My "culture" doesn't exist anymore. It has been destroyed by the determination of others to rid the earth of it. In the culture of the past, people had Faith in God and knew they would be with their loved ones for Eternity. There is no Greater compassion or remedy to grief than this.

    • jeyaramd profile image
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      jeyaramd 5 years ago from Mississauga, Ontario

      Sarmack - There are many countless support mechanisms available. For sure. Thanks for sharing your comment. There are some community support as well that is free of charge. Of course, there are those that require a fee. Regardless, I think we all benefit from talking to a professional. This is great advice.

      There is a certain element of celebration in grieving. Because, you are sending off your loved one into a new world. The details of which we may not know. I know in certain cultures, people have loud music and dance during funeral processions. Its meant to send their loved one off happily.

      In our culture, we pray a lot when we send off our loved one. Religion definitely has a strong role to play in the process. The most important thing is to assure your loved one that everything will be fine without them. That will be able to move on. Thanks for your wonderful comment and idea for the next hub. I appreciate it. Thank you.

    • sarmack profile image

      Sarah 5 years ago from Washington

      This is a very informative, helpful hub on a difficult subject. Depending upon the religious beliefs of the person who is suffering the loss, there are support mechanisms that can actually turn the grieving process into a celebration. Might make a good sequel to this successful hub!

    • jeyaramd profile image
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      jeyaramd 5 years ago from Mississauga, Ontario

      billybuc - I can only imagine how hard it must have been to lose your father at such a young age. That was an important period in your life. I lost my father after high school. Its hard to find your path again after losing a father. I am so glad that I had the courage to right this hub. I reflected on my own personal grieving to write this hub. I am glad that I did when I felt it. I am especially happy that you had found this hub. We all wish things were better before. But, I think its hard to see the light at that point in time. Often times we are challenging our own emotions for the most part. I think it's a battle from within to build strength and hope to move forward. Thank you for your appreciation. Your a wonderful soul.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I lost my father when I was nineteen; he was my foundation and best friend and I was broken and lost after his death. I just wish someone had been able to help me through the grief process as your hub does so beautifully.

    • jeyaramd profile image
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      jeyaramd 5 years ago from Mississauga, Ontario

      Billybuc. It is an honor to have you visit my hub. I adore those who live their life based on values of love. Life is too short to chase after material things. You really are grounded. I have so much to learn from you. Thank you again for visiting. Your comments mean a lot. Best wishes to you. The best is yet to come.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Absolutely beautiful! There is compassion within you and it is an honor to follow alone your path with you.

    • jeyaramd profile image
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      jeyaramd 5 years ago from Mississauga, Ontario

      Millionaire Tips - Thank you for your appreciation. I am glad you found the tips useful. I wanted to share with everyone my experience with grief. I hope it will help others deal with their own grief. Thank you for voting up.

    • Millionaire Tips profile image

      Shasta Matova 5 years ago from USA

      Going through a loss is certainly difficult, and you have presented some great explanations to help us understand our feelings, and wonderful tips to help us see our way through it. Voted up.

    • jeyaramd profile image
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      jeyaramd 5 years ago from Mississauga, Ontario

      Nell Rose - Thanks for sharing your insights. It is so true that we feel that we lost ourselves or a part of ourselves when we lose a loved one. Its finding you again that is so difficult. My mother lost her mother at a young age. And thirty years later; she still is tearful when she things of her mom. Even time can't heal everything. There is still residue left behind. It is what makes our relationships so beautiful and bittersweet. Thank you for sharing your thoughtful comments. Resentment is inevitable. Because how much is enough for those whom we love. If she was here today; I would have given her the world. Thank you for sharing. Somehow; we have to accept that everything happens for a reason and move forward. Thanks again.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 5 years ago from England

      Hi, everything you have written is so true. after my mum died I lost myself somewhere, along with other things going on i just couldn't cope, I emerged properly about a year later and realised that I couldn't remember getting through the last year, it does take time, and yes we always blame ourselves, you have explained each stage so well, it can be hard but we have to pick ourselves back up again, nell

    • jeyaramd profile image
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      jeyaramd 5 years ago from Mississauga, Ontario

      tarajeyaram - Thanks for your kind comments. I am humbled by your recognition. This hub means a lot to me. I feel fortunate to have the opportunity to share this hub with more people. Thank you again for the recognition in your favorite hubs of the week. I appreciate it immensely. Thank you so very much.

    • tarajeyaram profile image

      tarajeyaram 5 years ago from Wonderland

      Jeyaramd - Through your pain, you have provided very useful tips on coping. It takes strength to write hubs like this. I have put this hub on My Favorite Hub for the Week: Jan 22.

    • jeyaramd profile image
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      jeyaramd 5 years ago from Mississauga, Ontario

      Justateacher - We have lost only in an intangible sense. However, we have gained so much from having met such beautiful people. True love can never be taken away from us. Its part of our being. The intangible thoughts will always form our present reality and past experiences. Thank you for sharing. These past two years have definitely been difficult for many of us. HP has been very supportive for me. Its times like these; when we reach out to others, and relate to those who have been through similar situations; that our efforts feel so rewarding. I feel as if I have made a million dollars. Thanks for visiting and sharing your story. God bless you.

    • justateacher profile image

      LaDena Campbell 5 years ago from Somewhere Over The Rainbow - Near Oz...

      Very useful hub! I have lost two of my favorite people in the last two years and this advice is great!

      Voted up and shared.

    • jeyaramd profile image
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      jeyaramd 5 years ago from Mississauga, Ontario

      KrystalD - I am sorry to hear about your loss. I am glad that the coping strategies was helpful. It does feel unfair that we are only left with memories. Life is very precious. Its important to cherish those who are present now. I lost my mother last January. I think of it more as an tangible loss than anything else. As I still feel her intangible presence in my thoughts and actions. Thank you for sharing. I appreciated your kind words.

    • KrystalD profile image

      KrystalD 5 years ago from Los Angeles

      Thank you for this hub. I lost my father in Aug. and I still feel the hole in my gut. Even though there is an acceptance, when we lose someone, there is a space left that nothing can fill.

      I am comforted in the memories. It stings to know that is all that I have left. *Sigh* Grieving is a long process.

      Thank you for all this wonderful information-especially the 20 coping strategies.

    • jeyaramd profile image
      Author

      jeyaramd 5 years ago from Mississauga, Ontario

      Shampa Sadhya - Thanks for the vote of confidence. I don't think I could have written this if I had not experienced loss. Thanks for appreciating this. I will definitely take a look at your hub. God bless you.

    • shampa sadhya profile image

      Shampa Sadhya 5 years ago from NEW DELHI, INDIA

      Voted up and useful!

      What a hub! Extremely well written. I liked it and one thing I would like to mention here is some time ago I wrote a hub about the control of emotions which is very similar to yours. The very interesting part of your hub is the strategies which are excellent.