Moving Forward After Losing a Loved One: 20 Coping Strategies
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.