Dealing With Grief: Steps To Help You Cope

August 28, 2020

Most of us have seen tons of movies and watched TV programs where our favorite characters die, but nothing can prepare you for the overwhelming feelings and emotions that strike when you lose somebody you love. Grief is part and parcel of human existence, but it can be incredibly difficult to cope with. If you’ve lost a loved one, this guide outlines a series of steps to help you deal with loss and find the support you need. 

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Take your time

If there is one piece of advice to remember when you lose somebody close to you, it’s take your time. You might have an idea or an impression of what grief feels like, but in reality, there is nothing you can do to predict how you will feel when you get a phone call or you sit by a hospital bed and watch somebody slip away from you. There is no guidebook or set of rules, which dictates how long you should grieve for, or how long a recovery should take. Many people feel like they never really come to terms with loss, and it’s perfectly normal to have days when you feel sad, frustrated, angry or lonely decades after you’ve lost somebody. Resist the temptation to compare yourself to others, and focus on your own journey. Time is a healer, but everyone responds to death differently, and it can take some a lot longer to reach a point where they feel able to get back to something that resembles normal than others. Don’t worry if you’re struggling, and other family members or friends seem to be coping better. Some people like to be busy and they can seem like they’re getting on with their lives, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t hurting or experiencing the same emotions as you. 

Take your time to process what has happened, and try not to look too far ahead. Take each day as it comes and move forward as when you feel able to. Nobody should be telling you when you should be back at work, when you should be seeing a counselor, or when you should be meeting up with friends and getting out of the house again. 

Let others in when you are ready to

Some people want to be alone when they are dealing with grief, while others take comfort in being around friends and family. If you’ve lost somebody, let people in and allow them to help and support you when you are ready. You might be desperate to have a friend or a family member with you, or you might prefer to be on your own in the first few days. Whatever decision you make, understand that there are people there to support you if you need them. Don’t be afraid to call upon friends or relatives if you’re lonely, you want to talk or you simply want to feel the presence of another person. Talking can be incredibly helpful, but often, it’s also beneficial to enjoy time with others that doesn’t involve thinking or speaking about your loss. It can be refreshing to take a break, or to have an hour or so where you’re distracted. Simple things like watching a movie with a friend or taking the dog for a walk with your neighbor can help to break up the days and ensure that you don’t feel isolated. 

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Don’t feel pressured to behave in a certain way

Many of us grow up with a perception of bereavement based on other peoples’ experiences or movie scenes. We have a vision of people wailing and screaming and spending days on end dressed in black staring vacantly at old photographs on the walls. The reality of loss can be very different. You might find that you behave in a totally different way and you may even be surprised at your own reactions or responses. If you’re not crying all the time, this doesn’t mean that you didn’t love that person or that you have a heart of stone. Equally, if you are sad all the time, and you’re struggling to stop the tears, this doesn’t mean that you’re weak or that you’ll never feel better again. There is no right or wrong way to cope with loss, and you shouldn’t feel guilty, embarrassed or ashamed about your own personal experiences and emotions. We all go through challenges, and they trigger thoughts and feelings. However you react, it’s crucial to let yourself feel. Burying emotions and bottling them up can make them resurface later on. 

Find ways to seek comfort

Everyone is unique, and we take comfort in different things when dealing with grief. Some people enjoy visiting a grave and laying flowers down by cemetery grave markers and talking or thinking aloud. Some people will comfort themselves by looking through photos or watching old videos days after their loss. For others, it can take time to reach this point and they feel more comfortable doing other activities that make them feel relaxed or at ease during the first few weeks or months. You might find that you don’t want to think about your loved one or look at photographs for a while, and you may prefer to take solace in writing, reading, walking, spending time with friends, painting or listening to music. There’s no rulebook that says that you have to spend your time in a certain way or visit a grave. Some people will talk to their loved ones and sit by a grave or a memorial stone every day. Others will visit on birthdays and anniversaries. Some will remember that person entirely in their mind through memories and moments. Do what feels right for you. 

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Look after yourself

Exercising, sleeping and eating a healthy, balanced diet may be bottom of your list when you’re going through a difficult time, but it’s so important to try and look after yourself. Taking care of your physical health will aid your mental wellbeing. If you don’t feel able to cook, let other people help you, and try and put your health first. It can be easy to get bogged down in trying to juggle multiple balls if you work full-time, you run a business or you have children to look after. Take a break, give yourself time and space to recover and to process your emotions, and understand that work can wait. Accept offers of help from friends and family if you’re struggling, and remember that there is practical support and advice available if you’re worried about things like wills and estates or closing bank accounts. 

Seek professional help if it feels right

Some people find seeing a bereavement counselor or a therapist beneficial, but it’s not mandatory to seek professional help after a loss. You may feel like you want to talk to somebody and share your feelings and fears, but you might also decide that you’re not ready to do that just yet, or that you don’t want to see a counselor at all. You can talk to anybody that makes you feel comfortable and some people would rather confide in a friend than a therapist. Others take comfort from spending time or communicating with people who are in a similar situation. Whether you join a support group, you have a friend that you talk to, or you see a counselor, it should be your decision. For some, it takes time to reach a point where it feels right to open up, and this doesn’t always involve booking sessions with a professional. Support groups, friends and relatives can also be sources of reassurance, guidance, kindness and wisdom. 

Understand that there will be better days

For many of us, there is no tougher challenge than dealing with the loss of somebody special. Grief can be all-consuming and heartache can feel like physical pain. There may be times when you feel like you’ll feel sad forever, and you might fear that you will never be happy again. Understand that however low you feel, there will be better days. Grief doesn’t have a time-frame or a deadline, and it won’t suddenly disappear after a year or five years, but time does heal. There will always be moments when you miss that person terribly or you have the strongest urge to touch, see and feel them again, but you will get through the dark days and start to feel stronger and more positive with the help of others. 

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There is nothing more distressing and upsetting than losing somebody you love, but sadly, this is something that all of us have to go through. If you’re mourning a friend or a family member, understand that there is help and support available and let yourself experience emotions and reactions. Don’t feel pressure to feel or behave in a certain way, take your time to grieve and move forward as and when you are able to. Lean on those around you, take care of yourself and remember that there are no laws or rules governing how to grieve or how long to feel sad for. This is a process that affects everyone differently, and there’s no right or wrong way to cope.

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