Death is, unfortunately, a part of life. Most of the time, death follows a predictable pattern: Younger generations bury the older generations and with good fortune, the people in our lives who die are elderly and lived a good, long life. Occasionally, however, younger people do die and it’s tragic and can be traumatic. Whether your loved one was expected to pass on as a part of his or her natural long life cycle or they died suddenly and at a young age, dealing with the loss of a loved one and moving on can be hard. It can be particularly hard if you are the parent of children or teenagers who are depending on you. Here are some ways that you can get past this stage of your life and move on to the part where you are in acceptance.
1. Give Yourself Time and Space
Everyone grieves differently. While some people seem to be able to move on quickly, others spend many months or even years grieving and dealing with the loss of a loved one. This is particularly true if the death disrupts the natural order of things or if the loved one was an intimate family member. For example, someone who loses an elderly grandparent might not grieve as long or as hard as someone who buries their child or their young spouse. This is not always true; it’s just a general guideline.
If you are struggling with your grief, give yourself the time you need. This means not taking on extra responsibilities other than the ones you have to take care of. You might be able to take some time off from work. If you are grieving and the loss is new, it’s not usually the time to start a new volunteer project or get into a new romantic relationship. Take the time and the space you need to process your loss.
2. Talk About Your Loss
Immediately after losing a loved one, you might find it difficult to talk about it. After some time passes, however, you will likely have the need to talk about your relative or loved one. You might hesitate because you become emotional or because you are afraid of making others feel uncomfortable.
When you are dealing with the loss of a loved one, it might be helpful to lean on those who were as close or less close to the person who died. For example, if you are a close friend of the deceased, it would not be helpful to try to lean on your late friend’s spouse, child, or parent. It would be better to depend on other close friends of your friend. You’re all going through the same things. You could also talk to your own family members who were not as close to the friend as you were, or even to a counselor, who is completely removed from the situation. A support group for those who have recently lost loved ones is another good option.
3. Allow Friends to Help You
When someone dies, it’s natural that people outside the situation feel as though they’d like to help but aren’t sure how. You might hear phrases like, “let me know if there’s anything I can do.” In your bereaved state, it’s not easy for you to come up with a list of tasks that you’d like others to handle for you. It’s also likely difficult for you to ask for and accept help when dealing with the loss of a loved one.
One way to let your friends help you without having to keep track of who you asked to do what is to ask a close friend (who is not dealing with a tremendous sense of loss from the death) to coordinate what others are doing to help you. If you’ve recently lost a spouse, for example, you might need help with the activities of daily life, such as cleaning and cooking. In addition, you might need someone to go with you to manage the funeral arrangements and also to help you switch accounts over into your name and other tasks that need to be taken care. If you have a close friend who can help you by coordinating these jobs, it will free you up to focus on healing and it will allow other people to assist you in ways that are helpful and appreciated.
4. Help Others Also Dealing With the Loss
If you have lost a loved one, there are probably others who have also been strongly affected by the loss. If your mother has died, for example, your father, your siblings, and your mom’s siblings are all also struggling. One way to help yourself grieve is to assist those people with their needs during this difficult time. It will help you focus on someone else while still working through your grief. Assisting someone else will also allow you to be there emotionally for someone who was also close to the deceased, and they can allow you to lean on them, too.
5. Be Aware of the Stages of Grief
While no two people grieve in exactly the same way, it’s helpful to remember the five stages of grief:
Grief is not linear; you’re not likely to go through each of the stages in order, spending an equal amount of time in each. Instead, you’re likely to go back and forth between the different stages, possibly spending a lot of time in one and not very much, if any, time in another. Also, once you reach the stage of acceptance, it’s not uncommon to sometimes go back to a stage that you thought you had already gotten through.
If you or anyone in your family is having trouble dealing with the loss of a loved one, seeing a professional counselor can help you get through this difficult time. If you are helping someone else who is grieving, be aware of the signs of depression and also the signs of suicidal ideation. If you see any of these signs, be sure to seek the professional help right away. Know that in time, your grief will become less sharp and that you will one day be able to enjoy pleasant memories surrounding your loved one.