How to Survive Your Grief When Someone You Love Has Died

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Grief is a normal, healthy response to loss. Everyone feels grief in his or her own way, but there are certain stages to the process of mourning. It starts with recognizing a loss and continues until that loss is eventually accepted. People's responses to grief will vary depending upon the circumstances of the death. If the person died of a chronic illness, for example, the death may have been expected.

The end of the person's suffering might even come as a relief. If the death was accidental or violent, coming to a stage of acceptance could take longer. A wide and confusing range of emotions may be experienced after a loss. There can be five stages of grief. These reactions might not occur in a specific order, and can at times occur together. Not everyone experiences all of these emotions:. People who are grieving will often report crying spells, some trouble sleeping, and lack of productivity at work.

At first, you may find it hard to accept that the loss has actually occurred. Once the initial shock has worn off, denial of the loss is often replaced by feelings of anger. The anger may be directed toward doctors and nurses, God, other loved ones, yourself, or even the person who has died. You may experience feelings of guilt, with sentiments such as "I should have… ", "I could have… ", or "I wish I had….

Your emotions may be very intense, and you may have mood swings. These are all normal reactions to loss. Each type of loss means the bereaved person has had something taken away. Grief may be experienced as a mental, physical, social, or emotional reaction. Mental reactions can include anger, guilt, anxiety, sadness, and despair. Physical reactions can include sleeping problems, changes in appetite, physical problems, or illness.

Social reactions can include feelings about seeing family or friends or returning to work. Grief processes depend on the relationship with the person who died, the situation surrounding the death, and the person's attachment to the person who died. Grief may be described as the presence of physical problems, constant thoughts of the person who died, guilt, hostility, and a change in the way one normally acts.

Mourning is the process by which people adapt to a loss; mourning is also influenced by cultural customs, rituals, and society's rules for coping. Bereavement is the period after a loss during which grief is experienced and mourning occurs. The time spent in a period of bereavement depends on how attached one was to the person who died and how much time was spent anticipating the loss. If you feel that you are not coping with bereavement, it is important to seek help.

Although it may seem easier to bury your pain than to face it, unresolved grief can cause long-term physical or emotional illness. Your reaction to loss will, in part, be influenced by the circumstances surrounding it. The death of a loved one is always difficult, particularly when it is sudden or accidental. Your relationship to the person who has died will greatly influence your reaction to the loss.

The loss of a husband or wife is particularly hard. The surviving spouse will usually have to deal with a multitude of decisions regarding funeral arrangements, finances, and other legalities at a time when he or she may feel least able to deal with such matters. The bereaved spouse may also have to explain the death to children and help them through their grief. In addition to the severe emotional trauma, the death may lead to financial problems if the deceased spouse was the family's main source of income. Returning to the job market or entering it for the first time can be one of the most challenging tasks for the recently bereaved spouse.

When searching for a job, widows or widowers can look for ways to capitalize on the skills they have developed over the years. Regardless of the cause of death or the age of the child, this is an emotionally devastating event that overwhelms a parent. A child's death arouses an overwhelming sense of injustice—for lost potential, unfulfilled dreams, and senseless suffering. Parents may feel responsible for the child's death, no matter how irrational that may seem.

Parents may also feel that they have lost a vital part of their own identity. No matter what age you are—young or old, single or with a family of your own—you will still be deeply affected by the death of your mother or father. When your mom or dad dies, it may be one of the most emotional losses you'll experience in life. It is only natural to feel consumed by a combination of pain, fear, and deep sadness at the loss of such a significant influence in your life.

Suicide grief: Healing after a loved one's suicide

The specifics of how you grieve will depend on a number of personal factors, including your relationship with your parent, age, gender, religious beliefs, previous experience with death, and whether or not you believe it was time for your parent to die. When you lose a parent, you may also lose a lifelong friend, counselor, and adviser.

Therefore, you may suddenly feel very much alone, even if you have the support of other family and friends. Even the loss of your parent's home as a natural place for family gatherings can add to the grief you experience. After the initial shock fades, you will experience what is called secondary loss. This is when you may begin to think of all the upcoming experiences that your parent will not be there to share in. Things like career accomplishments, watching your own children grow, and other milestones.

If you are old yourself, the death of a parent may bring up issues of your own mortality. Allowing yourself to grieve for the loss of your parent will help you to say goodbye and loosen the emotional bonds to a loved one who has been a special part of your life. For every suicide, it is claimed that an average of six people suffer intense grief. Those affected include parents, partners, children, siblings, relatives, friends, coworkers, and clinicians.

Coping with bereavement after a suicide can be more difficult than dealing with other losses because of the feelings of stigmatization, shame, guilt, and rejection that are often experienced. The stigma that still attaches to deaths by suicide in many cultures can increase the bereaved person's sense of isolation and vulnerability. The death of a pet will often mean the loss of a cherished family member and can trigger great sorrow. People love their pets and consider them members of their family. Caregivers celebrate their pets' birthdays, confide in their animals, and carry pictures of them in their wallets.

So when your beloved pet dies, it's not unusual to feel overwhelmed by the intensity of your sorrow. Animals provide companionship, acceptance, emotional support, and unconditional love during the time they share with you. Other people may find it hard to understand such a reaction to what they may see as the loss of "just an animal," and they may, therefore, be less understanding of your grief. However, your loss is significant and you should give yourself permission to mourn the passing of your beloved pet. Anticipatory grief is the normal mourning that occurs when a patient or family is expecting a death.

Anticipatory grief has many of the same symptoms as those experienced after a death has occurred. Anticipatory grief includes depression, extreme concern for the dying person, preparing for the death, and adjusting to changes caused by the death, but it can give the family time to get used to the reality of the impending loss. People are able to complete "unfinished business" with the dying person for example, saying "good-bye," "I love you," or "I forgive you".


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Anticipatory grief may not always occur. A person does not necessarily feel the same kind of grief before a death as that felt afterwards. There is no set amount of grief that a person will feel. Grief experienced before a death does not make the grief after that death easier or shorter in duration. Some people believe that anticipatory grief is rare. To accept a loved one's death while he or she is still alive may leave the mourner feeling as if the dying patient has been abandoned.

Furthermore, expecting the loss can make the attachment to the dying person stronger. Although anticipatory grief may help the family, witnessing the grief of family and friends can be very hard for the dying person, who can become withdrawn as a result. Some grief reactions are not considered "normal. Depression in bereavement can be successfully treated. Other losses occurring in later life may precipitate grief or depression. Retirement, loss of income, deteriorating physical health, and having to give up driving are just some of the more common occurrences that might cause grief reactions in old people.

Grief is a powerful emotion. It is painful and exhausting.

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How to survive the death of a loved one | Life and style | The Guardian

Therefore, it sometimes seems easier to avoid confronting these feelings. However, this approach is not a viable long-term solution. Buried grief can manifest itself later as physical or emotional illness. Working through your sorrow and allowing yourself to express your feelings will help you to heal. These processes include separating from the person who died, readjusting to a world without him or her, and forming new relationships.

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To separate from the person who died, a person must find another way to redirect the emotional energy that was given to the loved one. This does not mean the deceased was not loved or should be forgotten, but that the mourner needs to turn to others for emotional satisfaction. The mourner's roles, identity, and skills may need to change to readjust to living in a world without the person who died. It is important not to neglect yourself while grieving. Try to eat regular, healthy meals.

If meal preparation is too difficult, try eating several smaller snacks throughout the day. Grieving is extremely tiring, both physically and emotionally. The grief one is feeling is not just for the person who died, but also for the unfulfilled wishes and plans with the person. Death often reminds people of past losses or separations. Mourning may be described as having the following three phases:. Depression shares common features with grief, but can completely take over the way you think and feel. Depression in old people has been linked to death from suicide, heart attack, and other causes.

Much can be done to ameliorate severe symptoms through formal treatment or support-group participation. If you feel that you or someone you know is having difficulty coping with a loss, it's important to seek professional help. While a family physician can often help, grief counseling or therapy may be appropriate.

Grief counseling helps mourners with normal grief reactions work through the tasks of grieving. Grief counseling can be provided by professionally trained people or in self-help groups where bereaved people support each other. All of these services may be available in individual or group settings. Grief therapy is used with people who have more serious grief reactions. The goal of grief therapy is to identify and solve problems the mourner may have in separating from the person who died. When separation difficulties occur, they may appear as physical or behavioral problems, delayed or extreme mourning, conflicted or extended grief, or unexpected mourning.

In grief therapy, the mourner talks about the deceased and tries to recognize whether he or she is experiencing an expected amount of emotion about the death. Grief therapy may allow the mourner to see that anger, guilt, or other negative or uncomfortable feelings can exist at the same time as more positive feelings about the person who died.

Humans tend to make strong bonds of affection or attachment with others. When these bonds are broken, as in death, a strong emotional reaction occurs. After a loss, a person must accomplish certain tasks to complete the process of grief. Acceptance is not the same as forgetting. Instead, acceptance is learning to live again and to be able to reopen your heart, while still remembering the person who has passed away.

What Makes Suicide Different Losing a friend or loved one is never easy. However, when you lose someone to suicide, it can feel different from other types of loss. Several circumstances can make death by suicide different, making the healing process more challenging. Talking about suicide can be difficult for those who have experienced the loss.

Different cultures view suicide in different ways, and sometimes discussing it can be a challenge. This can also be made more difficult when the act of suicide conflicts with religious views. Suicide can be isolating as communities of friends each struggle differently to make sense of the loss they all experienced. Finding the right people in your support network who are able to help you experience your loss is important.

Sometimes, this may mean seeking professional help in order to help you cope with your loss. In those situations it is recommended that you contact a counselor at the UT Counseling and Mental Health Center, or find a trusted therapist in the community. After a death by illness or natural causes, the bereaved' s feelings may be less complicated than when the death is by suicide. When a death is by suicide, you might both mourn the person's passing while also hold intense feelings about the circumstances of their death.

Feelings such as anger, abandonment, and rejection can all occur after a suicide as well as positive feelings about the deceased. Sorting through all of these diverse feelings can make the healing process more challenging. Understanding the circumstances of a death by suicide can sometimes lead us to asking "Why? This need to understand "why" may be a difficult path, as the circumstances surrounding the loved one's death could be unclear or not easily known. Some questions may never be answered, while you may find other answers that make sense.

Losing Our Mothers

Sometimes you will find answers to your questions, while other times, you must learn to accept the fact that there are some things no one can know. People who have recently experienced a loss by suicide are at increased risk for having suicidal thoughts themselves. After experiencing the loss of a loved one, it's not uncommon to wish you were dead or to feel like the pain is unbearable. Remember that having suicidal thoughts does not mean that you will act on them. These feelings and thoughts will likely decrease over time, but if you find them too intense, or if you're considering putting your thoughts into action, seek support from a mental health professional.

Healthy Ways to Cope with Grief and Loss You will never "get over" the loss you've experienced, but you can "get through" it. You have been changed by this loss, but you can learn how to survive, even grow, from this challenge. The following are suggestions for healing in healthy ways: It's very important to find people in your life who are good listeners, so you can turn to someone when you need extra support.

Coping with Loss: Bereavement and Grief

You may find it helpful to talk to a friend, family member, mental health professional or spiritual advisor. Some find joining a support group helpful since each person will be able to relate in different ways to your experience. Whatever support looks like for you, it's important to reach out for help when you feel like you need it. Just as you may be feeling a range of emotions, people around you may also be sorting through their feelings.

Be patient with yourself and others: Limit your contact with those who tell you how to feel and what to think. Take time to heal. Set limits for yourself, and give yourself permission to say "no" to things that may come your way. It's difficult to make decisions when you're feeling overwhelmed; you may decide it's best to put off important decisions until you feel ready to make them.

Take each moment as it comes. That way, you can better accept whatever you're feeling and be able to respond in the way that is most helpful to you. Maybe you would benefit from calling your best friend. Maybe journaling would help you let go of your thoughts for now. Learning mindfulness or relaxation techniques like deep breathing can help you stay present and experience your emotions without feeling overwhelmed. You can choose to tell others how you're feeling or acknowledge your feelings privately. If you don't feel like talking, you can set aside time each day to grieve.

Just make sure you leave enough time to do something pleasantly distracting before bed. Either way, acknowledging your experiences helps. Social events or pleasant activities can provide relaxation and distraction. Laughter heals, and it's also OK if you cry. Even getting dressed may seem challenging, but it's important to reestablish routine as soon as you can. Building in some structure can help you manage your grief and provide a sense of normalcy and hope.

Eat as well as you can, exercise when you can, and avoid alcohol and other drugs that will make it harder for you to work through your feelings. How to Tell Others about Your Loss When a loved one or friend dies by suicide, knowing what to say to others can be challenging. Sometimes the stigma associated with suicide can cause survivors to feel like they need to hide the truth or suppress their anguish.