How to Deal with the Death of a Loved One
There are no easy answers when it comes to dealing with death. Everyone mourns differently and there’s no satisfying outlet for the many frustrating, overwhelming feelings that overtake you. There’s something to be said for many of the clichés that come up in these times: “it takes time,” “he’s in a better place now,” “she’d want you to be happy.” They’ve become cliché for a reason – but in the moment they don’t make anything better.
So what can you do? How can you at least try to take back some power in a situation that makes us all feel so very powerless?
Whatever way you need to mourn is the way you need to mourn. You might want to curl up in bed alone and weep for hours, or you may want to be surrounded by other people who you can talk to about your feelings. Neither option is wrong. You’re allowed to think (a little) selfishly and do what you need.
It’s tempting to say, “there’s no wrong way to grieve,” but there are a couple of things you want to be sure not to do:
Don’t try to deny your feelings. You have to let yourself feel your grief. It won’t just go away.
Don’t make things worse for others. If what makes you feel better is throwing yourself into funeral plans or going for a long drive alone, go for it. If what makes you feel better is destroying things other people have to clean up or lashing out at your closest friends and family members because of how intense your own anger and loss is, don’t go for it. They’re suffering too.
Let Others Feel It
Building on that last point, that way you mourn may be very different from how others who cared about the person you lost do. If you feel like you really need to talk, but someone close to you clearly wants to be alone, let them be.
Do let yourself feel what you need to feel, but don’t try to force your way of handling grief onto anybody else. Recognize that they have their own distinct needs and it’s a difficult time for everybody.
Re-Visit and Share Your Memories
Take time to remember the person you lost. Scour old photo albums for memorable images and share stories of funny things they did or weird habits they had. Sit down with the others who loved them and compare notes on their kindnesses, quirks, and the meaningful life moments they were a part of.
Losing someone hurts like hell, but one positive it offers is bringing together people for the funeral who can re-visit old memories together. Those memories are worth holding on to. Share them with each other and consider sitting down to write them out so you have them to re-visit later.
Don’t Be Hard on Yourself, But Do Be Healthy
When you’re depressed, self-care is easy to let slip. You don’t have to try to make everything perfect at the funeral or be the person who takes care of everybody else. If that’s something that helps you through your grief, there’s nothing wrong with it, but don’t hold yourself to a standard that adds extra stress to the experience. And don’t be hard on yourself if everything’s not perfect.
Do try to keep up your regular healthy habits though. With grief can come apathy, but you will feel better if you stick to your usual workout or daily walk than if you forego it.
Know The Intensity of Your Feelings Won’t Last (And That’s Okay)
What you feel in two weeks will be different than what you feel right now. What you feel two months after that will be different still. Your grief probably won’t go away entirely, but how frequently and intensely it hits you will change with time.
It’s not abnormal to have moments of guilt when the grief starts to fade. Shouldn’t you be feeling more? Isn’t it disloyal to the person’s memory, to the intensity of the love you felt to be leaving that grief behind?
It’s not. Grief has a role to play in our lives. It helps us to acknowledge and honor the love we have toward someone and the power of their loss. But we can’t all live in it day in and day out and at some point you’ll find yourself returning to a version of life that feels normal again. That’s ok. Until then, feel what you need to feel and do your best to take care of yourself.