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How to Cope with Grief

The loss of a loved one is heartbreaking, however it is important to learn how to cope with your grief.

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No one can truly tell you what to expect when you lose a loved one. Everyone grieves differently, and it’s hard to truly prepare for the pain, anger, and sense of loss that accompanies the death of someone close to you. However, there are healthy ways to process grief and to take care of yourself during this difficult time.

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Grief has no timeline

Everyone’s heard of the typical “five stages of grief.” They serve as a blueprint for how to process grief and move through it, and if that’s helpful for you, then by all means embrace the stages of denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. However, this sort of framing indicates that going through these stages will eventually lead to some sort of conclusion or closure. The truth is that the grieving process will look different for every person, and oftentimes it won’t be a neat, linear process with clear steps.

Some people might find that they’re able to process what happened and feel a sense of peace within several weeks, while others might take months to start feeling some semblance of normalcy. Sometimes it can even take a year or longer. That’s totally fine—there’s no clear timeline for grief, and putting pressure on yourself to “finish” grieving is only going to create more stress.

Talking to friends and family helps

It may feel really painful to talk about the person you’ve lost, especially if the loss is recent. But relying on a strong support network of friends and family and being able to talk about what you’re going through is actually helpful. Talking can make you feel less alone in your pain, and will also allow those who love you to know what you’re feeling, and be by your side.

Don’t force talking if you don’t feel ready, but know that the people who love you want to be there for you. And if that means crying, ranting, or sharing your fears and frustrations, then that’s what you need. Lean on your friends and family during this time, and let them be there for you.

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Cherish the memories

Talking about your loved one and sharing memories and anecdotes can also be difficult at first. But honoring their memory and remembering the sweet, kind, and fun moments you shared with them can ultimately help process what has happened while also remembering your loved one in a way they would appreciate: Not when they were sick, but when they were fully themselves.

Your loved one lived a full and rich life. Pay tribute to that by remembering the wonderful things they did, their personality, their spirit, and how they enriched your life and shaped you to become the person you are today.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

Being vulnerable is not easy. This is particularly true when you have to take on the responsibility of executor, think of planning a funeral, taking care of the estate, and comforting other family members who are struggling. However, if you don’t stop and ask for help when you feel like you’re sinking or can’t keep up, then all of that emotional pain and stress that you’re bottling up will just burst out in the worst possible way.

Instead, lean on the people in your life who love you. Reach out when you’re feeling like you’re at the end of your rope. Whether it’s having someone help you with housework or babysitting or just lending you an ear and a shoulder to cry on when you need it, asking for help and being vulnerable allows others in your life to show up for you.

It’s also a smart idea to seek out professional help if you’re able to. It doesn’t matter if you never had any mental health issues before: The loss of a loved one is a big, traumatic life event, and turning to a professional who’s trained in exactly these matters can really help you grieve in a healthy and empowering way. Find what works for you and what you’re comfortable with, whether that’s a therapist, a psychiatrist, or a grief counselor.

Be kind and patient with yourself

Some days are going to be better than others. There may be days when you feel like you’re finally starting to move on and get back into the swing of things, only to find yourself crying and unable to get out of bed the next week. That’s totally normal, and the less you beat yourself up about it, the better you’ll be able to weather this time.

Take some days off. Take care of your mental health. Seek out the company of friends and family if that’s what feels right, and take this time to pamper yourself with plenty of rest. Honor your feelings, no matter how complicated or unpleasant they may be. While the loss of a loved one will always be painful, enough time and space will give you the strength to eventually carry on with your life, while always carrying your loved one in your heart.

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