When you experience the death of a loved one, you feel as though a part of you is gone as well. You feel bereft and alone straight to your core. Trying to move on from such a staggering loss is never easy. The rate at which you are able to move on will differ from the length of time it takes another friend or family member.
When you allow yourself to grieve in stages, you are better able to cope with the loss you have experienced. Do not force yourself to move on until you feel that you are ready. There is no timetable for grief. Do know, however, that you will eventually look back fondly on the life you shared with your loved one, rather than with nothing but grief and sadness.
Coping After the Funeral
The time that follows the funeral can be especially difficult. While attending visitations and burial ceremonies can help you feel connected to your loved one, you may feel a deep sense of loss once the funeral has been completed.
It is after the funeral that you will have to face returning to a “normal” life without your loved one present. You may have to return to school or work. You will have to think about how you will complete routine tasks despite your growing sense of grief. At times, the thought of returning to normal can be a blessing. At other times, you will want nothing to do with a routine.
Do what feels right to you. While you may have no choice but to return to work or school, you have a choice when it comes to social activities. You will get back into the swing of things when you are ready, and your family and friends will understand this. Never feel guilted into accepting invitations to socialize.
Understanding Grief Differs
The kindest thing that you can do for yourself is to understand that grief differs. Do not compare the way that you are feeling with the way that others appear to be feeling. Do not feel pressured to “get over it” or feel ashamed by your sadness.
Know that there are stages of grief, and that you may move through them in a different order or at a different pace than the rest of your friends and family. Everyone’s grief is personal, and how they handle that grief is unique. Give yourself permission to move through the stages at your own pace and in your own way.
Accept the Loss
There is no easy or single way to accept the loss of a loved one. What you will need to do is to accept that your loved one is gone, and to overcome the denial response. Viewing the body, attending any ceremonies, and visiting the burial site can help you do this.
It is also helpful for many people experiencing grief to talk about their loved one. Do so with people that knew the deceased. Share special memories and fond stories. Discuss the circumstances surrounding the person’s death.
Coming to grips with the fact that your loved one is not returning can help you begin to accept the loss. This is not an easy process, and there is no hard and fast way to accomplish it. What you need to do is find a way to come to terms with the death of your loved one and begin to make a plan for how you will move on with your life.
Experience the Pain of Grief
Grief is painful. You may try to avoid this pain through drugs and alcohol. You may try to avoid it by keeping your emotions to yourself. None of these ideas is a good one. If you do not let yourself experience the pain of your loss, you will not be able to move past it.
Unfortunately, the only way to get through the grieving process is to move through it. You have got to experience every stage of grief in its entirety to be able to work past it. There is nothing that you will do that will make grieving less of a painful thing. For some, it is helpful to look at grief as a positive thing. It means that you were loved and gave love with such intensity that the loss feels like more than you can bear.
Adjust to Life Without the Person
One of the most difficult things to do after a loss is to adjust to your new life without the person. This is especially true if the death was of a traumatic or sudden nature. This is especially true when the death was of a spouse. Financial independence will need to be sorted out, the responsibilities of the spouse will need to be handled, and general, routine life alone will need to be gotten used to.
When you are attempting to adjust to life without your loved one, you refocus your energy. You may decide to reinvest your energy into another relationship, into volunteer work, or into other family members. No matter what you decide, the ultimate goal is to be able to live your life anew. You should eventually be able to remember your loved one fondly, without the crushing grief that you are feeling now.
No one will be able to tell you that coping with life after a loved one has past is going to be an easy task. You may be back to your normal self in a matter of months, or you may not be. The only person dealing with your grief is you; how you cope after a loss is a uniquely personal decision.
Do not ever apologize for the pace at which you are moving on or for the grief that you feel. You are entitled to move forward at your own pace, and you are certainly afforded the right to your emotions. What you will need to do, however, is to find a way to live your life in a different way; how you do that is up to you.
Updated: October 2, 2014