What to Do After You Lose a Loved One

When you lose a loved one, whether he or she be a parent, grandparent, other family member, or close friend, the loss can feel confusing. The truth is that everyone experiences grief and sorrow differently, and there is no wrong way to feel it.  Some people feel devastated, others feel jumbled, many fall into depression, and some people feel a complete sense of emptiness where they can’t identify how they feel at all.  When it comes to dealing with the passing of a loved one, there is no way around grief. So what do you do after you lose a loved one?  Here are just a few ways you can cope, and eventually, go on living.

Reach Out to Family and Friends

Should a loved one pass, you will not be alone in your grief.  There are likely many around you, including the person’s family and friends, who are mourning as well.  This is why some funeral traditions include gatherings for several days at a time, in which people can visit the family of the loved one and comfort each other.  In Jewish tradition, this is called Shiva.  Buddhist tradition calls for periods of mourning that are marked by the forty-night day and the one-hundredth day.  Different regions of the U.S. even mourn differently.  In the South, for example, the mourning period consists of everyone in the community bringing all matter of casseroles and dishes while they visit the family of the deceased.  No matter your religious or cultural background, these traditions are rooted in a desire to come together and support each other in a time of grief.  Reach out to loved ones, whether it be the friend’s family or your own, and sometimes it is comforting to just be.

Express Yourself

Some people are uncomfortable with the thought of mourning in public.  Mourning is, in fact, the act of public displays of grief.  However, grief does not need to be expressed in front of others.  In fact, it is healthy to express yourself privately, in a way you possibly wouldn’t in public.  When you are ready, try expressing yourself in a way you feel suits you best.  Many people express their bereavement through art.  Poetry, music, painting, cooking, or even athletic or outdoor activities can be a great way of letting out some of the sadness you have built up.  Create closure with the person by talking to them—perform a dialogue to yourself or write a letter to them.  If you have difficulty in expressing yourself, it is normal and healthy to seek the help of a counselor.

Maintain Healthy Habits

When people fall into distress, it is easy to slip into unhealthy habits.  Some people turn to impulsive activities, such as alcoholism, promiscuity with strangers, impulsive shopping, and any other matter of bad habits.  If left unchecked, these habits can turn into major life issues that are difficult to recover from.  Instead, promise yourself to take good care of your body and mind.  Engage in exercise, eat healthy, and get adequate sleep.  During bouts of depression, your metabolism, immune system, and insulin resistance may fall, which will cause other health problems.  Keep your spirits high and your brain strong with physical activities that increase cardiovascular strength and perform relaxing stretching exercises, such as those in yoga.  This will trigger your brain to release chemicals that keep you alert and healthy, such as endorphins.

Take Care of Your Responsibilities

When a death occurs, it is natural to spend time alone or take days off from work to relax your body and mind.  However, it is critical that you don’t shirk your responsibilities.  Your loved ones and coworkers may be willing to help you with tasks at home and at your job, but do not let your life go awry.  Make sure you keep up with finances—for instance, you may want to discuss funeral insurance and burial policies if the death occurred in your family.  Don’t burden your life with more stress by neglecting the responsibilities you have now.

Remember Your Loved One

Finally, remember your loved one.  Life may never be the same without them, but when you finally come out of grief, you can celebrate the time you had with them.