Losing someone or something you love or care deeply about is very painful. You may experience all kinds of difficult emotions and it may feel like the pain and sadness you’re experiencing will never let up. These are normal reactions to a significant loss. But while there is no right or wrong way to grieve, there are healthy ways to cope with the pain that, in time, can renew you and permit you to move on.
Write about it. Talking about your grief is hard; for many in the early days, weeks or months after loss it can be impossible. The inability to speak your mind, the choking tears, can make talking too overwhelming and too draining. Write it down instead. You have to allow your emotions an outlet as bottling them can lead to more mental distress and physical illness.
When you are ready, find a support group. Despite the antagonistic views of speaking to total strangers, really only the case at first, support groups are becoming more widely used and accepted. Once you are able to talk, you should talk. No one is going to judge you, no one is going to berate or humiliate. The opposite, in fact. They will lift you up, provide solace and understand, and offer working advice and tips to see you through the healing process. There is no reason for you to grieve alone.
Cry, a lot. Tears have a healing power all their own and you have no reason to be ashamed of them. Do not feel the need to rid your life of everything the person owned. Yes, you should be ready to let go and pass on belongs that could enrich the lives of the less fortunate, but it is okay to keep a few things for yourself whether it be an outfit, jewelry, memento from a trip, absolutely pictures, books, furniture, or stuffed animal. Choose something that will help you to find peace and clear remembrance, even if it takes years.
Don’t let guilt become apart of your grief. Besides having no benefit to your emotional or physical health, guilt will only pull you down. If you did not consult a doctor soon enough, if you did not come home fast enough, if you dismissed a symptom as “nothing to worry about” there is nothing that can be changed. Instead of feeling guilty over what you did not do, try channeling that emotion into helping others in any fashion you are able and will benefit those around you. Keep reminding yourself you cannot change the past, but you can use your experiences and move forward.
Grieving takes time. Some need longer than others and everyone grieves in a different way, but the common factor for all is time. You cannot speed up the process. You cannot avoid it, all that emotion will catch up with you and only become harder to cope. There is no time limit or normal period in which to grieve and move on.
Do not be discouraged by those sudden and unexpected pangs of sadness that will follow you. They are normal. No one is expecting you to forget and completely move on. You should be carrying that person with you as long as it is not keeping you from living and happiness. In a 2006 interview with The New York Times, Mexican writer Carlos Fuentes described having two children die before they turned 30. “You go on,” he reflected. “You bring the person you love inside you. That is how you cope. You make him or her live within you.”
You are not “getting over” a loss. You are learning how and developing ways to get used to it. Anyone who has lost a loved one knows that you don’t “recover.” Instead, you learn to incorporate their absence and memories into your life and channel your emotional energy toward others. Eventually, it has been said, your grief walks beside you instead of consuming you.