Navigating the loss of a loved one is an experience marked by intense emotions, from deep sadness to unexpected moments of relief. Grieving is an inevitable and difficult aspect of the human experience, yet each person experiences this deeply personal process differently.
This article will explore ways to navigate grief while promoting healing and resilience through self-care, communal support, professional help and healthy perspectives.
Take Care of Yourself
Grieving is a difficult journey, and taking care of yourself is essential to navigate the complexities of the experience. It’s important to recognize that your emotional experience is valid and varied. Allow yourself the space to feel and process your emotions while ensuring you stay mentally fit through a healthy lifestyle and routines.
Allow yourself to grieve.
Grief is a natural and necessary process illustrated by a wide range of emotions. It’s likely that you’ll experience many unexpected emotions during this time.
Acknowledge and accept your emotions, whether you feel sadness, anger, guilt and even unexpected relief that the difficult journey before your loved one’s passing has ended.
Express your emotions.
Find healthy outlets for your grief. Many people engage in activities such as journaling, art, music or exercise. Creative expression can be a therapeutic channel for emotions that may be challenging to articulate verbally.
Maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Grief can take a toll on your physical and emotional well-being. By prioritizing self-care through adequate sleep, a healthy diet and regular exercise, you’ll develop habits that contribute to strength and resilience during this challenging time.
During a period of grief, maintaining a sense of normalcy can be comforting. Try to stick to daily routines and responsibilities as much as possible. These familiar tasks and routines can offer a small but reassuring sense of stability.
Connect with Others Grieving
Although grief is a deeply personal experience, you don’t need to experience it alone. In fact, grieving with others can provide solace and connection, which are invaluable during this time.
Lean on friends, family or a support group.
Grief is a shared human experience, and connecting with others who understand your pain can lighten the load of grief. Whether it’s friends, family members or a support group centered around loss, surround yourself with others who can provide comfort and a listening ear.
Celebrate the life of your loved one.
Honoring the life of your loved one can be a powerful part of the grieving process. Gather with friends and family to share memories and stories to celebrate their life. Consider organizing a memorial service or a ritual of remembrance to ensure their memory lives on in the hearts of those who cared for them.
Seek Outside Help
Although leaning on friends and family is helpful, your experience of grief may be better supported by professional help, spiritual counseling or a support network. These resources offer tools, perspectives and guidance to find the strength to overcome grief.
Consider counseling or therapy.
Grief counselors or therapists offer safe spaces to explore and understand your emotions. They provide valuable support and coping strategies to help you navigate complex emotions while offering guidance to manage your grief in the short term.
Seek spiritual or religious support.
If you are a person of faith, your spiritual or religious community can provide additional comfort and guidance during your grieving process. The rituals, traditions and support systems can provide strength and acceptance around the loss of a loved one.
Consider a support network.
Online and in-person support groups connect you with a community of people who have experienced similar losses. These networks can provide comfort, support and strength, reinforcing that you are not alone in your grief.
Amedisys offers bereavement support groups as part of the overall bereavement process offered to loved ones of those who have passed.
Keep a Balanced Perspective
Although it might be challenging, maintaining a balanced perspective during the grieving process is crucial. Setting realistic expectations for yourself, avoiding major life decisions, and practicing patience are essential to healing.
Set realistic expectations about grief and loss.
Grief is a non-linear process, meaning there’s no specific timeline for how long it will last. Each person’s experience is unique, and healing happens at its own pace.
Understand that your emotions may ebb and flow and embrace the fluidity of the process. Some days may be more challenging than others. Remember to utilize your support system and coping skills to give you strength to navigate through those moments.
Avoid making major life decisions.
Grief can cloud judgment, so it can be a challenging time to make significant life decisions. When possible, particularly during more challenging moments, try to postpone making choices that could have long-term consequences. Wait until you are in a more stable emotional state to ensure these decisions are truly what you want.
Be patient with yourself.
Healing takes time, so it's important to be patient and compassionate with yourself. Setbacks happen, and rather than judging your progress in the moment, try to take a step back and recognize the overall progress you have made.
How to comfort someone who's lost a loved one
Comforting a friend or family member going through the loss of a loved one is a delicate task that requires genuine compassion and understanding. Each person goes through grief differently, making it difficult to gauge what may help or what may further agitate the sense of overwhelming grief.
Acknowledge their grief.
Simply acknowledging the loss can go a long way. Be a good listener and show them you're available if they want to share their feelings, memories and thoughts without judgment. Some may want to talk it out and some may simply want a silent comforting presence.
Offer practical support.
Helping with daily tasks like preparing meals, running errands or taking care of chores can provide immediate relief to those going through grief. You can rally the help of your friend group or family and use online resources like MealTrain.com to organize food deliveries over a certain number of days.
Send a card, flowers or a small gift.
The simple gesture of sending a card or small gift goes a long way in helping those going through grief remember that they're not along on their journey. They'll know you are a safe space for them to access if and when they need.
What Not to Say to a Grieving Person
Navigating conversations around grief and the loss of a loved one can be challenging and requires a great deal of sensitivity. Avoid clichés like, "they're in a better place now" or "everything happens for a reason." These can come across as dismissive of their pain and may not resonate with their belief system.
Avoid comparing their loss to your own experiences. While your first instinct may be to try to help by describing your own journey through grief, this takes the focus away from the person's grief and can unintentionally downplay their unique emotions and state of mind.
Be cautious of religious or spiritual comments unless you're aware of their specific belief system. While well-intentioned, these statements may restrict their willingness to open up to you further.
Handling Grief During the Holidays
Grief can be difficult to navigate at any time, but it can be particularly challenging during the holidays. Participating in holiday traditions can be emotionally intense and draining, while some familiar holiday routines may have ended altogether. It’s important that you focus on what is best for you during the holiday season.
To help you cope with grief during the holidays, read our blog post, “12 Ways to Cope with Grief During the Holidays.”
How Hospice Helps Loved Ones Deal with Loss
Hospice care includes bereavement support services provided by trained team members, including chaplains, social workers and bereavement coordinators. This service begins as soon as your loved one enters hospice care and continues through up to 13 months after their passing.
If you’re exploring whether it’s the right time to talk about hospice with your family, take our hospice quiz to determine if it’s the answer or complete the form below if you’d like to reach out to a specialist.