Losing a loved one can shake you to your core. There is no greater pain in this world than the pain of losing someone who you cherish with all your heart.
There’s some good news though.
The pain will eventually subside, and you will get better!
This article is meant to help you understand the grieving process and provide some tips to help you move forward in a healthy way.
The end goal is for you to learn to live your life again in light of your loss.
Truth be told all three terms have a very similar meaning, but they are different in subtle ways. Understanding their slight variances may help you better deal with each one.
What is Grief?
Grief is the internal emotional struggle due to a loss.
The key thing to understand is that it’s internal. It’s however you experience the feelings associated with the loss of someone you love.
For example, grief is when you feel sad, angry, or even guilty over the loss. It could even manifest into physical symptoms such as having trouble sleeping or loss of appetite.
What is Mourning?
Mourning is the external expression of the grief.
The key factor that separates mourning from grief is the fact that it’s external.
Whatever way you project your grief to the world around you is mourning.
For example, mourning is when you have a funeral where you wear all black, you leave flowers at a grave site, or you keep candles lite near a memorial.
What is bereavement?
Bereavement is the process of dealing with a loss.
It’s essentially a combination of both grief and mourning. Processing all the emotions and trying your best to return to a healthy & stable physical and emotional state is the end goal of the bereavement process.
We all deal with death in our own way, and at our own pace. For that reason, the bereavement process will always be unique to each individual.
In total, there are five very different stages of the grief process.
These stages are built into the human persona as a mechanism to eventually learn to live life in the absence of the recently departed.
Make no mistake, everyone processes the death of a loved one in their own way. For that reason, there is no specific order in which they manifest in each person’s life.
You may experience the various stages of grief in a completely different order compared to someone else.
Often the first stage for most people, this stage is your body’s way of allowing just you to experience just enough emotional strife that you are capable of handling at any given time.
As the name implies, you’ll feel as if the death of the loved one just can’t be true. For that reason, you will inherently attempt to suppress this reality to make it easier to cope.
You’ll experience a wide array of feelings such confusion, depression, a sense of meaninglessness, and many more.
At some point, your sadness will give way to a sense of anger about the fact that your loved one is no longer living.
The degree in which someone gets angry varies. Furthermore, it may extend to those around you.
You may even get angry in an irrational way. For example, you might become angry at a friend for not attending the funeral.
Ultimately, this stage requires the most management of your emotions, so you don’t damage important relationships in your life.
While most people will understand and give you slack under the circumstances, you don’t want the anger to lead you to crossing a dangerous line with those you care about.
In this stage you’ll attempt to try to offer something in exchange for the return of a loved one. It may be offering to God that you’ll attend church every week, or that you will be a better person.
Either way, bargaining is a mechanism designed to temporary mask the true pain inside.
It’s similar in a way to the anger and denial phase in that it’s basically another way your body will attempt deal with the incredible sadness associated with losing a loved one.
Often preceding the bargaining phase, the depression phase is largely about coming to grips with reality.
It’s here that you’ll begin to realize that your loved one is truly gone. All the previous coping mechanisms share a similar theme of avoidance which is the opposite of the depression phase.
You’ll feel a deep sense of emptiness that will feel as if there is no end in sight.
It’s perfectly natural to experience great sadness and depression given that you lost a loved one.
As unpleasant as this phase may be, it’s critical to your long-term success at returning to a state of normalcy.
The key thing to remember about this phase is that it will one day pass. It will end even though it feels like it never will.
This stage isn’t about becoming normal again so to speak. It’s about wholeheartedly accepting that your loved one is permanently gone.
While this new reality will never truly feel okay, it’s something you learn to live with the best way you can.
The acceptance of this fact helps put you on a path where one day you can have more good days than bad days. In time, your good days will greatly outnumber your bad days.
It does get better in time. Now that you’ve accepted this reality, you are on your way to living life that isn’t so full of pain and sadness.
Below are some tips that will help you deal with the loss of a loved one. Remember, everyone moves through he bereavement process at a different pace, so don’t put a time limit on yourself.
Utilize these tips the best you can, and trust that like everyone else, you too will one day not be consumed with grief.
1) Acknowledge Your Painful Emotions, And Realize They Are Normal
The main point being is that you do not try to ignore your pain. Furthermore, you must know and acknowledge that your feelings of grief are perfectly natural.
99.9% of humans who have a connection with a loved one will all feel the same feelings you have. It’s entirely normal.
A common myth is that if you attempt to ignore the pain, it will somehow not affect you and go away eventually. This is patently false.
You must accept your feelings and allow them to run their course naturally. That is the fastest and healthiest way to deal with the grief.
2) Get Enough Sleep
It’s quite common for many people to experience a loss of sleep as a byproduct of mourning. It’s very important you try your best to get enough sleep.
It will help you have the proper rest and energy throughout the day to deal with your emotions in the most healthy way possible.
3) Eat Healthy Food
Time and time again science has shown that eating a well balanced healthy diet will help you cope with the loss of a loved one.
It’s rather similar to getting enough sleep. The better state your body is physically, the easier it is to repair itself emotionally.
4) Don’t Indulge In Products That Mask The Pain
You really want to avoid things such as alcohol, pain pills, etc. Basically, anything that subdues your natural state of cognitive function you should avoid.
There’s no shortcuts. You have to deal with the problem head on naturally. Any attempt at numbing yourself will only prolong the process.
5) Seek Face To Face Support
It could be with people you know and trust or with a support group. Either way, it’s incredibly helpful and relieving to share your thoughts and feelings with other people face to face.
The key point to focus on is doing this face to face. In today’s world that is dominated by technology, you want to try for a face to face interaction.
There is incredible power in seeing a person’s face and reading their body language. Not to mention physical contact has its own mystical power. A hug from a dear from will give you more comfort than a 60 minute phone call ever could.
6) Allow Yourself To Experience A Wide Array Of Emotions
You may very well go from feeling sad to angry to guilty all in one day! Whatever feelings manifest, just understand that it’s normal and acceptable.
Don’t be alarmed if your emotions change like the weather in Texas.
7) Be Active
Engaging in activities will work wonders at getting your mind off the recently deceased. When you are out and about with friends and family doing things, you’ll be able to give yourself a break emotionally.
Being active can really be transformative because it allows yourself to think about something other than the loss of your loved one.
You might at first balk at the idea of going out. Just operate on faith that you will enjoy yourself and you’ll feel a million times better when you get back home.
As we have repeatedly said throughout this article, grieving is perfectly normal. In fact, if you didn’t grieve over the loss of a cherished loved one, it would be very abnormal.
Having said that, there is a difference in health normal grieving and what’s considered unhealthy.
Make no mistake, you want to move through the grieving process in a healthy productive way. Venturing into unhealthy habits can wreak havoc on your life both in the short term and long term.
The following are all perfectly normal grief responses.
- Intense pain
- Mood swings
- Lack of focus
- Excessive worry
- Change in appetite
- Lack of energy
- Difficulty sleeping
- Difficulty concentrating
- Wanting to be alone
The following habits would be considered unhealthy.
- Significant weight loss or gain
- Prolonged sleep disturbances
- Prolonged hostility or aggression
- Constant desire for what was lost
- Continued lack of interest in normal activities
- Self-destructive behavior
- Panic attacks, irrational fears or phobias
- Trouble keeping your normal routine such as work or home duties
- Inability to stop blaming yourself
- Thoughts of harming yourself
- Thoughts that live isn’t worth living
- Addiction to products meant to subdue the emotional pain
- Absent grief (where you attempt to feel the same as you did before the loss)
- Delayed grief (where you were busy and haven’t slowed down to grieve)