Losing a loved one is grueling and life changing. It can trigger a grief response, which is a normal psychological and biological response to loss. Throughout the grieving process, you may experience a combination of intense sadness and a yearning for their return, while associated with thoughts and memories of them.
"Periods of grief following loss are notoriously isolating and difficult to navigate; grieving during a pandemic where many are socially distanced and unable to participate in traditional rituals of grieving, such as funerals and memorials, can make the process more complex,” says Courtney Bolton, PhD, a psychologist in Nashville, Tennessee.
While navigating the death of a loved one is never easy, there are coping strategies out there that can help you through. Of course, grief is entirely individual, and just like no one reacts the same way emotionally, grief will physically manifest differently for everyone.
1. Know that it’s okay not to be okay: Now is not the time to pretend that everything's fine. It’s okay not to have all the answers and it’s okay to ask for help!
2. Feel your feelings: Simply telling yourself “I feel sad,” acknowledging it, sitting with it, and observing your feelings and bodily sensations as they arise can help make you feel better.
3. Focus on having a routine and making plans: Routines and goals can be useful when you're mourning, to reintegrate back into your community and remind you of the meaning in your life.
4. Don't stop pursuing your hobbies: Whatever you enjoy doing on a regular basis, keep doing it. Our hobbies give us purpose and enjoyment. Both of these are excellent tools to combat the stressful feelings that may arise from loss.
5. Honor your loved one’s life: Right now, this can feel challenging with the pandemic limiting in-person gatherings, but there’s still so much you can do! You can create some kind of keepsake about a loved one, perhaps one of our birthstone memorial rings and/or necklaces; or it could mean putting together a photo album and sharing pictures with your friends and family.
6. Grief doesn’t go away, but it changes: The biggest misconception in our society is that grief goes away. Grief doesn’t go away, but it does change. Over time, acute grief transforms and you integrate your grief in a way that allows you to continue living your life.
7. Trust in the passage of time: Time doesn’t heal all, but it can get you to a place where you may be able to look back on memories more fondly rather than being inundated with a surge of pain.
The experience of losing a loved one endures for a lifetime. Certain dates and even times of year will be hard, and even certain locations can be triggering. If you're feeling consumed by grief and don't feel you can continue with the routines of daily life, you may want to seek professional support to help you cope. There are also many grief support groups, so you may want to ask a friend or research for local recommendations.
In serious situations, you can also reach out to The Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741 or National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK.
The bottom line is that you're not alone, and there are so many people grieving along with you—and resources out there to help you through it.