A closer look at mourning the death of a loved one
If you’ve lost a loved one, you’re probably experiencing a lot of different emotions. Each feeling you experience is another step in your grieving process. The grieving process is like a journey—it takes you from the starting point of your bereavement to another stage in your life.
Stages of grief
Everyone grieves differently; some people become very quiet and thoughtful, others cry a lot. No one way is better than the other. Some experts believe that most people go through similar stages of grief depending on how far into the grieving process they are. These stages include:
Denial: You might not believe that your loved one has really died or perhaps the news hasn’t really sunk in yet.
Anger: You might be angry at yourself, your family members, a higher power, or even the person who died.
Bargaining: You might try to negotiate with yourself or if you are religious, the figure you pray to in order to get your loved one—or even some piece of mind—back.
Depression: This might be an emotional low point for you, when you don’t care about anything or anyone. You might go through feelings of emptiness, loneliness, or might even stop caring about anything or anyone. Our Depression article will have more information if you feel you may be depressed.
Acceptance: At this point, you may begin to make peace with the fact that your loved one has died.
Everyone grieves at this or her own pace because there isn’t a fixed amount of time that you have to go through these stages.
After the memorial service
The time after a funeral (or other type of memorial service) can be hard. Attending the service might help you feel connected to the person you’ve lost or a sense of closure with their death. But after the service, you might also start to feel empty, lonely and sad. You might have to start thinking about returning to your everyday routine including school or work.
It’s likely that you’re still grieving, which can make it hard to get back into a balanced routine. Sometimes it can be difficult to do day-to-day stuff. Other times, you might want to throw yourself back into work or school as a helpful distraction.
Everybody is different, and you’re the only one who can judge what you’re able to handle. It’s a good idea to get back into your routine at a pace that suits you. Keep in mind that it’s normal to have some days that are tougher than others. Over time, it’s likely that you’ll get back into the swing of things.
When friends and family are moving on
Your friends and family may have started to get back to their normal routines, or maybe they never really got out of them in the first place. Because you’re all in different emotional states, it might be that your friends and family aren’t able to support you in the way that you need or that they are experiencing their grieving differently. It might be hard for your friends and family who weren’t connected to the person who died to know what to do and how to help you. It’s a good idea to keep your friends and family in the loop with how you’re feeling. Let them know what you need and how they can help. The odds are that they’re waiting for you to ask for support and will support you in the way that you need.
Making it through the grieving process
Managing grief is hard but here are some suggestions that may help you to get through the process:
Accept your feelings. There’s no right or wrong way to feel after losing someone you care about. Accepting the feelings you have and acknowledging that you’re going through a stressful experience can help you manage your reactions. Sometimes you might feel overwhelmed with your thoughts and feelings, which might make you think you’re going crazy. Don’t fret because this isn’t the case at all. It’s just another stage you go through when grieving.
It’s important for you to manage how you’re feeling. It might be helpful to set aside some time in the day to deal with your thoughts. During this time, you might want to write in a journal, draw, punch a pillow or exercise to let off some steam. Check out the Express Yourself or Developing Coping Strategies for more ideas.
Allow yourself to cry. It’s OK to cry. If you feel uncomfortable crying in front of other people, you might want to make a plan to leave and cry in a private place. This could be in a quiet room, in your parked car, at the park, at school, or in a campus counselor’s office.
Talk to your teacher or boss. If you’re going back to school and/or work, it might be a good idea to talk with your teacher or boss about what you want others to know about your loss. This will make them aware so they can help support you in the best way possible. Discussing your workload with your teacher or boss might also help you ease back in. It’s OK to ask for some consideration on homework or your work responsibilities.
Also, keep in mind that difficulties with concentration and memory are common during the grieving process, and they might affect your performance. If this happens, it may help to discuss it with your teacher or boss.
Smile. Many times we focus on the sadness of losing a loved one, but it may be helpful to talk about the memories and good times you’ve had with the person. It’s OK to enjoy those memories and laugh about the fun times you shared. This isn’t a sign that you miss the person any less.
Saying goodbye. Part of the grieving process is letting go of the person who died. It’s important to say goodbye in your own way in your own time. There’s no right or wrong way. Some ways that can help you say goodbye to the person is by:
Writing a letter
Going to the funeral
Having a memorial service by yourself in your own way
Honoring your memory of the person who passed
It’s important to say goodbye in your own way and in your own time. There’s no right or wrong way to doing this.
Avoid bottling up emotions. Keeping things to yourself might build up tension inside you. Finding a way to express how you are feeling might help you to feel better. You might want to talk to someone, write your thoughts down, draw, or punch some pillows.
There’s no timeline or deadline. Don’t worry about how long grieving should last, or any judgments that you should be “over it” by now. Everyone experiences grief in their own way and on their own timeline. And you may feel better for a while and then experience a fresh wave of grief—especially if something happens that reminds you of the person, or as a significant holiday or anniversary approaches.
Talk to someone. It might be helpful to talk to someone you trust about how you’re feeling. This could be a family member, friend, mental health professional, minister or other spiritual leader. If you’re in need of crisis services, check out our crisis helpline and resource directory.
Information for this article was provided by:
Some of the information is adapted from the book After Suicide, Help For The Bereaved by Sheila Clark. Published in 1995 by Hill of Content Publishing Company Pty Ltd, Melbourne 3000.
The American Society of Clinical Oncology website, “Coping with Change After the Death of Someone You Love”
Acknowledgements: This article was originally developed by youth and staff for us.ReachOut.com