How to Cope with the Loss of a Loved One

Everyone must cope with the loss of a loved one at some point in their lives. This isn't easy. Although each person deals with pain differently, these strategies are appropriate for everyone.
How to Cope with the Loss of a Loved One
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 28 July, 2022

The loss of a loved one is an inevitable part of life. Despite the fact that it’s inevitable, people are rarely psychologically prepared to deal with that kind of emotional pain, with the internal confusion and the impact of an unexpected and unfair goodbye.

Viktor Frankl said that suffering makes humans more lucid and the world more transparent. According to the father of speech therapy, pain opens perspectives. It may be so, but a certain amount of time and a delicate process of adaptation and internal work are required to reach that mental state of absolute clarity and acceptance.

This psychological craftsmanship requires the application of a series of strategies, including changes. They’re small daily hinges with which to facilitate the progress towards recovery and assimilation of loss. This is because, even though the figure of a loved one never goes away, everyone can learn to live with their memory in a new stage of their lives.

“Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, love leaves a memory no one can steal.”

-Richard Puz-

A person crying.

The loss of a loved one – strategies to adapt to a new reality

Accepting and integrating the loss of a loved one is a delicate process. Thus, everyone will experience it in their own particular way. Some people will need psychological support, while others begin a period of introspection and recollection in which they can redefine themselves and manage confusion, anger, sadness, and grief.

Each one will fill their own gaps in a certain way and will use specific strategies. T he most decisive thing in all cases is neither to stagnate nor to make grief a permanent mental state. It’s important to have a series of resources and approaches with which to handle these situations a little better. Let’s analyze them.

Every emotion is valid

Suffering, physical exhaustion, contradiction, fear, frustration, and even anger are all emotions associated with the loss of a loved one. Furthermore, they’re convulsive, intense, and difficult to express. Nevertheless, the last thing you should do is repress them and think you must go to back to normal as soon as possible.

Don’t be in a hurry, as there’s time for everything. Once the loss occurs and you’re done dealing with the police or insurance company (if you need to), you have to say your last goodbye at the wake or funeral.

Then, a period of acceptance begins, in which you must release every emotion to give it presence and space. This is because the pain for the loss of a loved one doesn’t only have an element of sadness. In fact, there are many more feelings to handle, channel, and assume.

The loss of a loved one requires you to talk, socialize, and remain active

Grief is a process, not a state. Thus, one of the elements that hinder the acceptance of the loss of a loved one is focusing on the longing, the nostalgia, and the persistent memory of the past. You need to stay in the present. Thus, maintain an active life in order to do so.

Therefore, get back to your social life after having spent time of needy introspection accepting and venting emotions. Talking to friends and family relieves pain. Returning to your old routine forces your mind to focus on the here and now and not so much on the past. Having obligations and setting new goals and projects are reminders that life goes on.

Don’t feel guilty. Getting your life back, socializing, and leaving your home won’t make you forget your loved one. It isn’t an offense to their memory. It’ll mainly allow you to continue remembering them without being paralyzed by pain. All grief requires movement in order to achieve acceptance.

A person by the sea.

Managing anxiety associated with the loss of a loved one

Grief anxiety is a fairly common reality when you experience the loss of a loved one. Emotions hold you captive and your thoughts become chaotic and plunge you into a state of psychological helplessness that can last for several months.

As you can see, it isn’t easy to adapt to the void that person leaves. It isn’t easy to take back the reins of your life when the pain and the memory weigh heavily on you. Thus, in these cases, it’s always best to go to a specialized professional who can assess your anxiety levels through instruments such as the Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scales.

Cognitive-behavioral approaches are always appropriate in terms of strategies to address this psychological reality, as well as acceptance and commitment therapy. The following techniques are among the most useful keys to facilitate the acceptance of the loss and the reduction of anxiety:

  • Facilitate the release of emotions and thoughts.
  • Discussing the death of a loved one and all that you experienced throughout that period.
  • Use techniques that can solve the daily problems of a person who’s grieving to guide them.
  • Also, facilitate the acceptance of their new reality and the reformulation of new goals and values.
  • Finally, project the mourner into the future so they can recover their routine and start doing the activities they used to like.

In conclusion

The process of acceptance and mourning is full of difficulties, advances, and setbacks. But you’ll eventually get there. In the end, you’ll give way to that stage in which you’ll be able to manage. You’ll be able to live with the memory of your loved one. The pain will subside.

Of course, you’ll never forget your loved one, but you’ll certainly manage to physically be without them. Instead, they’ll always be with you in that precious corner of your heart.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.