Overcoming Grief and Depression When You’ve Lost a Loved One
Grief and depression may hit you like a freight train when you’ve lost a loved one. The shock is too great, the pain just too unbearable. You feel paralyzed. How do you move forward? Do you even want to?
It’s an experience no one wants to have. Ultimately, it’s something we must overcome. We are all faced with journeys filled with adversity and loss from time to time, but losing a loved one may leave us feeling hopeless.
Symptoms of bereavement, grief and loss
Bereavement, grief and loss are forms of human suffering that result in many different symptoms and reactions. There is no right or wrong way to feel about a loss. Most people experience bereavement only once in their lifetimes, but others may suffer the loss of a loved one more than once. However, some people lose a job or home, or end a relationship, and still others experience a number of losses during the course of their lives.
Some of the most common symptoms include:
shock and numbness – this is usually the first reaction to loss, and people often talk about "being in a daze"
overwhelming sadness, with lots of crying
tiredness or exhaustion
anger – towards the person you've lost or the reason for your loss
guilt – for example, guilt about feeling angry, about something you said or did not say, or not being able to stop your loved one dying
The feelings of grief, loss or bereavement may be unpredictable and strong. It can be difficult to determine what has caused you to be so deeply affected by them.
There are a number of things you can do if you are experiencing grief or loss.
Be Prepared. It is normal to experience reactions on the anniversary of a loved one's death. Knowing you are likely to experience these reactions can help you understand them and even turn them into opportunities for healing.
Plan a distraction. If you're at risk of feeling lonely during the holidays, plan a distraction. Schedule gatherings or visits with friends or loved ones during times of the year when you're likely to feel alone or be reminded of your loved one's death.
Reminisce about your relationship. Review your relationship with your loved one. Focus on the positive aspects of your relationship and the time you spent together, rather than dwelling on the loss. Make a list of positive memories or write a letter to your loved one. Expand this letter anytime.
Start a new tradition. You can start a new tradition by making donations to charitable organizations in your loved one's name on birthdays or holidays or by planting a tree in honor of your loved one.
Connect with others. To cope with grief, connect with others who were close to the person you've lost, including friends and family. Keep up your usual support systems, such as spiritual leaders and social groups. Consider joining a bereavement support group.
Allow yourself to feel a range of emotions. You can experience a wide range of emotions while coping with loss. It's OK to feel sad and lonely at times, but also allow yourself to experience positive feelings again. Laughing and crying are both healthy responses to life events.
The intensity of grief tends to lessen with time. If you experience anniversary reactions that leave you reeling, depression, and other problems, consult a grief counselor or other mental health provider. With professional help, you can re-establish a sense of control and direction in your life — and return to the path toward healing.