Loss of a Loved One

How to Deal with the Loss of a Loved One in Philadelphia: at some point in life, most of us will experience the loss of a loved one.  When someone passes away, there are many complicated feelings that come up such as grief.  Grief is a feeling similar to depression but it is typically a result of the death /loss of a loved one.  Grief therapists believe that overcoming grief is a process and it is important to realize that everyone who looses someone goes through that process in their own unique way.

1. The first step in learning how to deal with the loss of a loved one is to identify your feelings of grief.  Recognizing grief is one of the most challenging parts of overcoming it because each person grieves differently.  We all know what it looks like to be sad and crying at a funeral and even within the days following, we can see the sadness lingering.  However, many people no longer show their grief outwardly once they have started trying to get back some semblance of everyday life. For most people, the grief may get pushed aside because responsibilities such as work and school need to be addressed.  Nevertheless, the feelings are still there in many instances.  One of the signs of grief is withdrawal from activities that were previously enjoyed and important. Sleeping and eating patterns might also change.  Someone who once had a lot of energy may start feeling lethargic. Some people also feel like they can’t concentrate and all they can think about is the deceased person.  For others, dealing with grief is too overwhelming so they put on a front and make it appear as though nothing is wrong.  At some point, these people will be faced with their emotions and will need to deal with them head on.  By identifying our feelings of grief from the onset, we will be better equipped to start working through the process of moving on.

2. Another important aspect of dealing with grief / loss of a loved one is to build a support system. Find another family member or friend who is willing to stay with you the days following the death and funeral which will help making those difficult decisions a little bit easier.  As time goes one, the need for support goes up.  The first few months, and especially the first milestones (birthdays, holidays, etc.) without the lost loved one will be especially challenging for many people dealing with grief.  It is these times that it is crucial to have someone you can rely on.  To build this support system, look for friends or family members you feel comfortable calling when you have a rough day.  It is not necessary to be able to explicitly discuss the loss with your support system but it is good to make sure they know the background and are sensitive to the conditions you are going through.

3. Prayer and meditation also help many people dealing with grief / loss of a loved one.  Taking time out to reflect on the loss but also the positive feeling you have for the person will not only help in healing but also to keep the person’s memory alive.  Many people find comfort in knowing that they can communicate with the deceased and find insight from reflection on past events with the person.

4. Starting a new hobby can create an outlet for our feelings of grief / loss of a loved one.  After the loss of someone we love, many people will feel like they have stalled or their lives are “stuck in a rut.” Starting a new hobby will start a new routine.  For some, choosing a creative or artistic hobby will also serves as an outlet for the positive and negative feelings associated with the grief.  It will be beneficial to choose a hobby that is relevant to your feelings towards the person that you lost. For example, if the deceased was into antiques, you might want to try antique hunting at a flea market on the weekend.  Another option to connect with the person who passed away is to read some of their favorite books.  You can bring this book up for discussion in a book club, which is a hobby that will introduce new people into your life, which can in turn help build your support system.

5.  Try exercising because as Reese Witherspoon said in Legally Blonde “Exercise gives you endorphins and endorphins make you happy!”  Exercise will also help you get out of the house and get moving.  If you are someone who was not previously into exercise, start small like walking around the block, doing a yoga video, or simply taking the stairs a little more often. If you are already into an exercise regimen, try taking consolation in the routine or make it a little harder.  You can use the time on the treadmill to meditate or think about the feelings you have for the deceased person.  Exercising is a great way to release pent up frustration and anger as well.  Cardio activities such as running allow us to get super sweaty and let off steam.  At the same time, lifting weights or hitting a heavy/speed bag do the same thing.  You can channel your frustrations into the workout and release them in a healthy manner.  Exercise classes, for example Pilates and Zumba, are another great way to boost physical health while expanding your social network.

6. Expressing your feelings is another essential feature of the grieving process.  One you start to feel comfortable talking to your support system, start to tell them about times you feel sad, or miss the deceased person.  By saying our feelings out loud, we are starting to acknowledge and accept them as a part of who we are. Talking through your feelings with a friend will strengthen that relationship and offer a different perspective on the issue from our friends.  Another way of expressing our feelings is to express them directly to the deceased.  Try sitting down and writing a letter to the person.  Or if it is possible, go to the greave site.  Tell them how you miss them, how you are starting to cope, what is new in your life, and reflect on the good times as well.  This exercise does not have to be a one-time thing, write as many letters or visit as many times as you desire or need.  Many people will find closure by directing the feelings to the deceased person.

7. Lastly, and most importantly, give the process of grieving over the loss of a loved one time.  The healing process does not happen quickly, nor does it happen in the same fashion for everyone.  Some people require weeks, months or years to fully come to terms with the loss of someone they love.  Try not to put limitations on your feelings.  Allow yourself to take the time and try different ways of healing.  Don’t get discouraged if your feelings don’t change immediately.  Just keep trying and know that slowly but surely you will start to feel better.

Remember there is no right and wrong way to grieve over the loss of a loved one.  It does not unfold in an orderly, predictable pattern, but has many highs and lows.  Don’t feel pressured to stop grieving after a certain amount of time.  Death is a traumatic event, filled with many changes, but you will heal, and realize how strong of a person you can be.

This tip was developed for Sex Therapy in Philadelphia / the Center for Growth, Inc

If you are struggling and live in the Greater Philadelphia Area do not hesitate to reach out and contact one of our grief therapists / grief counselors for help.