Coping with Loss

Ypsilanti, Daniel

There is much to experience in life. There are the wonderful moments of celebration and transition, such as birthdays, graduation, special relationships and visiting new places (or enjoying the old and familiar). Life can also bring welcome challenges, like acquiring new knowledge or practicing newly learned skills.

However we also experience things that are less pleasant, even painful at times. Thus, every person eventually encounters the loss of someone important in their lives such as a family member, close friend, romantic partner, or a beloved pet. Some also experience other forms of loss, byproducts of emotional violence, physical violence, and natural or human-made disasters.

While the nature of those experiences may vary, all share a common sense of loss; perhaps loss of control, hope, physical health, well-being, identity, or emotional security. The resources provided on this post provide information on how to assist ourselves and others in living with and through such losses. They are guideposts to help us find ways to feel alive and open to the possibility of hope and celebration again.

Here’s some things to remember when you are coping with loss

  • It is important to accept yourself. Grief is a natural and universal experience. Each of us, however, experiences loss in ways which are characteristic to our upbringing and personalities.
  • Your feelings are normal. In time the memories of your loved one will remain, but the intensity of your strongest emotions is moderated. Think of your bereavement as a cycle in which you are periodically reminded of, and feel, the loss.
  • Your daily routine may change. 
    • You may be physically fatigued.
    • You may have difficulty with your usual sleep pattern.
    • You may lose some of your normal appetite.
    • You may experience an inability to concentrate for long periods.
    • You may find that your interest in study, work, and social activities diminishes somewhat.
  • Be kind to yourself. Try to establish reasonable expectations about your ability and energy for they may change every day. Guard against taking on new projects too soon.
  • Create ways to remember those who you’ve lost.
    • Journaling
    • Meditation, prayer, or rituals
    • Walking
    • Music
    • Visiting places formerly shared with your loved one
  • Envision a hopeful future. Imagine a hopeful future. Think of ways you wish to contribute to others. Remind yourself of goals you have set for yourself. Try to remain physically active. Stay sensitive to the beauty of life around you.

How to be helpful to another during a time of grief

The presence of others in our celebrations enriches these experiences. Similarly, the presence of others during moments of strife, suffering and grief is very important.

  • Communicate your concern for the other person.
  • Initiate conversation; don’t wait for the perfect time.
  • Be available. On a routine basis make contact. Listen and be willing to talk about the loss.
  • Avoid making judgements. Everyone has different ways of experiencing and expressing their grief.
  • Avoid platitudes. Acknowledge the difficulties in having easy answers to the hard questions about life and death.
  • Remember the importance of special events. The timing of anniversaries, celebrations, and activities in which the loved on formerly participated can be particularly challenging and meaningful.
  • Reaffirm the grieving person’s role in your life. Remind them of their value and meaning to their life.
  • Be sensitive to the cyclical nature of the grief cycle.
  • Help the person develop balance in their life. Invite the person to outings and activities which help promote a healthy balance among study, work, leisure, and rest.