Death, whether expected or sudden, is always unfair. It is unfair to the person who died and to all those left behind. If you are recovering from the loss of a loved one, you might be going through the most difficult experience of your entire life. While you will always miss your loved one, there are ways for you to move on with your life so that you can both honor your loved one and be fully present in the world of the living.

 Getting Through the Grieving Process
  1. Tell yourself that grief is normal. Grief is very, very painful. However, working through this pain is necessary in order to heal and move on from a great loss. Try to resist the urge to shut down, go numb, or pretend like your loved one has not died. Do not deny that something bad has happened to you and that you are hurting. Grieving is healthy: it is not a sign of weakness.
  2. Expect to experience the five stages of grief. While everyone grieves differently, grieving people often have stages of grief in common. The stage theory of grief is not supported by all psychologists, though recent studies show that it effectively captures the experience of most grieving people. If you learn about these stages of grief, you will be prepared for the strong emotions they evoke. Knowing the stages of grief in advance will not eliminate your pain, but it might make you more equipped to face the pain.
    • Note that you might not go through these stages in the typical order. Sometimes grieving people repeat steps, remain in one step for a long time, experience multiple steps all at once, or go through the stages in a completely different order. Sometimes the bereaved are able to move on very quickly with their lives without going through the steps at all. Remember that each individual grieves differently. But identifying the stages of grief can still help you understand your experience.
    • If you have been preparing for your loved one’s death for a long time, you might not experience denial or disbelief. For example, if your loved one experienced a lengthy terminal illness, you might have processed your disbelief before their death.
      Prepare for denial or disbelief. Immediately after your loved one dies, you might feel numb. You might also not be able to believe that your loved one is really gone. These feelings are more common in those who are grieving the loss of someone who died suddenly. Because of this disbelief, you might not be able to cry or show much emotion. This is not a sign that you don’t care: indeed, this is a sign that you care very much. Denial can help you get through the early days of your grief by allowing you to plan a funeral, contact other bereaved people, or handle financial matters. Often the memorial service or funeral can help make the death seem real.
  3. Expect to feel anger. After the reality of the death sets in, you might feel angry. You might direct your anger at anything: at yourself, at your family, at your friends, at people who have not experienced a loss, at the doctors, at the funeral director, or even at your loved one who is gone. Do not feel guilty about this anger. It is normal and healthy.
  4. Expect to feel guilt. If you have just lost a loved one, you might fantasize about everything you could have done to prevent the death.You might feel remorse and try to make deals to bring your loved one back. If you find yourself thinking, “If I had only done something differently,” or “I swear I will be a better person if my loved one comes back,” you are probably in this stage of grief. Just remember that your loved one’s death is not a karmic punishment for you: you didn’t do anything to deserve this pain. Death can be random, sudden, and illogical.
  5. Prepare to feel sadness and depression. This stage might be the longest one in the grieving process. It can be accompanied by physical symptoms such as loss of appetite, sleeplessness, and crying jags. You might feel the need to isolate yourself as you mourn and confront your sadness. Sadness and depression are completely normal, but if you find yourself engaging in self-harming behaviors or losing your ability to function, you will need to talk to a doctor or therapist.
  6. Learn to accept the death of your loved one. This is usually the last step in the grieving process, and it means that you have learned how to live without your loved one. While you will always feel the loss, you will be able to establish a “new normal” without your loved one in the picture. Sometimes people feel guilty about being able to reestablish a normal life after the death of a loved one and believe that moving on is somehow a betrayal. However, remember that your loved one wouldn’t want you to be depressed forever. It is important that you live your life in a way that will honor the memories and gifts that your loved one gave to you before she died.
    • While some grief and sadness is normal for many years after a loss, these feelings of sadness should not keep you from leading a normal life. If you are unable to function because of your grief–even years after a loss–you might want to consider grief counseling or therapy. These sad feelings might always be a part of your life, but they should not be the dominant force in your life.
      Don’t put yourself on a timeline. Much of the grieving process can take place over the course of a calendar year. However, grief can also reappear at sudden moments for many years after the loss: at holidays, anniversaries, or even during a particularly sad day. Keep in mind that you cannot get through grief on a schedule. Different people will progress differently through grief, and you might continue to grieve throughout your life.
  7. Reach out to other mourners for support. Many of the stages of grief encourage you to feel isolated and alone. While much of your grieving process will be solitary, you will likely find solace in the company of other mourners who miss your loved one just like you. Share your own painful emotions with your support network as well as happy memories of your loved one who is gone. They will be able to understand your pain in a way that nobody else will. Share this pain together so that you can all begin to move on.
    • Feel free to be specific about what you ask for. If you have no food in the fridge, ask your friend to bring over some take-out. If you cannot muster the energy to drive your children to school, ask a neighbor to pitch in. You will be surprised by how many people will step up to support you.
    • Don’t be embarrassed by your mourning. You might find yourself crying unexpectedly, telling the same stories over and over, or processing your anger in front of others. Don’t feel ashamed of these behaviors: they are normal, and your loved ones will understand.
      Ask for help from people who are not mourning. Other mourners will be able to help share your pain. But other people in your support network who are not in mourning will be able to help you get your life back on track. Don’t hesitate to reach out to your network if you need help taking care of your children, taking care of your house, or distracting yourself.
    • If you are a religious or spiritual person, consider contacting a religious organization for guidance. Many spiritual leaders have experience counseling the bereaved, and you can gain solace from their wisdom.
      Seek professional help. While most people can grieve on their own and with the support of friends and family, about 15-20% of mourners will need to seek extra support. If you are feeling isolated, if you live far away from friends and family, or if you are finding it difficult to function, you will likely need professional support. Ask your doctor to give you a recommendation for a bereavement counselor, support groups, or a therapist who can help you process your grief.
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  Death, whether expected or sudden, is always unfair. It is unfair to the person who died and to all those left behind. If you are recovering from the loss of a loved one, you might be going through the most difficult experience of your entire life. While you will...