There is no singular step-by-step guide for getting on with life after losing a loved one. The grieving process is different for all of us, especially when it comes to time. One healthy way to approach returning to normal after a loss – and remember that “what normal is” varies for all of us – is looking at bereavement resources that have worked well for others.
Take the tactics in those resources and fit them to your comfort level. It’s always OK to acknowledge your feelings and remember not to push yourself too hard too fast. For many of us, the days and weeks immediately after a loss are full of necessary tasks. We’re surrounded by people who want to comfort us, but after a time, those folks go back to their lives and we’re back to seeing them as often as before the loss.
This is when many experience the heavy grieving period – when it gets quiet in the weeks following the loss – followed by, “How do I move on? What is my new normal?”
Those thoughts occur to many people, so we’ve included some ways to help you or someone you know who has recently lost a loved one.
Talk and listen
Try not to completely shut yourself off from the world around you and those who are still around. Yes, sometimes being alone for grief, reflection and letting go of your emotions feels like the right thing — and it is. However, communication is one thing that helps many of us get back to a healthy, productive mindset.
Choose a good friend, a family member, someone from your place of worship or a professional counselor. Open up about your feelings. Don’t keep any mental or physical symptoms of this loss inside your head. Some people suffer from ongoing physical and/or mental ailments due to longtime grieving.
Be honest about how you are feeling — with both yourself and others.
Listening is important, too. Many of us have experience with grief that translates into advice and aid in healing. What we did may not work exactly the same for you, but it could spark an idea of how you can successfully cope and heal.
Make a plan. Stick to it. Be OK with hiccups in the plan.
Understand it will be difficult at times, but making a plan with small steps means progress. Setbacks happen – and that is OK! Here are some ideas:
- Do something you love – even if it’s by yourself. Go bowling. Hit the golf links. Try axe throwing (it’s a new thing).
- Consider volunteering at a nearby animal rescue or shelter or your neighborhood food pantry. See how helping others makes you feel. If you like it, do it regularly.
- Choose a book about grief and recovery. Read it. Then, start a journal about your own process. Down the road, you can share your entries to help others, if you choose.
- Find some peace through a meditation practice. More and more Americans take up meditation every day not just to help with loss but to reduce everyday stress and anxiety. And don’t feel like you have to go it alone; there are guided meditation apps and videos for beginners.
We also have an e-book for you, After a Loss: Honoring Our Losses and Celebrating Life. Download it at your convenience and take a look.