No Love Lost: 4 Tips for Dealing with Grief after Losing a Loved One

Death is often called the great equalizer, putting life into perspective and reminding us all that life can come as quickly as it goes.

Written By Tiffany Hall

January 21, 2013 will be a day that will forever be ingrained in my memory.

It’s not because it was the day President Barack Obama was inaugurated for his second term. It’s not because Beyonce caused a media implosion by lip-synching the National Anthem.

January 21, 2013 will always be known as the day that I lost my mother.

It wasn’t a complete surprise, but it wasn’t exactly expected either. Recently diagnosed with congestive heart failure, my mother had been in and out of the hospital throughout Fall 2012. Just a few days before Christmas, she was admitted into the hospital for what would be a final time. After going into cardiac arrest due to a bad reaction to anesthesia, my mom fell into a coma.

The last time I saw her alive, was January 6th. My sister and I had flown to see her. She lay unresponsive in a hospital bed with her eyes randomly opening and shutting. The doctors said that it was an involuntary response, and that my mother could not see or hear me. My family and I were certain that my mom would be able to recover, and we all prayed and waited. We’d received just days later that she was taken off of her respirator and was breathing on her own.

The influx of hope I’d gotten after learning that news was short-lived. While sitting in my living room watching  Inauguration coverage, I received a call from my grandmother. As soon as I heard the hushed, somber tone in her voice, I knew what she was calling to tell me. My mother had died that morning. I waited until I hung up the phone to cry. I went upstairs and sat in the windowsill in my bedroom and let out a scream. Somehow, I’d hoped that I was dreaming and if I screamed just loud enough, I’d wake up.

It’s been about eight weeks since that day, and at times, the loss of my mother still feels surreal. At 26 years old, I’ve never known life without her being a part of it until now. Upon returning home from her funeral, I still felt the need to call her to let her know I’d gotten home safely. I still have her number saved in my phone under “Mom”, and I’ve felt the urge to call it just so I could her hear voice-mail greeting. However, I haven’t been able to muster up the strength to do it yet.

Grief is a truly grounding experience. It helps you to realize that life is so much value and forces beyond our control can take it any moment. It also teaches you that, at some point in all of our lives, we will lose someone that is important to us and it can be painful. If you’re grieving the loss of a loved one, you may not be sure if what you’re feeling is normal. Here are four tips on how to cope with your grief:

1)     Be patient with yourself.  Grief is a process. There really is no “normal” amount of time to grieve the loss of someone.  Sometimes it can be easy to jump into to school, work, or other responsibilities as a way speed up the grieving process or to avoid it altogether. However, you need time. Don’t force yourself to recover right away, because that can actually hinder the grieving process.

2)     Seek support. Spend time with friends and family. See a therapist. Try not to isolate yourself. There may be days when you really don’t feel like being bothered, but try to schedule time to be with others. You don’t have to use this time to talk about the loved one or the loss if you don’t want to.

3)     Let yourself feel. It is perfectly normal and okay to be sad, angry, confused, etc when you lose someone that you love. Don’t try to hide these feelings by self-medicating with alcohol or drugs. You need to allow yourself to feel the pain in order to heal.

4)     Celebrate the memory of your loved one. Just because your loved one is gone doesn’t mean they are forgotten. There are an endless number of ways to celebrate their life. Plant a tree in their memory, run a 5K, start a foundation in their name, or create a scrapbook of old photos. Most of all, do something that makes you feel good!

There will be some good and not-so-good days, but time really does heal all wounds.  There is no guarantee you’ll recover from the loss in six weeks or even six months. However, understand that grief is something that everyone experiences differently. Let yourself go through it in a way that’s healthy and normal for YOU.

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