How to cope with the loss of a close relative or friend

The death of someone we love is no doubt the most stressful life event experienced. Healing is not about ‘getting over the loss’ but more an adjustment to life without the person who has died. This takes time, maybe several years but grief cannot be hurried, neither can we avoid it.

Bereavement is also a very individual experience and no two people mourn in the same way. However, for most of us the journey follows a similar path through the shock and disbelief, waves of pain and sadness and a whole range of other intense and often ambivalent feelings – anger, depression, euphoria, which often take us by surprise.

Along the way there are things we can do to help cope with the pain and sense of desolation. Here are some suggestions of ways in which we can/may help ourselves.

  • Healing and adjustment happens one step at a time and there will be good days and bad days. As time goes by you will find the good days gradually become more frequent – give yourself time.
  • Cry when you feel the need, letting out the pain and grief helps us work towards healing.
  • Talk about that has happened with family and others who are sympathetic.
  • Be kind to yourself, listen to your own needs, particularly at times when you are feeling really low and do not expect too much too soon.
  • Make the effort to keep up contacts with friends, even if they live some distance away.
  • Do not be afraid to ask for help and if you feel the need get in touch with an organisation that offers support in bereavement.
  • Big decisions or changes, such as moving house are better left for at least a year, rather than made when emotions and thoughts are volatile and fluctuating.
  • Bear in mind that grief can affect health on all levels, producing a range of ‘symptoms’ and altered perceptions, some of which may seem quite bizarre.
  • Keep an eye on your health, eating properly, take regular rest and exercise. Do visit your doctor if you are worried about your health.
  • Aim to keep a regular normal routine and plan your days ahead.
  • It can help to write thoughts and feelings down in a letter to the person who has died, or to express them creativity in other ways such as a painting or a poem.
  • Remember that other people want to help, but often do not know what to say or how to help.