Losing a loved one will always be difficult, regardless of whether it’s a positive or negative relationship, or even if you know that it is coming due to your loved one having a terminal illness. Although someone may have an idea when they will lose their loved one, no one is ever really fully prepared to say goodbye when they inevitably pass away.
Below are some things you can do to help cope with the inevitable loss of a loved one:
- Say All the Things You Need to Say – Many people feel sadness and despair after a loved one dies because they feel like they had more to say but never got the chance to. Knowing that your loved one is terminally ill means you know you have limited time with them. Take advantage of this and say what you need to say and express all that you need to
- Learn About What Will Come – Talk to the hospice care providers about what you can expect when your loved one nears passing away. There may be worsening of your symptoms, certain changes in their body appearance and breathing, change in their behavior, or they may pass suddenly. You can also get additional care for your loved one at the end, making it easier for you to process at the end seeing your loved one cared for properly
- Enjoy Special Moments Together – There is still time left, so make the most of it! Spend time talking about your lives and memories together, listen to special music together, and bring children or pets to visit; there are so many things you can do to make this time memorable for you and your loved one
- Get Counseling and Support – Losing a loved one will be tough no matter what kind of preparations you have done. You can work through your grief and other feelings you may be experiencing with a grief counselor or through a grief program; you can start with these before your loved one passes and continue after their passing
Psychological Effects of Death of a Loved One
The loss of a loved one is a very stressful event and can cause a major emotional crisis. After the death of someone you love, you experience bereavement, which means “to be deprived by death”.
Even when a death is expected, you may experience a wide range of emotions. Some of these motions you may experience include:
These feelings are normal and common reactions to the loss of a loved one. You may not be fully prepared for the intensity and duration of these emotions, or for how quickly these can change in just one day or week. It is important to remember that it takes time to fully absorb the impact of a major loss. These feelings are healthy and appropriate and will help you come to terms with this loss.
Dealing With a Major Loss of a Loved One
The reactions you experience are influenced by the circumstances of death and the relationship you have with the person who passed.
- A Child – A child’s death gives an overwhelming feeling of injustice for lost potential, unfulfilled dreams, and unnecessary suffering. Parents may feel responsible for the child’s death, no matter how irrational that sounds
- A Spouse – A spouse’s death is very traumatic. In addition, this can cause a financial crisis, if the spouse that passed was a large source of income for the family
- Elderly – The elderly may be especially vulnerable when they lose a spouse and may begin to feel lonely
- A Loss Due to Suicide – This is one of the most difficult losses to bear. This may leave survivors with a large amount of guilt, anger, and shame. They may even feel responsible for the death
The trauma of Losing a Loved One
Grieving for a loved one is expressed in many ways, like physically, emotionally, and psychologically. Losing this person can be traumatic for someone making it difficult to move on. Some people may even report some physical struggles along with their grief like stomach pains, loss of appetite, intestinal upsets, sleep disturbances, and loss of energy.
At first, it may seem helpful to separate yourself from the pain of losing a loved one, however, you cannot avoid grieving forever, as it can cause physical or emotional illness if these feelings are not resolved.
Coping with Grief From Losing a Loved One
Coping with death is very important to your mental health. It is natural to experience grief when a loved one dies and it is important to allow yourself to grieve. Below are some suggestions on the many ways you can cope with your pain:
- Seek Out Caring People – Find relatives and friends who understand your feelings of loss
- Express Your Feelings – Tell others how you are feeling because it will help you through the grieving process
- Take Care of Your Health – Maintain your regular doctor checkups and eat well and get plenty of sleep
- Accept That Life is for the Living – You will need to put in the effort to live in the present and not dwell on the past
- Postpone Major Life Changes – Try to hold off on any major life decisions and allow yourself to adjust to the loss
- Be Patient – It can take months or even years to adjust to your changed life
- Seek Outside Help When Necessary – If your grief seems like it is getting to be too much to handle on your own, seek help from a professional to help you work through your grief
Every person is different, meaning how they handle and process grief varies. For some this may mean surrounding themselves with a group of friends, strangers, or family, while others may need some time alone to process their initial shock to the event. Shock is real when it comes to losing a loved one and it’s important to allow the grief to set in. This is a natural, healthy way of allowing the brain and emotions to work through what someone just experienced. Don’t hesitate to reach out if it becomes too difficult to deal with on your own; you are not alone!