No matter the circumstance, it’s hard to move forward after losing someone important to you. Whether you have lost a friend, family member or colleague, allowing yourself to grieve can help you deal with the loss in a healthy way.
Grief is a natural response to loss, and it can unfold in many ways. And keep in mind that grief is a journey you do not need to take alone.
Everyone grieves in different ways. Some common reactions you may experience include:
- Memories of a past loss
- Difficulty focusing
- Not wanting to be around others
- Overeating or not wanting to eat
- Throwing yourself into work
- Feeling physically ill
When faced with grief, you may want to sleep more, increase your use of alcohol or drugs, or numb your pain in some other way. These behaviors can harm your health both directly and indirectly by interfering with chemicals in your brain that help you heal emotionally. Instead, coping with the loss in a healthy way can help you heal.
Remember, just as a physical wound needs time to heal, recovering emotionally from loss can take time. Grieving is not a tidy process, and sometimes it can feel like you’re taking one step forward and two steps back. Some days, you may crave the company of your friends and family. Other days, you may want to be alone. In one day, you may find yourself laughing with friends and then crying when you hear a song that reminds you of your loss.
During a hard time, these tips may help:
- Expect a range of reactions. This is normal.
- Feel free to express your emotions. Try not to push your grief away or be afraid of feeling vulnerable.
- Talking with a friend or family member about your feelings may comfort you. Joining a support group may also help. Having someone to talk to can be especially helpful during special occasions or when something unexpected reminds you of your loss.
- Acknowledge the person’s life in a way that feels meaningful for you. For example, you may want to donate time or money to a special cause or grow a small garden to honor your friend or family member.
- Allow yourself to feel positive emotions. Remind yourself of people and things in your life that you appreciate.
- When you’re feeling strong emotions, exercise may help. Try going for a walk, a run or a swim.
- Channel your emotions into a hobby or special project. Gardening, painting or other activities can be calming and help you work through your grief.
If you have thoughts of hurting yourself or others, call your Employee Assistance Program (EAP) if you have one, to be connected to a professional who can help, or go to the hospital immediately.