Jump To:

  • A- A A+
  • Click to change font size:   

Print this page

12. Coping with the loss of a loved one

The emotional pain and upheaval after the death of someone you love can feel unbearable. Although things may never be quite the same, fortunately, with time, this pain usually does begin to heal.

While everyone is likely to experience grief differently, one way to understand the grief process is through the ‘tasks of grief’ model. This approach states that to cope effectively with a loss, we must do the following:

  1. Accept the reality of the loss.
  2. Experience the pain of grief (it isn’t helpful or possible to try to avoid feelings of grief forever).
  3. Adjust to the new environment where the deceased person is missing (this includes adjusting to practical changes to our life, changes to responsibilities and changes to how we view ourselves and the world).
  4. Reinvest in life and the present moment and create a new type of relationship with the deceased based on your memories of them and their spirit and love (acknowledging the relationship you had with them in the past, understanding that you don’t need to forget them, but that it is okay to connect with other people and the world the way it is now).

The following strategies may help you achieve these ‘tasks’:

  • Put aside some time each day to quietly reflect and fully experience your emotions.
  • Allow yourself to cry.
  • Find a few people who are good listeners and with whom you can share your feelings and experiences. These may be friends, family, professionals or a mixture. As previously stated, expressing this grief is likely to help you to understand, accept and adjust to your losses.
  • Keep a diary of what you’re thinking and how you’re feeling. Having a record of this journey may be interesting to look back on and examine your progress.
  • Make the effort to see some close friends or family – this is likely to improve your mood.
  • Avoid making important, major decisions soon after your loss.
  • Seek professional help (with things as varied as finances, jobs around the house or coping emotionally) – you don’t need to do this alone.
  • Don’t be afraid to talk about the person who has died. While this can be difficult at first, it’s likely to help you and the people around you adjust.
  • Write to the person who has died and tell them how you feel and what you’re thinking.
  • Make a memorial – you could do this by planting a tree, making a photo album or putting some of their special possessions together in a box.
  • Don’t be afraid to remember and celebrate the person who has died on special days such as their birthday.
  • Learning relaxation, scheduling activities that are consistent with your values and problem solving may also be useful strategies to help you cope.

If you find that this is too difficult to do and that grief is enduring and interfering with your quality of life, consider speaking to your GP or a counsellor or psychologist who is trained to provide strategies to help you with the necessary adjustment. When grief isn’t resolved it can lead to depression, so seeking help early is important.