While there's no way to avoid intense feelings of grief, there are healthier ways to come to terms with your loss.
What is bereavement?
Bereavement is the grief and mourning experience following the death of someone important to you. While it’s an inevitable part of life—something that virtually all of us go through at some point—losing someone you love can be one of the most painful experiences you’ll ever have to endure.
Whether it’s a close friend, spouse, partner, parent, child, or other relative, the death of a loved one can feel overwhelming. You may experience waves of intense and very difficult emotions, ranging from profound sadness, emptiness, and despair to shock, numbness, guilt, or regret. You might rage at the circumstances of your loved one’s death—your anger focused on yourself, doctors, other loved ones, or God. You may even find it difficult to accept the person is really gone, or struggle to see how you can ever recover and move on from your loss.
Bereavement isn’t limited to emotional responses, either. Grief at the death of a loved one can also trigger physical reactions, including weight and appetite changes, difficulty sleeping, aches and pains, and an impaired immune system leading to illness and other health problems.
The level of support you have around you, your personality, and your own levels of health and well-being can all play a role in how grief impacts you following bereavement. But no matter how much pain you’re in right now, it’s important to know that there are healthy ways to cope with the anguish and come to terms with your grief. While life may never be quite the same again, in time you can ease your sorrow, start to look to the future with hope and optimism, and eventually move forward with your life.
Understanding the grief of losing a loved one
The intensity of your feelings often depends on the circumstances of your loved one’s death, how much time you spent anticipating their loss, your relationship to them, and your previous experiences of bereavement. Of course, just as no two relationships are the same, no two losses are ever the same, either.
In short, the more significant the person was in your life and the more feelings you had for them—regardless of their relationship to you—the greater the impact their loss is likely to have.
Losing a friend
Close friendships bring joy, understanding, and companionship into our lives. In fact, they’re vital to our health and well-being, so it’s no wonder we can feel their loss so gravely.
When a close friend dies, though, it’s easy to feel marginalized, the closeness of your relationship not given the same significance as a family member or romantic partner. This can lead to what’s called disenfranchised grief, where your loss is devalued or you feel judged or stigmatized for feeling the loss so deeply.
*disenfranchised grief:Disenfranchised grief can occur when your loss is devalued, stigmatized, or cannot be openly mourned. Some people may minimize the loss of a job, a pet, or a friendship, for example, as something that’s not worth grieving over. You may feel stigmatized if you suffered a miscarriage or lost a loved one to suicide.
Disenfranchised grief can also occur when your relationship to a deceased is not recognized. Some people may consider it inappropriate to grieve for a work colleague, classmate, or neighbor, for example. As a close friend or same-sex partner you may be denied the same sympathy and understanding as a blood relative. This can make it even more difficult to come to terms with your loss and navigate the grieving process.
Grieving your loss
Whatever your relationship to the person who died, it’s important to remember that we all grieve in different ways. There’s no single way to react. When you lose someone important in your life, it’s okay to feel how you feel. Some people express their pain by crying, others never shed a tear—but that doesn’t mean they feel the loss any less.
Don’t judge yourself, think that you should be behaving in a different way, or try to impose a timetable on your grief. Grieving someone’s death takes time. For some people, that time is measured in weeks or months, for others it’s in years.
Allow yourself to feel.
The bereavement and mourning process can trigger many intense and unexpected emotions. But the pain of your grief won’t go away faster if you ignore it. In fact, trying to do so may only make things worse in the long run. To eventually find a way to come to terms with your loss, you’ll need to actively face the pain. As bereavement counselor and writer Earl Grollman put it, “The only cure for grief is to grieve.”
Grief doesn’t always move through stages.
You may have read about the different “stages of grief”—usually denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. However, many people find that grief following the death of a loved one isn’t nearly that predictable. For some, grief can come in waves or feel more like an emotional rollercoaster. For others, it can move through some stages but not others. Don’t think that you should be feeling a certain way at a certain time.
Prepare for painful reminders.
Some days the pain of your bereavement may seem more manageable than others. Then a reminder such as a photo, a piece of music, or a simple memory can trigger a wave of painful emotions again. While you can’t plan ahead for such reminders, you can be prepared for an upcoming holiday, anniversary, or birthday that may reignite your grief. Talk to other friends and family ahead of time and agree on the best ways to mark such occasions.
Moving on doesn’t mean forgetting your loved one.
Finding a way to continue forward with your life doesn’t mean your pain will end or your loved one will be forgotten. Most of us carry our losses with us throughout life; they become part of who we are. The pain should gradually become easier to bear, but the memories and the love you had for the person will always remain.
This is a good article (and sub articles) that can help you with grieving the loss of a loved one.