How To Deal With A Loss In The Family

By Sarah Strumeier

Many of us have had the unfortunate experience of losing a loved one in the family. When losing a loved one, a multitude of emotions can surface, such as shock, anger, denial, numbness, and sadness. These emotions that one may experience are often known as grief and are very much a part of the grieving process. What’s important to know about the grieving process and mourning the loss of a loved one is that there is no right or wrong way to grieve. Grief is not linear. It’s important to be aware of this because dealing with loss in the family can greatly impact our physical health and mental health. Grief can impair our functioning and our ability to sleep and eat, as well as cause feelings of depression and anxiety. Although grieving is a highly individualized experience, below are ways you can cope with the loss of loved ones in the family:

Don’t Ignore Your Pain

People often think that the way to “get through” their grief and grieving process is to ignore their pain. Ignoring the pain of losing a loved one can delay your grieving process or possibly impact the way you grieve in the long run. The best way to process your feelings of grief no matter how hard it may be is to acknowledge the pain that you are experiencing. You are experiencing that pain because the loss you experienced was significant. Allowing yourself to feel the pain will allow you to grieve and lead you to a path of healing, no matter how long that may take.

It’s Okay To Cry & Not Be Strong

Our society tends to label crying as weak or a negative experience, when in reality it can be an extremely cathartic experience when coping with the loss of a loved one. You are allowed to be sad! In the same breath, society often tells us “you have to be strong” in the face of loss and one may have to put on a brave front. Hearing and doing this can be very harmful to one’s mental health. Showing your true feelings, whether that is sadness or needing the support of others during a time of great loss is healthy. It’s okay to not feel okay.

Stay Connected

Oftentimes when people are experiencing grief or going through the grieving process, they may want to isolate themselves from the people they care about and love the most. As bad as you may want to isolate, it is important to remain connected to your family members, as well as your friends. Isolation can cause long term mental health effects such as depression. It is also important to remember that part of the reason we may want to isolate ourselves is because we may feel that the people around us may not understand what you are going through. It is okay to tell a family member or a friend how you are truly feeling. If anything, that may help them be able to help and understand you better.

Maintain A Routine

When a loved one passes away in the family, one’s routine can often be disrupted, especially if that routine consisted spending time with that loved one daily. No matter how difficult it may be, it is important to still engage in your hobbies and interests. If you stop engaging in hobbies and interests that once brought you joy, it is going to exacerbate your grief because not only are you grieving the loss of a loved one, but you are also grieving who you once were before the loss occurred. Our hobbies and interests are oftentimes our greatest self-care and it is absolutely important to continue this in our grieving process in order to promote healing.

Seek Out Support

There are different types of support that you can engage in, such as seeking support from other family members, friends, your faith, or joining a support group. You are not a burden and you shouldn’t have to deal with the loss of a family member on your own. When it comes to seeking support from another family member or a friend, the biggest step is to accept their assistance when they are trying to provide you support. Family and friends often want to help you, but don’t know how since every person’s grieving process is unique and individualized. Try to practice by communicating to a family member or a friend what you need from them and see where it takes you. Another big support is joining a support group. Finding a support group that is very specific to the loss you are experiencing can be extremely helpful. In today’s society, a lot of support groups can be found online or by contacting a local hospital or funeral home.

Find A Psychotherapist

One of the best ways to cope with the loss of a family member is to find a therapist. Navigating grief and loss on your own can be very overwhelming. A therapist, especially one that specializes in grief and loss, can help you cope with your grief and make meaning of your loss. A therapist who specializes in grief can find an individualized approach that works best for you at the time that you are seeking therapy. There is no such thing as a one size fits all approach when it comes to therapy and the same applies to helping someone navigate their grief journey. Meeting with a therapist can also reduce long term mental health effects one may experience after a major loss, such as complicated grief or depression. Seeking help from a therapist to manage your grief is just as important as taking care of your physical health. Leaving grief untreated can cause life threatening health issues. Seeking help from a therapist can help you normalize your grief and in turn, improve your overall functioning and wellbeing.