It’s devastating when someone you love passes away, whether it’s a family member, a friend, or even a family pet. Understanding the emotions of grief may help you see that there’s light at the end of the tunnel, and that there are things you can do to work through your feelings.
The emotions you experience after the death of a loved one will vary and change. It’s important to recognise how you feel, rather than bottling things up.
You can expect to experience a range of emotions over time.
Sadness is the most common and immediate reaction following loss of any kind. You might feel empty, weepy, and unable to focus on anything else. You might feel your grief both emotionally and physically. You might want to be left alone – but speaking to someone can help.
The death of your loved one might have been the result of someone else’s actions. In this case, it’s understandable to be angry, even if it was an accident. But even if it was a natural occurrence, you still might feel angry at life itself for being so unfair.
If you feel guilty, it may be because you’re taking the blame for someone’s death upon yourself. This may be because you feel responsible for looking after your loved one. You might also feel guilty for not spending enough time with them or telling them you love them. The best thing to do is to focus on the memories you have, not the ones you don’t have.
After you’ve allowed yourself to experience the other emotions, you’ll eventually become less focused on the past and start to move forwards. This doesn’t mean you’ve forgotten the person; it just means that you’ve begun to come to terms with their death and no longer feel as overwhelmingly sad as you once did.
When someone dies, it can turn your life completely upside down and play havoc with your emotions and physical health. Whatever you feel, it’s important to remember that everyone reacts to death differently, so don’t get caught up with worrying about whether you’re managing grief the ‘right’ way. Allow yourself to feel how you feel, and grieve properly so that you can eventually start to feel better.
Learn more about the common reactions to death.
How you feel about what’s happened will change over time, so some of these things will work better at different times during the grieving process.
Allow yourself 15 to 20 minutes each day to grieve. Make sure you’re in a space where you can be alone. Switch off your phone. This time is a safety valve – it’s an opportunity to allow yourself to deal with any feelings you’ve stored up. How you use it is up to you. Think, cry, pray, meditate, write or draw.
Keep a diary
Write down your feelings about your loss, as well as your memories of the person who has passed away. This is a great way to track how your grief is changing as the weeks and months pass, and can help reassure you, during difficult patches, that you’re making progress.
Let yourself cry (if you can)
Tears are often a sign of strength and show that you’re prepared to work through your grief. So, if you feel like crying, don’t hold yourself back. If you want to cry and can’t, though, don’t worry. A lot of people find it hard to cry, and express their grief in other ways.
Talk to someone you trust
Grieving can feel very lonely, and it’s a long process, so find someone you can talk to, such as a friend or family member. A lot of people find it helpful to talk to people who have been through similar experiences. If you think this might work for you, consider joining a support group.
Give it time
It can take a really long time to work through your lowest moments when someone has died, and it’s normal to feel like your life has been turned upside down for a while. It won’t always be this hard. Time will help to heal the emotional pain.
If you’ve given some of the above strategies a go, and given yourself some time, but you’re still finding it incredibly difficult to deal with what’s happening, it’s a good idea to visit your GP. Managing your grief will be much easier and faster if you have professional support.