How To Deal With Intense Sadness And Sorrow After A Death
Updated February 17, 2020
Reviewer Avia James
When a loved one dies, feelings of sadness and sorrow can seem overwhelming. You recognize that having those feelings is natural, but feel as though you can only do so much of it. You want to stop crying. You want your heart to heal. Healing isn't an easy task. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to diminish the emotional pain of loss.
Why It's So Hard When A Loved One Dies
Losing a loved one is hard for manyreasons. Of course, you miss them, after all, they were once a part of your reality, of your day-to-day routine. Now that they are gone, you have to adjust to a life without them. There may be things you won't do without them or places you won't go on your own.
If they were your spouse, you mayhave to live alone now that they are gone. You may have to take care of business that you haven't done in a while, or ever before, in some cases. To make matters even more complicated, not only that you are facing similar and many other practical problems, you'realso finding yourself dealing with feelings of sadness and sorrow.
What Are Common Signs Of Grief?
If you're feeling grief and sorrow after death, it can show up in other ways, too. You may have feelings of sadness, loneliness, anger, anxiety, denial, fear, irritability, relief, shock, confusion, or guilt. Your thoughts may be confusing, and you may have trouble concentrating. You may obsess about what you've lost.
You may have physical sensations, too. You may feel dizzy, have a fast heartbeat, feel tired, hyperventilate, be short of breath, feel tightness or heaviness in your chest or throat, or have headaches or stomach aches. You may gain or lose weight.
Your behavior might change, as well. You may cry much more often than usual. You may lose interest in doing things you once found enjoyable. You may be restless or throw yourself into your work. You may have trouble sleeping.
How Long Will This Sadness And Sorrow Last?
There's no specific timetable for grief. Many people feel better within eight weeks, but others take up to four years to get beyond their grief. However long it takes you is okay. Rushing yourself is counterproductive. If you can be patient with the grieving process, you'll get through it much more easily.
How To Deal With The Pain Of Loss
Even though you know where the pain is coming from, you still need to deal with it in a way that allows you to keep functioning. The following are some ways to ease your burden of loss.
Accept The Feelings
By letting yourself experience the feelings that accompanythe loss, you can accept them as they come. Otherwise, the feelings you bury or deny may come up later or change you in unconscious ways. So, don't judge your feelings as good or bad. Know that they have a purpose, and they will diminish over time.
Use Relaxation Techniques
By learning relaxation techniques, you can feel calmer and deal with your current situation better. One relaxation technique is systematic muscle relaxation. This is a good technique for when you're feeling angry or stressed. Lie on your back and tense the muscles of your toes. Hold them tense for several seconds, and then release them completely. Next, tighten the muscles of your feet, hold, and release. Continue upward until you reach your head, tightening, holding and releasing.
Another technique is deep breathing. You can do this in several ways. Breathe in deeply, hold, breathe out, hold, and breathe in again. You can imagine the bad feelings going out as you exhale, and positive feelings coming in as you inhale. Or, you can breathe into a count of four, hold for a count of four, breathe in for a count of four, and hold for a count of four. You can breathe from the chest, the diaphragm, or the belly. Experiment with different ways to find what works best for you.
Try Thought Stopping
Thought stopping is a technique you can use to fight obsessive thoughts. When your thoughts begin to circle, imagine a stop sign. If the image of a stop sign doesn't work, you can think the word "stop," or even say it out loud. You may have to practice thought-stopping for a while before it successfully ends the obsessive thoughts. When you get the hang of it, it can be very effective.
Talk About The Loss
It's important to talk about the loss and the sadness and sorrow you feel. Don't worry that your feelings are uncomfortable for others. Your loved ones will likely be very supportive. If they aren't, you can find someone outside of the family to talk to and get support from, such as a minister or a counselor. If talking isn't your thing, find other ways to express your feelings. You can do it through art, journaling, or music, for instance.
Remember The Good Times
The death and the loss that came with it may be at the forefront of your brain right now. Try to set those thoughts aside and think of your loved one during better times instead. Remember the happy times you spent together. Sharing memories of the past is fine. Everyone does it. If you live your life in the present moment, sharing your experiences can benefit you and those around you.
Honor Their Memory
It may help you to do something special to honor your lost loved one. Donate to a charity in their name. Start a community project to honor their memory. Have a portrait painted of them from an old photo you have or paint it yourself. Name a child after them. Allow yourself to make a place for their memory in your life and the lives of others.
Set Up A Dialogue With The Lost Loved One
When something happens that you don't know how to deal with on your own, try having a "conversation" with your lost loved one. You can write out the conversation in a journal, think it out, or even say it out loud in privacy.
If this person has been a major part of your life, you probably talked about your feelings with them and used them as a sounding board for problem-solving. By using your imagination, you can fulfill some of those needs on your own.
Think Of Them Regularly
Although obsessing can increase your pain, it's a good idea to set aside some time to think of them regularly. You might go through your old photos of them once a month. Another thing you can do is to go somewhere once or twice a year where the two of you visited often.
Imagine Their Reactions
After you lose someone important to you, you miss their input and reactions. Imagine how they would react to things that happen in your life, things people say to you, or the decisions you make. Imagine how they would respond to your sadness and sorrow.
Find The Silver Lining
While it may be difficultto think abouta loss in a way that is not negative,finding something positive that's happened following the loss, is likely to make acceptance rather easier.Maybe you're learning to be more independent. Maybe you've tried something new that you would have neverattempted ifyou were in the comfort of the relationship.Perhaps you've moved to a new neighborhood or met new people. If your loved one was ill or in pain, you may find comfort in knowingthat they are no longer suffering. The death will never be a completely positive event, but it can be helpful to acknowledge the good things that came afterward.
Take Care Of Yourself
Now more than ever, it's important to take care of your physical and emotional needs. Avoid alcohol and drug abuse. Eat healthy foods, get enough sleep, and get enough exercise. Pay attention to your grooming habits, so you can look and feel better and stay healthy.
Maintain Your Support System
Set aside time to be with friends and family regularly. Isolating yourself only intensifies feelings of grief and sorrow. Besides that, you may need help overcoming the practical challenges that come with being on your own. Having stable support is crucial, and it isn't out of your control. Be there for others and let them be there for you.
Allow Yourself To Feel Happy
Sometimes, when people are grieving, they feel guilty whenever they laugh or smile. They feel like they deny the importance of the loss. Yet, enjoying life is natural and beneficial to you. Anyone who truly loved you wouldn't want you to be sad forever. If happy feelings come, accept them and let them lift your mood.
Dealing With Complicated Grief
If you are concerned that your sadness and sorrow are more intense than they should be, you might have a condition called complicated grief. Complicated grief is a term that refers to grief reactions that are more intense and prolonged than intypical grief. The signs of complicated grief include:
- Intrusive fantasies about the lost relationship
- Severe emotions about the lost loved one
- Strong wishes that the loved one was alive
- Feelings of being too alone or feelings of emptiness
- Staying away from people and places that remind you of the lost relationship
- Sleep problems related to the loss
- Complete loss of interest atwork, in social life, in taking care of yourself and others, and/or in recreational activities to the point that your world becomes very small
It's very hard for someone to judge for themselves whether their grief is typical or severe. If you are concerned that you aren't bouncing back as you should, it's best to talk to a counselor or psychiatrist to get their opinion.
Watch For Signs of Depression
Grief and depression can be very similar, but there are differences. If you have any of the following symptoms while grieving, it's a good idea to ask a doctor or counselor if you're suffering from depression:
- Your feelings of sadness and sorrow keep you from functioning in your daily life.
- Fatigue, insomnia, and indecisiveness last more than a few months.
- You can never express enjoyment.
- The future looks bleak.
- You see yourself in a negative light.
- You feel loneliest or saddest when you're with others.
- You isolate yourself from your support system.
- You start using alcohol or drugs, or, alternatively, increase use of them.
- You have had several significant losses recently.
- You blame yourself for the death or past wrongs.
- You feel hopeless.
If you're concerned that you may be depressed or becoming depressed, it's very important that you talk to a counselor right away. You can rely on them to identify any complicated grief or depression that might have come up for you. Then, they can work with you to create a plan for dealing with your grief and sorrow.
A therapist can help you learn relaxation techniques and identify thought to stop. They can help you choose different thoughts and behaviors that are more constructive and conducive to your wellbeing. Through it all, they are there to listen, empathize, and encourage you to make healthier choices.
You can privately talk to a licensed counselor at BetterHelp.com for help with grief issues. Through the counseling process, you can learn how to adapt to your loss and how to successfully grow and develop within this new reality.
With the right help, you can learn to deal with the sadness and sorrow more comfortably and productively. While death ended your loved one's life, it doesn't have to end your life. Through therapy, you can learn ways to overcome the sadness.