How To Deal With Intense Sadness And Sorrow After A Death

Updated January 27, 2021

Medically Reviewed By: 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 handle so much of it. You know you want to stop crying. You know you want your heart to heal, buthealing isn't an easy task. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to understand and live with the emotional pain of loss.

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Why It's So Hard When A Loved One Dies

Losing a loved one is hard for manyreasons. Of course, you miss them, 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 can’t imagingdoing without them, or places you can’t imagine going withoutthem.

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. You may have complicated feelings of sadness, loneliness, anger, anxiety, or guilt. Your thoughts may be confusing, and you may have trouble concentrating. You may obsess about what you've lost.

It is not uncommon to start feeling physical symptoms of your grief. 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. Weight loss or weight gain can also occur.

Your behavior might change, as well. You may cry much more often than usual, 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. Some people feel better within several months, while others take up to several years to move on. 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.

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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 moving on with life. The following are some ways to ease your burden of loss.

Accept Your Feelings

By letting yourself experience the feelings that accompany the 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 able to 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 how it makes you feel. You may reach out to trusted individuals such as family members or close friends. You may also think about talking to a bereavement counselor or other mental health professional. If talking isn't your thing, find other ways to express your feelings. You can do it through art, journaling, or music, for instance.

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Remember the Good Times

The death and the loss that came with it may be at the forefront of your brain right now. When you have a moment, 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 Temporary Dialogue for Closure

When something happens that you don't know how to deal with on your own, you may think about 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. This should be a temporary process for closure, not a drawn-out coping mechanism that may be self-destructive down the road.

Find The Silver Lining

While it may be difficult to think about loss in a way that is not negative, finding something positive that's happened following the lossis likely to make acceptance rather easier. If your loved one was ill or in pain, you may find comfort in knowing that they are no longer suffering.

Take Care of Yourself

Now more than ever, it's important to take care of your physical and emotional needs. It is critical to avoid alcohol and drug abuse, which can set you back many steps in your journey toward healing. 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 often 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.

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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 be experiencing complicated grief. Complicated grief is a term that refers to grief reactions that are more intense and prolonged than typical 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 at work, 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 licensed counselor or psychiatrist to get their opinion.

Watch for Signs of Depression

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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 for help with grief issues. If you are unsure about going to a face-to-face counseling session, you may want to look into online therapy. Online therapy is growing to be an effective and accessible way to access mental health resources.Through the counseling process, you can learn how to adapt to your loss and how to successfully grow and develop within this new reality.For those struggling with complicated grief, studies have shown that cognitive behavioral therapy and supportive counseling can help improve therapeutic effects of treatment when used in conjunction.

Online therapy can be a good starting point to start addressing your intense feelings and emotions after a death. If you are not comfortable meeting with a therapist in person, know that online therapists are often available through modes such as live messaging and phone calls. These options can give you the space and flexibility you need to put your thoughts into words. Additionally, you may feel more comfortable attending counseling sessions from your own home. Online therapy can be done when and where you are most available and comfortable. There is no need to drive through traffic or wait in a lobby.

If you are considering online therapy, see how BetterHelp has helped individuals going through difficult times:

“Simply put, talking with Chinenye has changed my life for the better in far more ways than one. She radiates warmth and insight and I have left every session with her feeling more empowered and more equipped to handle life's difficulties. It's not everyday you come across someone with as much innate ability to reach out and understand others. She's genuine, she's compassionate, she's wise, and she's a gift. I cannot recommend Chinenye more.”

“Herb is amazing! Working with him has completely changed my outlook on counseling, he has provided me with numerous realistic coping strategies, and he is such a great person to talk to. He truly listens to you and has a way of making you feel so comfortable and that you’re okay. I am so happy I had the pleasure to work with Herb, and I hope he understands the life changing impact he has on those he works with.”


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