How To Stop Thinking About Someone After They're Gone

Medically reviewed by Laura Angers Maddox, NCC, LPC
Updated February 21, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

death in the family, a breakup, an illness, or a move to a new city can all be causes for feelings of loss. In some cases, the loss may be obvious and immediate, like the death of a spouse or loved one. Other times, the separation may happen more gradually or be more subtle, such as drifting apart from someone close to you. Whatever the situation, we may find ourselves ruminating about that person and grieving for the good times we had while being unable to move forward. Knowing what to say when someone loses a loved one or how to comfort yourself when managing a loss can be complicated. If this is something you are experiencing, read on for a few tips on how to cope when you have lost someone near to you. 

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Coping with loss can be difficult

Different kinds of loss

Loss can come in many different forms and happen in a range of circumstances. Here are a few specific kinds of loss that might be hard to navigate:

Death

Losing someone to death can be one of the most difficult separations to endure. In this obvious and permanent kind of loss, grief can be overwhelming and take a long time to navigate. A person mourning the death of a loved one may immediately experience intense emotions, such as sadness and anger, followed by periods of emotional numbness and difficulty concentrating. 

The end of a relationship 

The end of a relationship could mean a divorce from your spouse, a breakup with your significant other, or a bitter falling-out with a good friend. Recent studies have shown that a relationship ending can be likened to the grieving process of death. These losses included “breaking up” with a dear friend or losing a job. 

Travel or relocation

If you typically see a friend or loved one every day, but then one or both of you move away, it can be difficult to handle the loss of regular in-person contact and adjust to the new dynamic. Further, when a person moves to a new place there are the added stressors of a foreign environment and need to make new connections. 

Unrequited love

While some may be tempted to dismiss this kind of loss as trivial, love not realized can still be painful. Once a person realizes that they will never have a relationship with someone they care for or the person does not want them back, there is a series of losses that can be felt. For example, we may lose the future we imagined with that person, the loss of self-esteem caused by rejection, or we may lose that connection altogether.

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How to cope

No matter your situation, you may find yourself wondering how to cope with these difficult feelings and move forward. If this is something you are navigating, consider some of the tips below: 

Let yourself grieve

After losing someone, some of us may feel tempted to shove down the negative feelings and try to just push forward. However, allowing ourselves to grieve the loss is an important aspect of the process of realization and acceptance. In some way, you may notice a shift in your thoughts and emotions, whether you cry, get angry, or just cannot get them out of your head. Try to acknowledge those feelings whenever they arise and allow them to exist. Grief can look different for everyone and can occur on different timelines, so there is no one way to grieve. Be kind and patient with yourself and allow yourself to feel the range of emotions that may come. 

Focus on the present moment

If you lost someone very close and dear to you, you may find yourself filled with thoughts about the past with them or the future you no longer have with them. When you find that you are dwelling in these past moments, take a moment to focus on the present moment. Understandably, finding this mind space to let go is challenging. You might find it helpful to allow yourself to remember a positive memory of the person you have lost, and then move to the present.

One way to try to do this is through mindfulness practices. Mindfulness can involve sitting quietly and focusing your attention on your immediate environment, such as the sounds of the room among other sensations, and the movement of your breath. Through regular practice, you may find you are able to manage the feelings of loss and move out of the past. 

Spend time with friends and family

When going through the emotions associated with loss, it can be helpful to spend time with other people you love and care about (and who love and care about you). Cultivating and maintaining strong social relationships can be beneficial for our well-being and resilience. When navigating loss, try to prioritize time with people who make you feel loved and comforted. This may mean strengthening connections with loved ones, reconnecting with old friends, or seeking out new friends and new experiences. 

Distance yourself if needed

If the loss you are experiencing involves a breakup or an unrequited crush, you may consider taking time away from that person if needed. In some cases, being around that person may cause more hurt and may make it difficult to heal and move forward. Try to figure out what might be best for you and consider creating boundaries as needed. 

Getty/AnnaStills
Coping with loss can be difficult

Incorporate positive thinking

While finding a positive mindset during this time can seem impossible, incorporating a brighter perspective of the situation can be helpful. We might feel consumed with grief and pain, we might be focused solely on the negative aspects of the person who has hurt or rejected us. We might continually be contemplating "what if’s," wondering if the person would still be here with us if we had done something differently. 

While these thoughts can be natural, it may also be helpful to try to balance out some of these thoughts with more positive thoughts and memories. This does not mean you need to pretend the loss does not hurt. Rather, you might try to remember some of your favorite memories with the loved one you have lost. You can also consider what new opportunities await you after a breakup or think about what you have learned from a lost friendship. Try to spend some time on the positive aspects of the relationship, person, or situation. Studies show that individuals who tend towards a positive disposition and the expression of affirming emotions experience a stronger adjustment after the initial moments of the loss have subsided.

Further help is available

Coping with any kind of loss can be difficult and painful, and if you would like additional support, know you can connect with a licensed therapist online for help. 

Experiencing loss can often be extremely painful, and sometimes, we may feel so overwhelmed that we want to stay in bed and not face the world for a bit. In these cases, the thought of commuting to an in-person therapy appointment may seem overwhelming, and being able to meet with a therapist from the comfort of home may feel more convenient. With online therapy, you can match with and speak with a therapist from wherever you have the internet, including the comfort of your own home. 

A growing body of research has demonstrated the effectiveness of online therapy for a range of concerns. For instance, one research study examined the efficacy of an internet-based cognitive behavioral therapy program for people experiencing complicated grief. The study authors found that people who received the online treatment improved significantly compared to those who did not “on symptoms of intrusion, avoidance, maladaptive behavior, and general psychopathology.”

Continue reading below for reviews of some BetterHelp therapists from those seeking help in working through grief and loss.

Counselor reviews

“Chinyere has been amazing with being supportive of me when I need it most and I have no one really else in the world to listen. She has given me good coping tools and made me feel like over time I can get through the pain I’m feeling for the loss of my fiancé. I would highly recommend her!”

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“Rick has been so wonderful to talk to. He is warm, funny, empathetic, and also just the right amount of no-nonsense. I was so pleasantly surprised by how well we connected despite our outward differences. He helped me talk through my grief and understand what I was going through while often making me laugh. I wish him nothing but the best - I'm off to live my life, but will definitely be back if I need a friend to lean on. :)”

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Takeaway

Experiencing loss can feel overwhelming at times and figuring out how to move forward can be difficult to handle on your own. Allowing yourself time to grieve, focusing on the present moment, and spending time with loved ones are all coping strategies that can help you move through the grieving process. Every person has their own process of grieving and has their own unique needs through the journey. If you would like additional support in navigating loss, you can speak with an online therapist for help.
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