Hello Annie, and thank you for reaching out for help with regards to the distress you are experiencing as a result of the losses you have experienced over the past year. I am truly sorry for you’re loss of your mother, as well as of your long term relationship. Losing anyone, especially a parent, is a truly traumatic and difficult experience. Not to add the loss of a romantic partner with whom you have been in said relationship for such a lengthy period of time. Understandably, your feelings may be overwhelming and too difficult to push through at times, thus resulting in the feeling that you weren’t good enough or any number of other negative thoughts and emotions. You can only do so much, and your body needs more rest now in order to process the losses that you’ve experienced.
There’s no right or wrong way to grieve the loss of a parent, but perhaps these strategies can offer some additional tips and ideas of what to do in your mourning and grief as you continue to acknowledge your loss.
1) Know that what you feel is valid. Sadness is common after the loss of a parent, but it’s also normal for other feelings to take over. You may not feel sad, and that’s OK, too. Perhaps you only feel numb, or relieved they’re no longer in pain. Grief opens the gate to a flood of complicated, often conflicting emotions. Your relationship with your parent might have had plenty of challenges, but it still represented an important key to your identity. They created you and became your first anchor in the world. After such a significant loss, it’s only natural to struggle or experience difficulties coming to terms with your distress. You might experience: anger or frustration; guilt, perhaps for not contacting them frequently or not being present for their death; shock and emotional numbness; confusion, disbelief, or a sense of unreality; hopelessness or despair; physical pain; mental health symptoms, including depression or thoughts of suicide; and even relief that they’re no longer in pain. No matter how the loss hits you, remember this: Your feelings are valid, even if they don’t line up with what others think you “should” feel.
2) Let yourself fully experience the loss (no matter how long it takes). People react to grief in different ways, but it’s important to let yourself feel all of your feelings. There’s no single right way to grieve, no set amount of time after which you can automatically expect to feel better, no stages or steps of grief to check off a list. This in itself can be difficult to accept. Denying your feelings may seem like a route toward faster healing. You might also get the message that others expect you to bury your grief and move on before you’ve come to terms with your loss. Remind yourself grief is a difficult process as well as a painful one. Try to not let the opinions of others sway you. Some people work through grief in a short time and move forward with the remnants of their sadness safely tucked away. Others need more time and support, no matter how expected the death was. If your parent passed after a long illness, you may have had more time to prepare, but no amount of preparation makes your grief any less significant when it hits. You might still feel stunned and disbelieving, especially if you held out hope for their recovery to the very end. The unexpected death of a parent still in middle age, on the other hand, may force you to confront your own mortality, a battle that can also complicate grief.
3) Take care of your well-being. Grief often has a significant impact on daily life: Your state of mind might change rapidly, without warning; You might notice sleep problems, more or less of an appetite, irritability, poor concentration, or increased alcohol or substance use; You might find it tough to work, take care of household tasks, or see to your own basic needs; and/or the need to wrap up your parent’s affairs may leave you overwhelmed, particularly if you have to handle this task alone. Some people find comfort in the distraction of work, but try to avoid forcing yourself to return before you feel ready, if possible. People often throw themselves into work, taking on more than they can comfortably handle to avoid scaling the ever-present wall of painful emotions. Finding a balance is key. Some distraction can be healthy, provided you still make time to address your feelings. It might seem difficult, even inconsiderate, to dedicate time to self-care, but prioritizing your health becomes even more important as you recover from your loss. Keep these tips in mind: Get enough sleep. Set aside 7 to 9 hours each night for sleep; Avoid skipping meals. If you don’t feel hungry, choose nutritious snacks and small meals of mood-boosting foods; Hydrate. Drink plenty of water; Keep moving. Stay active to energize yourself and help raise your spirits. Even a daily walk can help; Aim for moderation. If you drink alcohol, try to stay within recommended guidelines. It’s understandable to want to numb your pain, but increased alcohol use can have health consequences; Reset. Rest and recharge with fulfilling hobbies, such as gardening, reading, art, or music; Be mindful. Meditating or keeping a grief journal can help you process emotions; Speak up. Talk to your healthcare provider about any new physical or mental health symptoms. Reach out to friends and other loved ones for support.
4) Share memories. Talking to family members and other loved ones about what your parent meant to you and sharing stories can help keep their memory alive. If you have children, you might tell stories about their grandparent or carry on family traditions that were important in your childhood. It might feel painful at first to reminisce, but you may find that your grief begins to ease as the stories start flowing. If you feel unable to openly talk about your parent for the moment, it can also help to collect photographs of special times or write them a letter expressing your grief about their passing. Not everyone has positive memories of their parents, of course. And people often avoid sharing negative memories about people who’ve passed. If they abused, neglected, or hurt you in any way, you may wonder whether there’s any point to dredging up that old pain. If you’ve never discussed or processed what happened, however, you might find it even harder to heal and move forward after their death. Opening up to a therapist or someone else you trust can help lighten the load.
5) Do something in their memory. Many people find that specific actions can help honor a deceased parent and offer a measure of comfort. You might consider: creating a small home memorial with photos and mementos; planting their favorite tree or flower in your backyard, adopting their pet or plants; continuing work they found meaningful, like volunteering or other community service; and/or donating to their preferred charity or organization.
6) Forgive them. Upon hearing the news that an estranged parent has passed away, you might feel lost, numb, angry, or surprised by your grief. You might even feel cheated of the opportunity to address past trauma or unresolved hurt. Life doesn’t always give us the answers we seek or the solutions we crave. Sometimes you just have to accept inadequate conclusions, however unfinished or painful they feel. Knowing you can no longer address the past might leave you feeling as if you’re doomed to carry that hurt forever. Instead of clutching tight to any lingering bitterness, try viewing this as an opportunity to let go of the past and move forward — for your sake. Some things are truly difficult to forgive, but harboring resentment only harms you, since there’s no one left to receive it. A letter can help you express things previously left unsaid and take the first steps toward processing the painful and complex feelings left after their death. Working with a therapist can also help you begin to heal the pain of the past.
7) Let others comfort you. Friends and loved ones may not know exactly what to say if they haven’t faced the same type of loss, but their presence can still help you feel less alone. It’s normal to need time to mourn privately, but at the same time, completely isolating yourself generally doesn’t help. The companionship and support of those closest to you can help keep you from being overwhelmed by your loss. Beyond providing a supportive presence, friends can also help out with meals, child care, or handling errands. Just be sure to let others know what you need. If you want to talk about your parent, you might ask if they’re able to listen. If you’d like a break from thinking about their death, you might ask them to join you in a distracting activity, whether that’s playing a game, watching a movie, or working on a project around the house.
8) Embrace family relationships. You might notice family relationships begin to change after your parent’s death. Your remaining parent, if still living, may now look to you and your siblings for support. Your siblings, if you have any, are facing the same loss. Their unique relationship with your parent can mean they experience the loss differently than you do, too. Research suggests the death of a parent often negatively affects closeness between adult siblings. It’s not unusual for siblings to experience conflict or slowly drift apart, particularly if you disagreed over your parent’s end-of-life care. Yet family bonds can provide comfort during grief. You’ve experienced the same loss, even though that person meant something different to each of you. If you cherish your family relationships, make an effort to strengthen those bonds and draw closer together. This might mean reaching out more often than in the past or inviting them more regularly to visit and participate in family gatherings. It can also mean listening with empathy when a sibling who had a difficult relationship with your parent now finds it hard to come to terms with their conflicting emotions.
9) Consider grief support groups. Friends and loved ones may offer comfort, but a grief support group can fulfill a different kind of social need by connecting you to others who have experienced similar losses. It’s not uncommon to feel irritated or frustrated when people in your life who haven’t experienced loss attempt to console you or express messages of concern. No matter how kind or well intentioned their words are, they simply don’t understand what you’re going through. In a support group, you can find a shared understanding, along with validation of the emotions you feel unable to express to anyone else.
10) Talk to a therapist. There’s no shame in needing extra support as you begin processing your parent’s death. In fact, many counselors specialize in providing grief support. A therapist can offer validation and guidance as you begin working through the complex emotions that tend to accompany grief. Grief counselors can also teach coping strategies you can use as you begin adjusting to life without your parent. Therapy also offers a safe space to unpack any guilt, anger, resentment, or other lingering emotions around a deceased parent’s toxic or hurtful behavior, and to achieve some level of closure. If you want to forgive your parent but feel unsure how to begin, a therapist can provide compassionate support.
The bottom line is that grief after a parent’s death can drain you and leave you reeling, no matter what kind of relationship you had. Remember, grieving is a normal, healthy process, one that looks different for everyone. Treat yourself with kindness and compassion, embracing patience as you take the time you need to work through your loss.
And then, there’s the loss of the relationship on top of the loss of the parent, something clinicians may refer to as a form of “complicated grief.” As for the relationship, letting go and moving on is the worst part of a relationship cycle. It can make you feel a lot of negative emotions including sadness, loneliness, depression, and a lot more. The bottom line is that the end of a relationship can be one’s greatest source of unhappiness, at least for the time being, and even for a prolonged period of time after the fact. Here are some tips to help you to grieve the relationship and move on from it so that you can let go of the past, reconnect with people, and move forward in your future to develop perhaps another relationship with someone that might even be better than the one you had with her.
1. Cry a river if you must.
You are allowed to cry and feel pain. You can even grieve if you need to. A failed relationship is not something you should shove off quickly. Crying gives your mind and body instant relief, as it is your body’s way of releasing stress. It will be harder for you to move on if you don’t let your emotions out. It is important to recognize your feelings and work through them so they don’t become bottled up inside and multiply. Allow yourself to explore and feel the loss of what could have been. Try to identify your triggers when you are going through this process, and work through them. Eventually, you may pick up on some patterns of things that excite your emotions, and then make the appropriate efforts to avoid those triggers. When you have finished crying, take a mental note of how you feel. You will probably find that you feel less emotional. And while you may not feel joy right away, you will likely feel calmer, less anxious, and ready to move forward, despite your problems. Try to hold onto this feeling and allow yourself to cry when you need to.
2. Acknowledge your thoughts and feelings.
You need to understand yourself better, and the best way to do this is to acknowledge your emotions. Acknowledge them by associating them with a feeling, and then try to understand it. Your thoughts and feelings are a part of you, and they are there for a reason. Acknowledging your feelings is more than just thinking “This is how I feel right now.” It’s about allowing yourself to experience and feel the emotion and then considering what course of action you will take to help dissipate that pain. When you acknowledge your feelings in this way, it will help both your mind and body to relax. It will help a lot if you write down your thoughts in a journal so you can acquire a better perspective about what happened.
3. Realize that you can’t do anything about it anymore.
After the breakup or the loss of a loved one, you will feel powerless, but that’s okay. You have to accept that things happened and you can’t do anything anymore to change them. All you can do now is figure out how to be happy again. The more you fight the fact that the relationship is over, the worse you will feel. If you continue to resist the breakup, you will not be able to heal or move on. However, if you can learn to accept the breakup with grace, you will begin to heal and gain emotional strength, which will eventually lead to happiness. If you can accept your circumstances, you will feel empowered to create the life that you want. You need to uncover the beliefs, thoughts, and activities that will help you accept this difficult situation.
4. If you can’t forgive the person yet, at least forgive yourself.
It can certainly be hard to forgive, especially if it was the other person’s fault that the relationship ended in the first place. But of course, there will also be times when you feel guilty about not being able to prevent things from happening. In that case, you need to forgive yourself first and understand that things were out of your control. To forgive yourself for any role you may have played in the breakup, or for anything you may have done that ultimately pushed your partner away, it is helpful to keep in mind that we are all doing what we feel is right in any given moment. Whatever you did (or didn’t do) seemed like the best course of action at the time. If you had known that what you were doing would cause pain to you or your partner, you likely wouldn’t have done it. And even if you knew you were causing harm at the time, you were likely unaware of how much you would regret it later. Remember what you learned from your actions, but let go of everything else.
5. When you’re ready, give yourself permission to heal.
Everything has to be clear before you start moving on. Ask yourself, “Am I ready to move on?” Unless and until you’ve finally decided that you want to let go and move on, you wouldn’t be able to do so. Once you’re ready, set aside time every day for self-care. Do something you enjoy, like going for a run, doing some gardening, or meditating. This will help you engage in self-care that will be conducive to your healing. Then, surround yourself with people who are supportive of your healing and who make you feel good about your future. Make sure to listen to your intuition and your body, and do the things that feel right to you. Make a conscious effort to move on with your life during this time as well.
6. Learn to accept that this person was important to you, but the past is past.
Just because it ended doesn’t mean that it was never real. You can love somebody for a long while, and that love may come to an end, but that is still real and genuine love. You won’t be able to complete the rest of the steps if you don’t get through this one. Your past isn’t meant to be forgotten. In a lot of ways, your past is actually meant to be celebrated. You can look back at what you have learned, how you have grown, how other people have shaped you, and what you have become today, which is all-important. Don’t hold onto it, but simply remember it. Accept what it taught you, and how it can help you in the future. Hold its lessons and positive memories close and allow that to build you into a better person.
7. Stop the blaming and let go of the anger.
Most people tend to start off by blaming someone else for their own pain. Your ex did something wrong, or they betrayed you in some way. You want an apology. You want them to recognize their wrongdoing. But the problem with blaming your ex is that it leaves you powerless. When you don’t get the apology or recognition from them that you want, you’re left with anger and no feelings of the resolution, which hurts you more than it hurts the other person. These feelings are legitimate, and you have to allow yourself to feel them. But then you have to move on. Holding on to feelings of anger and resentment is exhausting. They contribute to the physical pain you are feeling. If you keep on feeling these negative emotions, they will have a detrimental effect on your health.
8. Forget the past and focus on the present.
Stop torturing yourself with the “what ifs?” and “if only” statements. See the beauty in your immediate surroundings and appreciate what life still has to offer. Practice mindfulness by accepting the current moment without judgment and not living in the past or the future. Focusing on the present moment can also help you cultivate gratitude for the things in your life that are going well. It can help you see that this relationship was a part of you, but it did not define you. You may have wonderful friends, family, a career, hobbies, pets, or other things that truly make you who you are.
9. Look forward to what the future may bring.
Everything happens for a reason, and your relationship could have ended because there is a new, happier one waiting for you in the future. The breakup could be a blessing in disguise. Life is preparing you for the years to come. The possibilities for your future are limitless. Take this time for yourself and make a plan for what you want your future to look like. Put yourself back in the driver’s seat of your life and be selfish about how you spend your time, and who you spend it with. This can help you shape a future that holds a lot of new opportunities.
10. Learn from this experience.
As this was a major event in your life, make sure that you learn something from it. That way, if the time comes that you experience it again (hopefully not!), you’ll know how to handle things better. Take note of the coping skills that really work for you and help you feel empowered. Find the things in your life that truly bring you happiness or allow you to get away from any negativity that surrounds you. Keep these tips in mind in the future if you find yourself in a similar situation.
11. Open your heart to possible new relationships.
Many people decide to close their doors after a significant heartbreak. Don’t be that kind of person. It’s not easy to trust again and fall in love, but you need to try. While you don’t necessarily want to jump right into a new relationship, keep yourself open to the possibility of moving on with someone else. You may not realize that you are fully over your ex until you find yourself happy again with someone new.
12. Find comfort in the company of your family and friends.
Your significant other may have left you, but your true friends and family never will. When everything else fails, there’s no other way to feel safe but to go home. Make things simple again by spending your time with the people who have known you the longest. Not only can these people help comfort you, but they will also remind you of who you are and where you came from. They will regrind you and help you start fresh.
13. Take time to love yourself
Never underestimate the power of self-love. I am not talking about self-love to the point of narcissism. But we all need to love ourselves before others can love us back. A little bit of self-love and pampering are great ways to both lift the funk of a failed relationship and give you the mental clarity to find yourself a new and better relationship in the ashes of your old relationship.
Getting over someone you love deeply and moving on with your life is not a process you can accomplish overnight. It’s not easy, and never will be. But you need to keep fighting. No matter how difficult it is or how painful it may feel, you need to stand your ground and push yourself to be better. Amidst all the struggles, you are still destined to be the happier human you deserve to be. You just have to figure out how, and you have to be ready. Hopefully, the tips and guidelines I have provided can help you to get over that person you love deeply. If you want to learn how to love yourself more, and how to invest in yourself to be a better person, do whatever it is that feels right for you. Celebrate life even after the most painful heartbreak. I wish you all the best in your journey of healing and moving forward and if there’s anything else I can do to help, please don’t hesitate to reach out.