Losing someone you love can upend your life and leave you feeling completely desolate.
If you have ever experienced a loss, you know how difficult and turbulent it can be to accept this distressing change.
Although the only thing that will ever heal your pain entirely is time, here are some other things to keep in mind and that might help you cope during this very challenging period of your life.
Let the pain wash over you
Your initial instinct upon losing someone might be to just numb the pain by getting right back to your daily life. Letting yourself experience the absolute tsunami of emotions that inevitably threaten to wash over you sounds awful, and, in all honesty, it will be. It’s going to tear you to pieces and leave you more broken than you ever thought possible.
But as terribly as it hurts, you have to let it happen. Suppressing the storm will only delay it, not make it disappear.
So when that wave of emotion hits you at the grocery store, just let it. Cry, fuss, shriek. Devolve into a child. Listen to Adele and The Script. Go for an aimless drive and howl on the freeway. Do whatever it is that your gut is pulling you to do, and just embrace it, no matter how childish it might seem.
At first, these waves will knock you to the ground and threaten to keep you there. But the more you just let yourself feel, the less impactful they’ll be.
Maybe, at first, this loss will be on your mind 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. But one day, you’ll wake up without feeling your pain until lunch time. And the next, you’ll make it to dinner without crying.
Each day of change will become an achievement, a little milestone to celebrate. At a certain point — perhaps very, very far into the future — you will go through the day fondly remembering the person you have lost, but without mourning their absence. It might feel inconceivable now, but it will come. I promise.
Send them love
I think the most difficult, devastating thing about a loss is its permanence. Losing someone forever is awful for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that you continue to remind yourself that you will never speak to them again, never see them laugh, never hear them say your name.
But when this realization dawns on you, write down whatever it is that you wish you could say to your loved one. Write down whatever it is that you wish you could do with them. Then, imagine that they, wherever they may be, are receiving your message. Send them love and light, and trust that they hear you.
Honor your loved one
Allowing the memory of your loved one to live on, even if they are physically gone or physically far from you, will not only honor them, but will also help you cope. It will make their loss feel less permanent, and will give you some sense of groundedness in the situation.
When you feel ready, read one of the poems they wrote or put a picture of them on your desk. Understand that they might not be physically with you, but in more ways than one, their essence lives on.
Choose what to channel your energy into
You might feel inclined to eat all of the chocolate in the world and watch The Notebook on repeat forever. Which you should certainly do for the first few weeks, and maybe even months of finding out about your loss.
But at a certain point, these comforting behaviors can become destructive and can begin to interfere with your daily life. At that point, it’s good to begin to channel your hurt into something more productive.
For instance, you might consider taking a pilates class or learning how to play the ukulele. Or maybe you’ll start writing that book you always wanted to, or start riding your bike to work in the morning. Whatever you choose to do, make sure that it makes you feel good.
This is arguably the hardest, most trying thing you will ever have to go through. Acknowledge that. Don’t try to minimize the hurt. I empathize with you completely, and understand that you are deeply in pain right now. But I promise that with time, this will become more and more bearable. One day, you will be okay.