Coping with Loss

Did you lose someone or something very important to you? Are you hardly able to believe that it happened? Are you intensely preoccupied with this loss? Do you feel sad, depressed, or irritable? Do you watch yourself wandering aimlessly, forget things, or don’t finish what you have started? Do you feel guilty, self-critical, or angry? Does your mood change over the slightest things? Is your self-esteem low?

All these experiences can be facets of grief. Grieving is a natural response to a loss. In fact, it is a healing process, like the way a fever brings healing to the body. It is possible to support this process. Here are some "medicines":

  • Be gentle with yourself. Treat yourself as if you were your own best friend, with compassion. It might help to imagine the pain inside you as the pain of a little helpless infant that you are holding tenderly. Stop thoughts of judgment about yourself. Take one step at a time.
  • Avoid unrealistic goals and expectations. This is not the time to strive for high goals. Your task right now is to heal from your loss. Do the best you can to fulfill unavoidable obligations, and leave it at that. Give yourself time enough for healing. "Enough" is different for everybody. Trust your own judgement about it.
  • Be true to yourself. Let yourself cry and feel the depth of your pain when it comes up. Imagine that you are being held and supported by a real or imaginary loving friend or mentor while you are feeling the pain. If you lost somebody through death, write "letters" to your deceased love one, or write in a journal. It is also healing to draw or paint pictures that express your grief.
  • Maintain a regular schedule. Keeping or creating structure in your life helps you to feel emotionally safe. Planning ahead supports stability. At the same time, give yourself the freedom to change your plans or schedule when your mood shifts. Prepare others that this might happen and ask them to consider this as your special time for healing.
  • Watch your body’s need for nutrition, rest, and exercise. You might forget about your physical needs when you grieve. This can lead to avoidable emotional suffering and intensify your depressed mood. You might need to push yourself a little to take care of your body.
  • Find supportive friends, a grief counselor, a support group in your area, or on the internet (griefnet) and read a book about grief. You might feel isolated with your grief because nobody around you really understands what you are going through. You might find that different friends are available now, compared to those in times of happiness. It is very important to share your feelings honestly with people you trust. Feeling understood by empathetic listeners has great healing power.