1. Identify Your Grief Response
While reactions to death will differ from person to person, the first step for those living with loss should be an attempt to understand the nature of your own situation.
“Grief is your internal response to loss,” says Dr. Alan Wolfelt, director of the Center for Loss & Life Transition in Fort Collins, Colorado. After someone dies, he explains, grief presents itself as a constellation of feelings that can range from sadness to shock to disorientation to anger. Most often, it is expressed in predictable ways, be they physical (loss of appetite, insomnia or difficulty concentrating) or emotional (yearning, regret or even relief). “There are different dimensions of response to loss unique to the individual and impacted by the circumstances of the death and the relationship to the person who has died,” says Wolfelt.
Identifying your particular reaction to losing a loved one will help you decide what tools you need to navigate it. But whatever that may be, Wolfelt stresses you should not feel badly for having intense reactions. A grief counsellor can help you begin to pay attention to the areas that need a bit more work.
“Emotions need motion,” he says. “Mourning puts your emotions into motion, and they will usually soften over time.”
For advice on dealing with the passing of a dog or cat, check out How to Grieve a Lost Pet.