Learning to Live After Losing a Loved One

People who have recently lost someone may often find themselves overwhelmed, not only by emotion, but by the necessary steps they’ll need to take moving forward. This can include writing an obituary, planning a memorial service, choosing a burial plan, or picking flowers and headstones. But what happens after that? When the initial whirlwind of activity following the death of a loved one subsides, what are people supposed to do with their lives? We would like to offer some guidance to help you gently ease into learning to live after losing a loved one.

Learning to Live After Losing a Loved One

Start Small

It can be easy to get lost in the big picture. Thinking about your future without your loved one tends to make people feel adrift, unable to tether themselves to the present moment. That’s why we recommend starting small. Make a list of things that need to be done and go from there. We suggest this list be for things that need to be taken care of in a prioritized way, such as paying bills and buying groceries. While these things may sound obvious, it’s common for people experiencing a recent loss to neglect important self-care or other more mundane, but necessary, tasks. To do lists may also be helpful. If you’re feeling particularly overwhelmed, write something on the list that you’re certain you can accomplish, like taking a shower or eating dinner. Sometimes being able to cross even one item off a to do list is just the right amount of comforting motivation for people to continue living their lives.

Be Patient With Yourself

If you were used to working as a team with a loved one who recently passed, there may be a period of readjustment moving forward. To use an earlier example: if you always paid the bills but your partner always did the grocery shopping, you’ll need to allocate time to being able to accomplish both tasks. The same goes for other household and domestic chores. There may be a learning curve, especially if you’re doing something (such as home repairs or balancing a checkbook) for the first time. You shouldn’t always expect yourself to get things right the first time. With time and patience, you will find a new way forward.

Ask For, and Accept, Help

There is no shame in needing or asking for help. There is often a harmful stigma attached to admitting we can’t do everything on our own. Everyone needs help, sometimes. In many cases, your loved ones will likely be ready to assist, if not already reaching out to offer help. Not everyone has a support system, which can sometimes make dealing with grief and life after loss a little more difficult. We recommend speaking with a professional, such as a therapist or grief counselor. If you’re a religious person, reach out to your spiritual leader. There are many different forms of help, and accepting it can be the first step towards better living.

Take Your Time

After you have spent time living in this version of your life, you may feel a certain pressure to interrupt your grieving or to “move on.” It is important to allow yourself space to feel your feelings as they arise. Rushing through grief usually means we’re just placing our feelings on hold. They may then rise to the surface, sometimes in unhealthy ways, down the track, if not addressed. Take your time. The opposite can also be said to be true. You may find yourself feeling guilt or shame, as you ask questions such as, “why am I allowed to experience feelings of happiness, when my loved one is gone?” We urge you to move past that voice. Punishing yourself for allowing yourself feelings of happiness won’t bring back what is lost; it may only lead to feelings of unhappiness. Conversely, living a full and joyous life can be a wonderful and important way to honor those who have gone before us.

Navigating grief is not always easy, and everyone’s path is different. Don’t put unnecessary pressure on yourself to reach any supposed milestones. There is no expiration date for love, nor grief. All we can ask of ourselves is patience, and to keep living. Appreciate what you have. Be generous with yourself and others. We hope that you may find peace as you are learning to live after losing a loved one.

We want to help you make the best decisions for you and your family to celebrate the memory of a life lived. If you have any questions about our cemetery, funeral home or cremation services, please contact us.


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Read more: Overcoming Grief: 4 Strategies For Coping With Loss