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Grief and Loss: The Process of Healing

Losing a loved one is one of the most difficult events you can experience. Understanding grief and learning how to cope can help you heal and move forward with your life as you honor the person you miss.

Q. What is grief?

A. Grief is what you feel when you lose someone or something dear to you. How long you grieve depends on the closeness of the relationship. Whether the death was sudden or expected, the nature of the bond also affects how long you grieve.

When you grieve, you often have intense and enduring feelings of disbelief, shock, despair, sadness, and guilt that can be difficult to deal with. Even so, these feelings are a normal part of the healing process. Experiencing them will allow you to move on with your life.

Q. What can help me heal from grief and loss?

A. Support from others is one of the most important parts in healing. That support can come from:

  • Close friends

  • Grief counselors

  • Grief support groups

  • Other family members

  • Psychotherapists

  • Religious community 

Q. What self-care steps or coping skills do I need?

A. It’s important to take care of yourself. You should try to do the following:

  • Eat a healthy diet.

  • Exercise regularly.

  • Get enough sleep.

  • Maintain your normal routine.

Resist the urge to numb the pain with alcohol or drugs. This can delay healing and lead to further problems.

Some people also find creating a meaningful memorial in the person’s honor to be helpful. For example, fund a scholarship program or give a gift to a charity or aid fund in the person’s name.

Finally, be patient with yourself. There's no universal timetable for grief.

Q. What role does mourning play?

A. Mourning is the public side of grief and varies from culture to culture. Regardless of the ritual, mourning provides an accepted way to recognize the death of a loved one. It also helps you say goodbye in a public ceremony that honors the person. It gives family members ongoing support and sympathy.

Q. When should I seek professional help?

A. While grief is similar to depression, clinical depression is a psychological disorder. Grief is a normal response to loss. But, grief can lead to depression. 

Contact your healthcare provider right away if you have any of the following:

  • Your symptoms last for more than one year after a major event

  • You have debilitating grief

  • You have thoughts of suicide

Online Medical Reviewer: Buslovich, Steven, MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Sather, Rita, RN
Date Last Reviewed: 2/1/2017
© 2000-2018 The StayWell Company, LLC. 800 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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