The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
At one point in all of our lives, we will experience loss. Tragically, for many of us, that experience has come within the past year. Perhaps more trivially, yet still significantly, we’ve been denied proms, graduations, study abroad opportunities, and travel plans. We’ve been largely unable to attend in-person classes and have missed out on meaningful social interactions. Some of us may have lost jobs or felt once-in-a-lifetime opportunities slip away. But, most importantly, we may have lost someone dear to us. And, unlike an event, a human life cannot be rescheduled.
At the start of 2020, unrelated to COVID, I lost my grandfather. We were extremely close, so his death was a harsh blow. I struggled to grasp that the person who I could always count on to make homemade macaroni and cheese, take me to the theater, discuss historical trivia, and always have a mischievous twinkle in his eye was simply gone. And I struggled to cope with the fact that, just because my world had stopped after my grandpa’s passing didn’t mean that everyone else’s did too; I still had to plaster a smile onto my face, attend classes, and interact with other human beings even though all I wanted to do was curl into a ball and cry. When COVID hit soon after, things became even worse as millions of lives and jobs around the world were lost and milestones many of us had long looked forward to faded into nothingness.
Still, despite the hardships I faced, I am aware that I was one of the lucky ones. And with the love and support of my friends and family – many of whom were aching too – I was able to reach a point of acceptance. That’s not to say I am no longer saddened or frustrated – I absolutely am, and those emotions come in occasional waves. Rather, time has allowed me to come to terms with my grandfather’s death and has allowed me to partake in another universal human experience: learning how to cope.
For those of you who may have recently lost a loved one or are grieving in some way, I want to begin by saying that I am so incredibly sorry for your loss. However, while I cannot replace what has disappeared from your life, I can do my best to offer advice on how to cope with that feeling that is tearing you apart. Of course, different people experience grief differently, so this is not a one-size-fits-all type of situation. That being said, here are some of my personal suggestions on how to cope with loss.
- ALLOW YOURSELF TO FEEL
After losing someone, it is normal to feel a million emotions at once. Sadness, despair, anger, frustration, confusion, relief, resentment, the list goes on and on. Don’t try to push away those feelings, no matter how painful they may be. Reflect on the good times you had with the person and try not to consume yourself with regret. You are entitled to take time to process the change that has just occurred in your life. As you do so, don’t feel guilty if you have to cancel plans or cannot bring your best to class or work. You are not obligated to “be strong.” Again, death is a universal experience, so people will understand if you need time to grieve. And taking that time is often essential to healing.
- SEEK SUPPORT
Grief is, thankfully, not something you must go through alone. Once you feel ready, take advantage of the relationships in your life and reach out to your friends and family members, or whoever makes you feel most at ease. Sharing your feelings – particularly with another person who has lost someone before – can be extremely cathartic, and spending time with others can remind you of the beauty and joy that is still in your life. If you don’t have someone in your life who you feel comfortable turning to, there are services and support groups that can connect you to people going through something similar. If you do a quick Google search, you should be able to find a listing of local and relevant services in accordance with your particular situation.
- FIND A PURPOSE
While it is essential to allow the tears to flow (or to honor your emotions in whatever way is natural to you), after a while you’ll need to start engaging with others again. Fill your days with activities and events that bring you joy and that will give you purpose. Maybe that’s returning to work, enjoying a hobby, or serving your community. Regardless, finding a cause will help you to transition back to semi-normalcy is an important step to take.
- UNDERSTAND THAT GRIEF DOESN’T JUST DIE
While time will hopefully make things easier, it does not have the power to completely soothe your ache. Certain events like birthdays, holidays, or times marked by tradition (which Help Guide’s website (https://www.helpguide.org/articles/grief/coping-with-grief-and-loss.htm) dubs “grief triggers”) may cause those feelings to bubble back up again. That is normal. Again, honor those emotions.
- MONITOR YOURSELF
Important note: There is a difference between grief and depression. If your feelings of despair have not disappeared after several months and are preventing you from leading a healthy life, it is essential that you seek help, whether by talking to your doctor or contacting support services such as the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration’s national help line, which can be reached at 1-800-622-HELP (4357).
Grief, in all of its forms, is a struggle. But the five stages of grief end in acceptance. Taking the time to address your emotions, seek the support of loved ones, and find purpose is essential to reaching that point. I wish you all the best as you make that journey.