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How to deal with the loss of a loved one

Grief over the loss of a loved one can be overwhelming and ongoing. Most people experience grief—it’s completely normal and natural. However, everyone experiences grief differently. Some may recover quickly, while others may feel a complex variety of emotions ranging from numbness or exhaustion to anger and sadness.1 There’s no predictable sequence of emotions. 
Here are a few ideas that could help you and your loved ones deal with bereavement and grief after the passing of a loved one.

Talk about your loss, and acknowledge your emotions

Family, friends, and religious communities are good options to lean on when talking about grief.1 Although it could be a little tough at first, trying to open up about how you’re feeling can be helpful.

The wave of emotions felt after losing a loved one can be uncomfortable, but normal. Accepting and acknowledging your emotions could mean seeking counseling to process your thoughts, learn healthy coping skills, and prevent negative thoughts.1

Prioritize self-care

Nourishing foods, exercise, resuming a hobby, and sleep are critical to wellbeing. It’s not always possible but making the effort to take care of yourself—both physically and emotionally—can aid the grieving process.1

Find ways to honor your loved one

It can be comforting to explore ways to best honor and memorialize your loved one. It could be planting a tree in their honor, volunteering for a cause they believed in, or doing things they enjoyed.2

Avoid making major decisions

If possible, consider avoiding making big changes or decisions after losing a loved one. During times like these, emotions can be high, which could negatively affect your decision-making or lead to choices you might not otherwise make. Although it’s not always possible, try to take your time and approach key decisions with a level head.

Plan ahead for difficult times

Milestones such as the anniversary of your loved one's death, their funeral, their birthday, or holidays can be emotionally challenging. Planning ahead may not eliminate the varying emotions that may arise, but if you mentally prepare, milestones are less likely to take you by surprise.

Sometimes you’re not able to predict the emotions that follow when painful memories arise or during milestones.1 Although emotions may come and go, consider planning an event or activity that will be meaningful and comforting. Reaching out to friends and family and letting them know you may need extra time or attention are also options.

Consider support groups

It may be helpful to connect with people who have gone through similar experiences. Check if there are suitable support groups available in your community or online. You may also wish to contact counseling centers and funeral homes for help finding a group, either general or with a specific focus (for example, parents who have lost children or those who have lost parents).1

Anticipate potential family conflicts after a loss

The death of a loved one should bring families together, but sometimes family dynamics get worse. Family fights, strained relationships, frustrations, and resentment are common and can develop. There are many reasons issues can arise.

Whether it’s failure to properly plan for financial obligations or end-of-life decisions, perceived favoritism, or overall heightened emotions, organized plans and documents don’t guarantee a lack of family conflict.3

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More to explore

1. Melinda Smith, M.A., Lawrence Robinson, and Jeanne Segal, Ph.D., “Coping with Grief and Loss,” HelpGuide, June 20, 2023, 2. "30 Ideas on How to Remember and Honor Your Person," Healgrief, 3. Dr. Alejandra Vasquez, JD, CT, “Why Does Death Seem to Bring Out the Worst in Families?,” Cake, June 8, 2022,

This information is general in nature and provided for educational purposes only.