Almost every year, each of us has a friend or family member who loses a loved one. It is a sad fact of life that everyone is going to face it. According to the CDC, 2,596,993 people die in the United States each year.
So here is the compelling question: How do you heal after losing a loved one? I experienced this on a personal level when I became a widower at the age of 54, when my wife of 32 years died tragically. So I had to learn how to heal after losing my wife. Here are eight ways to heal after losing a loved one.
Remember the good times. Often when someone passes away, we tend to dwell on their death instead of celebrating their life. I highly recommend writing in a journal and listing all of the good times you had with the person that you lost. It’s a way of reminding yourself to be grateful for what you had, for as long as you had it, instead of just focusing on the loss alone.
Only be around positive people and situations. When you are grieving, the last thing you need to do is expose yourself to anything negative. Concentrate on spending your time with positive people, viewing only positive television and movies, and reading positive books and articles. Avoid anything negative.
Figure out what you don’t want to do. During my healing journey there were certain things I just decided I did not want to do. For example, the first Thanksgiving after my wife passed away I was invited to visit with family in another state to celebrate Thanksgiving. Quite honestly, I didn’t feel like doing it—so I didn’t. It’s okay to say there are certain things you don’t want to do and not allow other people to pressure you to do them. This helps you heal.
Think to yourself, “I’m going to be okay.” Most people who have had a loss do not think they’re going to be okay; they think that they will never be okay. I ended up writing a book about grief and loss called The Sun Still Rises. One reason I wrote that book was to help people realize that they can be hopeful and optimistic even after a loss. If you keep saying to yourself long enough, “I’m going to be okay,” eventually, guess what—you will be. It just takes time.
Think about how you want to reinvent your life. When I talk to people who are grieving, they find this to be an odd concept, but it actually really makes a lot of sense. Once you have lost a loved one, your life is changed forever, and it will never be the same because of their absence. But the other side of that equation is it is an opportunity to reinvent your life and make it whatever it is that you want it to be now.
Tap into your resources. There are many resources available to people who are grieving. You could join a support group. You could volunteer for various organizations and give back to others. You could surround yourself with supportive family and friends. There are so many online resources of articles and groups that are available at the touch of a button. There are also many great books about dealing with grief and loss that are available physically or as a download to your Kindle.
Know that the pain will get better in time. People who are grieving are in pain and will be in pain—that is the bad news. The good news is the pain will get better with time, and one day it will actually go away. The phrase “time heals all wounds” may be a cliché, but I have found it to be remarkably true. So, just knowing that the pain will get better is a comforting thought.
Get a grief education. I think when people are grieving, they think they are the only people in the world who are experiencing grief or who have had loss. When people start to study grief by reading books about grief and loss or attending support groups, they learn that they’re not alone and get tools and techniques that really can help.
If you have had a loss, review this list, figure out what you can do now, and put it into action. If you know someone who has had a loss, please share this with them and let them know you are there for them. Yes, you can heal after a loss, and I know because I lived it. There is hope.