Death of A Loved One – Coping With The Death of A Loved One

How To Cope With The Death Of A Loved One

The Experience of Mourning

Coping with a death involves an understanding of various important things about bereavement.

Experiencing loss is not a nice thing, but it happens to everyone in life. It can affect your feelings, body, thoughts and behaviour. In this article, Sanam Naran explains some of the things that we encounter having lost a loved one, and gives us her expertise to help cope with them in a much better way. 



Sadness: Feeling alone and like you want to cry all the time. Sometimes you can’t eat or sleep, and you often lose weight. It’s okay to feel sad when we lose something but it’s important that we accept the loss.

Anger- Losing a loved one is something you cannot control and this is what makes you angry. Remember you can’t control the loss but you can control how you grieve.

Guilt- Blaming yourself for not preventing the loss. Accept that we are all human beings and we can’t control everything.

Anxiety- When you think about the absence of your loved one and how it’s currently treating you, you’re going to worry how you’ll survive the loss. You must accept the power you have.

Loneliness- You feel anxious and alone. Maybe change perception and appraisal.

Fatigue- Feeling very tired. This is normal when a person is stressed. (It is not a deficiency).

Shock- Disbelief and feeling numb are part of the process.

Relief- Mixed blessings of sadness and relief. (Don’t feel guilty about having such feelings).

All of the above are NORMAL reactions when dealing with a loss.

Physical (Body) reactions:

When you are confronted with the reality of a loss, your physical body will have be affected and here are some of the things that are likely to happen in your body.

  • Hollow stomach
  • Tight chest and throat
  • Over sensitivity to noise
  • Shortness of breath
  • Weakness of muscles
  • Dry mouth
  • Lack of energy
  • General numbness


Disbelief- This happens during the first stage of grief and is the difficulty to accept the reality of loss.

Confusion- Difficult to keep the mind off one topic but you must give yourself a break.

Preoccupation- Thinking about a lot of things at once e.g. the loss, wishful thinking, and desire to return to the past.

Imagination- Seeing things as they were before and pretending it was that time again and the person is still here with you.



Sleeping- Trouble falling asleep.

Eating- Increase or decrease of appetite.

Social withdrawal- Limiting the social events that you attend until you have dealt with the loss.

Dreaming- You dream about the person you lost.

Active- Less energy to do things and restlessness.

Crying- You need to express your grief and hurt.


Stages of Grief

There are natural stages that everyone goes through; this can be seen as a long road or journey. It starts from the day the person has died and usually lasts for at least one year.

Denial- Shock, disbelief, numbness, denial and blocking of feelings.

Anger- You can’t go back and change anything you said or did. You can’t say what you wish you could have said.

Depression/loss- Tearfulness, lack of energy, ongoing sadness, and deep sense of loss, hopelessness, and life is not worth living. (If this stage last for longer than it should, the person can become physically ill.)

Bargaining- Yearning and searching for answers. Constant questions, why did they do this to me? Asking questions to God, trying to find meaning into why this death occurred.

Acceptance- giving up false hope and moving on with your life. A new identity slowly develops as you adapt to the change. Growth and inner strength through grief.

Important to note that one can be going through more than one stage at a time. Also they can move from acceptance back to anger or sadness.

Practical Ways to Help People Who Are Grieving

  • Opportunities to say goodbye/ ceremonies
  • Attend the funeral or write a letter to say goodbye. Closure is always needed.
  • Opportunities to remember
  • Journal/memory boxes/albums/collages
  • Talk about special memories of that person. Share funny moments/ heart-warming/ painful moments.

Things to Consider

  • Predisposition to depression, anxiety, poor academic performance and behavioural problems. Each person can react in a different way.
  • If bereavement is traumatic, it may lead to disconnection.
  • They cannot function normally every day.
  • Challenges their basic trust and relationships.
  • Challenges his/her belief system.
  • Shatter construction of self.
  • Disconnected from others.

When you notice someone is not coping, even after supporting them, they may need professional help.

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