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How to Cope with the Loss of a Loved One

How to Cope with the Loss of a Loved One

By Pam Dewey • September 09, 2020

Pictured above is Laine Ciaramitaro with her cousin, Josh. 

Losing someone you love is never easy, and the grief can feel like too much to bear. But too often, we try to rush through the grieving process, and don’t take enough time to mourn and heal. Or we are too hard on ourselves about how we are grieving, that we aren’t doing it the right way.

Laine Ciaramitaro lost her cousin Josh to suicide in December 2018. She was devastated. Josh was a smart, giving person, who always made time for his younger cousins, including Laine. Laine felt sadness, frustration and anger over Josh’s death. She also struggled with how people stigmatized suicide.

Though losing Josh was incredibly hard, Laine also received a lot of support and found some positive ways to channel her grief. She started making felted hearts in Josh’s memory and created Hearts for Josh.

Here are some ways Laine coped with losing Josh that you may help you through the grieving process. 

Take time to grieve  

After you’ve lost someone, life is going to be harder for a while. You may not feel like washing your hair, going to work or doing the dishes. Responding to emails may be too much to bear, even well-meaning ones. Expect less of yourself, and be kind to yourself. Grief is exhausting, and you need space to just feel sad. Don’t try to rush through the grieving process.

Feel your emotions

Along with not rushing through your grief, it’s important to engage with what you’re feeling.

“My mom told me to take it a day at a time, and don’t be afraid to feel,” Laine says.

Because of her mom’s advice, Laine allowed herself to experience all of her emotions. She knew what she was feeling wasn’t going to go away, so she needed to express it. She also talked about how she was feeling with people she trusted.

Be honest about how you’re feeling

When someone asks how you’re doing, the default response is “good.” People say this, even when the answer is far from “good.”

After she lost Josh, Laine says she was really honest with other people about how she was doing. She would admit when she was struggling and ask for help. Sometimes, she needed someone to talk to, and other times, she needed a hug. Don’t be afraid to let someone else know you’re hurting, and you need support.

Reach out for help

Laine reached out to her friends and family, and they talked about Josh. Since she was in high school, Laine also spoke to her school guidance counselor about what she was going through.

“It’s so helpful and important to have people that you trust to share your grief with,” says Aric Jensen, Fraser Director of Mental Health. “Grief is a life-long journey. Some days will be harder, and you’re going to need support.”

Jensen also recommends talking to a therapist or joining a grief support group.

Don’t compare your grieving to other people’s

Many think of crying as part of grieving, but crying isn’t required to grieve. Everyone faces loss differently, and your grief might manifest itself in other ways. Maybe you need to watch a bunch of old movies or spend time in the garden.

You might find yourself still struggling, a year after the death of your loved one. That’s okay too. Jensen recommends you give yourself grace and self-compassion as you process your loss.  

Find an outlet

Keeping busy after losing a loved one can help. Seeking an outlet like making art, music or writing can be soothing.

Shortly before Josh died, Laine started making felted ornaments for a school fundraiser. A few days after his passing, Laine felt like she needed something to do, so she started making felted hearts in Josh’s memory. This is how Hearts for Josh was created. With a blessing from Josh’s parents, Laine eventually decided to donate the proceeds from the hearts to Fraser. Josh had received therapy at Fraser for his depression, along with several co-occurring conditions.

“It was a way for me to deal and to try to raise awareness about depression and suicide,” says Laine. “I know people are still going to feel pain from depression. But if we can help at least one person, it’s worth it. Small acts can have a big impact.”