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Child Psychiatrist /Adult Psychiatrist

Healing from the Loss of a Loved One

Updated: Sep 10, 2023

Steps in Healing After a Loss

1. Tell the story.

Telling the story of what happened, from beginning to end, is healing step in itself. Follow the guidelines in the packet, take your time, and tell it in detail. Often there will be things you've kept to yourself since the loss happened, and this is a chance to get those thoughts, feelings, and memories outside of yourself. In this setting, no one will try to "fix" it for you or tell you what to feel or not feel. Your listeners will simply sit with you and hear you.

2. Explore the meanings of loss.

brown shirt man put one hand on his head with depression and light blue shirt man sit on bed and his hand on brown shirt man's shoulder.

Each loss has multiple layers of meaning in your life, and facing those meanings is crucial to your ability to move forward. For instance, the death of a parent will have an impact on you for years into the future, even if it happened years in the past. If you can acknowledge the many things a loss means in your life, you can address them on many levels, and prepare in advance for taking care of yourself in painful situations ahead.

3. Explore what feels un-finished.

Feeling that things are unfinished keeps us stuck in the pain of the loss and gets in the way of letting go of that pain (NOT of the person or the happy memories) and moving forward. When you identify what feels unfinished, you can take steps toward closure.

4. Honor what was and take steps toward closure.

These are the steps you take to release the pain - letters to (or from) the other person, collages or other artwork, rituals for anniversary dates, carrying symbolic objects, times/places ways to periodically revisit the loss. Do several, including the ones you want to avoid because the sound is too painful. The relief afterwards is worth the pain of the processing.

 A woman kneeling at the grave of her dead husband.

5. Celebrate what you get to keep.

After every loss, there are things you get to keep -what you learned about yourself, what you learned from the other person, happy memories, the time and experiences you had before the loss, and the strength you gained from surviving the loss. Identifying these things can help you set down the burden of your grief and heal from the pain and intensity of the loss.

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