Losing someone you love can leave you with a void in your life. It can feel like part of yourself has died, and you might have trouble imagining how you’ll ever recover from your pain.
Few things compare to the grief and mourning experience following the death of someone important to you. Whether it’s a close friend, spouse, partner, parent, child, or other relative, the death of a loved one can feel overwhelming. You may experience waves of intense and very difficult emotions, ranging from profound sadness, emptiness, and despair to shock, numbness, guilt, or regret. You might rage at the circumstances of your loved one’s death—your anger focused on yourself, doctors, other loved ones, or God. You may even find it difficult to accept that the person is really gone, or struggle to see how you can ever recover and move on from your loss.
While it’s an inevitable part of life—something that virtually all of us go through at some point—losing someone you love can be one of the most painful experiences you’ll ever have to endure.
The truth is that there’s no “correct” way to grieve, and no one way is better than another. Your experience will be entirely unique—shaped by your relationship with the person who has died, your own personality, and your life circumstances.
It’s also important to remember that grief doesn’t necessarily follow a linear path or end within a certain amount of time. It can come in waves, coming and going without warning or pattern. You may find that intense feelings seem to lessen over time, but then resurface later on, triggered by a memory or some other reminder. You may also find it difficult to accept the person has really gone or imagine how you can recover and move on with your life.
If you’re like most people who have lost someone they care about deeply, chances are you’ve been told that “time will heal.” While this may be true to some extent, time doesn’t erase the pain or make it go away entirely. You can still feel sadness long after your loved one is gone and getting through each day takes some effort.
Realizing that others have felt the same way as you may be helpful. The following stories from real people who have experienced loss may help you understand your own feelings better:
“I lost my wife suddenly and unexpectedly to cancer just over a year ago. I still miss her every day, and I expect that I always will. But there is no doubt in my mind that she would want me to move on and enjoy what life has left for me now. It took a while—and there were days when I was so angry at her for leaving me that I didn’t know if I could forgive her or myself”
Grief is a multifaceted response to loss, particularly to the loss of someone or something that has died, to which a bond or affection was formed. Although conventionally focused on the emotional response to loss, it also has physical, cognitive, behavioral, social, and philosophical dimensions. While the terms are often used interchangeably, bereavement refers to the state of loss, and grief is the reaction to that loss.