How You Can Recover from the Loss of a Loved One

Woman comforting mother

One sad truth about aging is the inevitability of losing the people you love. The grief and mourning after a loved one’s death are difficult challenges to face.

“Even though we understand that death is a normal part of life, it’s always difficult dealing with the pain of death,” says psychologist Jeffrey Janata, PhD. “Your grief can be particularly intense as you struggle with shock, confusion and a sense of yearning for the person who is gone.”

Factors That Can Affect Your Grieving

Many factors can affect the intensity of your grief and how long you mourn, Dr. Janata says, including:

  • Your relationship with the deceased
  • The cause of death
  • Your own life experiences

“There is no normal process of grieving,” Dr. Janata says. “We all grieve in different ways. People used to think grief followed stages, such as anger, denial and acceptance, but our evidence suggests there aren't set characteristics of grief.”

Over time, the majority of people do recover and their grief lessens.

“People are resilient, especially if they have social support, work and/or recreational activities in place,” he says. “Slowly but surely, you can expect to resume living and getting on with life.”

When Grief Stalls

About 15 percent of people will have complicated grief and will struggle with their mental, physical, social and/or emotional reactions after losing their loved one, Dr. Janata says.

For those people, their grief has somehow gotten stalled, perhaps from a lack of support, or they have become depressed or anxious.

“If your recovery is taking a long time or you’re having significant complications or problems with function, then we recommend you seek out a mental health professional,” he says.

Jeffrey Janata, PhD is a psychologist and the director of the Division of Psychology at University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center. You can request an appointment with Dr. Janata or any other University Hospitals doctor online.

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