7 Tips For Moving On After A Major Loss In Life

There's nothing worse than losing someone or something you care about. Whether you're going through a breakup or dealing with the death of a family member, moving on after loss is not easy. In fact, it's an understatement to say that dealing with loss is painful, and that it takes forever to heal. But, with a little effort, it is possible to move forward with your life.

On the way to feeling better, you may go through several (annoying) phases of grief, although these phases are not typical for everyone. The traditional five stages of grief that include denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance came from psychologist Elizabeth Kübler-Ross's 1969 book, On Death and Dying.

But, as it turns out, it's not always that cut and dry. "... In recent years researchers and experts have found little evidence that these stages exist. People who bounce back after a death, divorce or other traumatic loss often don't follow this sequence. Instead, many of them strive to actively move forward," noted Elizabeth Bernstein in an article on for the Wall Street Journal

So instead of sitting back and waiting for stages to happen (or not happen), it's much better to take matters into your own hands. If you're interested in speeding up the process, or at least coping as best you can, then here are some tips for dealing with loss, and hopefully moving forward. 

1. Let Yourself Feel Your Emotions

Loss is painful, scary, and upsetting. It's no wonder many people tamp it all down and ignore their feelings. But unresolved grief can lead to complications such as depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and health problems, according to Melinda Smith, M.A., and Jeanne Segal, Ph.D., on Helpguide.org."Trying to ignore your pain or keep it from surfacing will only make it worse in the long run. For real healing it is necessary to face your grief and actively deal with it," they say. So let it all out — cry, wallow, and vent as much as you need to. It's way more healthy than holding it all in.

2. Tell Everyone How You Feel, Because You're Allowed To Grieve 

In today's society, we're expected to dust ourselves off, put on a clean shirt, and get back to life as soon as possible. But centuries ago, people would fully succumb to their grief, even going so far as to wear black mourning clothes for months at a time. It sounds like a genius idea, and one I wish was still in place today. According to Jana Riess on HuffingtonPost.com, "... the purpose of the all-black fashion regimen was to give the bereaved survivors some much-needed cultural latitude. The clothes they wore practically screamed, 'The following person requires a wide berth. Don't take it personally if she is distracted, or he is brusque. It's not about you.'" Of course you don't have to wear a literal black veil, but you should be open about needing time to feel better. The more honest you are about your sadness, the more people will respect your needs.

3. Turn To People Who Care About You Most

You may want to fall into bed with no intentions of ever returning to polite society again, and that's OK to do for a while. But you should eventually let people back into your life, especially since doing so can help you move on. According to Edward T. Creagan, M.D., on MayoClinic.com, "Spending some time alone is fine, but isolation isn't a healthy way to deal with grief. A friend, a confidant, a spiritual leader — all can help you along the journey of healing. Allow loved ones and other close contacts to share in your sorrow or simply be there when you cry."

4. Take Care Of Yourself, No Matter What

When you're throwing yourself around your apartment and staring out rain-streaked windows, it can be easy to let things like "food" and "sleep" slip your mind. Make sure you eat, get plenty of rest, and do things that are soothing and comforting. As Lynn Newman notes on TinyBuddha.com, "The shock of loss to all of our bodies — emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual—is superb. Our bodies need to be fed during this time, in order to handle such trauma. Self-care is personal, but I did the things I knew my body wanted: Lots of baths, fresh pressed organic juices, ... exercising, journaling, reading inspiring books, talking with friends, getting out in sunshine, taking walks, ... and learning to nurture myself."Figure out what you need to do to feel healthy, and make sure you do it.

5. "Numb" Yourself With Positive Things (Drugs Not Included)

It's important to avoid numbing yourself with substances, according to the health website NHS.UK. While drugs and alcohol may offer a short vacation from the agony, in the end they will only make you feel worse. Not to mention that abusing drugs while you're sad can lead to addition problems down the road. So instead of turning to wine or bottles of Xanax, seek out counseling, turn to exercising, or start volunteering as a healthier way of distracting yourself.

6. Recognize That Time Doesn't Heal All, And That's OK

It may be hard to believe in the moment, but everyone keeps on trucking every day despite major losses in life. And you can, too. As Creagan notes, "Remember that time helps, but it might not cure. Time has the ability to make that acute, searing pain of loss less intense and to make your red-hot emotions less painful — but your feelings of loss and emptiness might never completely go away. Accepting and embracing your new 'normal' might help you reconcile your losses."

7. Don't Let Anyone Tell You How To Feel

Everyone deals with loss differently, so there's no "right" way to feel when faced with a heaping pile of grief. Maybe you're a crying mess, or a totally hilarious joke cracking machine. Wherever you fall on the spectrum is fine, regardless of what people say. As Smith and Segal note, "Don’t let anyone tell you how to feel, and don’t tell yourself how to feel either. Your grief is your own, and no one else can tell you when it’s time to 'move on' or 'get over it.' Let yourself feel whatever you feel without embarrassment or judgment."

Dealing with loss is not easy, but there are ways to take care of yourself and make it (slightly) easier.

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