How to Cope When Someone You Love Dies: Step-By-Step

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When someone you love dies, you may feel like a part of you is gone as well. Losing your romantic partner can be heart-wrenching and difficult to endure. Your hopes and dreams of having a future together vanish from one instant to the next.

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You may be left feeling lost and alone, not knowing where to go from here. Your friends and family who mean well may not know exactly what to say when someone dies, and you might wonder how you can move forward from here while honoring your loved one who died.

The path to healing may be littered with obstacles that you'll need to get through. Some days will be harder than others for you. Taking your first steps one at a time and from one day to the next will help you to move forward. The love you shared between you is still there, so try to allow your heart to hear its song. 

Steps for Coping When a Romantic Partner Dies

Losing your romantic partner may seem like losing a part of yourself and can have a significant lasting impact on many areas of your life. In particular, coping with the death of your partner can be challenging during the first few months. Here are a few steps to help you get you through. 

1. Allow time to heal 

When you lose someone you were in love with, you’ll feel that loss in ways that differ from having lost a friend or relative. There are different types of grief for different types of losses. How long grief lasts will depend on the type of relationship you two shared, how close you were, and the love shared between you.

What you’re feeling may be a part of the normal grief process, or it may be something different. Only time will tell how your loss has affected you. The following are signs and symptoms you should look for that are part of the normal grieving process.

There are five stages associated with normal grief. You should expect to go through any or all of these stages in differing order:

Denial. You may find it hard to believe that your loved one has died. This denial stage can last anywhere from several hours to several weeks. It’s perfectly normal to feel this way. You might continue to look for your loved one to come walking through the door the days immediately following their death. You’re not going crazy. This is just your mind’s natural reaction to having suffered this type of loss. 

Anger. Feeling angry towards others for no particular reason can be expected. Don’t be surprised if you find that you’re angry at yourself, your dog, your neighbor, or even your loved one who’s died. Try your best to keep from lashing out at others. And try not to be so hard on yourself. If it helps you, take a walk somewhere in isolation and let it all out. Yell and scream at the top of your lungs. Say all the things you want to say and express out loud how you’re feeling. 

Bargaining. Making deals with the universe about what you will and won’t do to bring your loved one back is also a normal part of the grief process. It might make you feel better to know that you’re willing to exchange your life for theirs. But the reality is that you can’t wish for something to happen just because you want it to. 

Depression. Sadness and depression are two different things. You may feel an overwhelming, gut-wrenching sadness at having lost your loved one. This feeling may go on for days, weeks, even months. When the feeling turns from sadness to despondence, and you’re having trouble functioning, consider seeking professional help you get through this. 

Acceptance. Accepting that your partner has died doesn’t mean that you’re abandoning them. With time comes acceptance of the way things are. You’ll reach a stage of knowing that no matter how much you cry or will your loved one back, there’s nothing that you can do to change the circumstances. Once you accept their death, it becomes easier for you to move forward and begin to heal.

2. Take in their scent

Wanting to have your loved one close to you is natural and can be expected after they've died. One of the most therapeutic things for you to do when you're feeling sad and lonely over their death is to breathe in their essence. Make an evening of it. 

Put on some soft meditative or relaxing music, and take a few moments to go through their personal belongings. Hold an old T-shirt up to your nose and breathe deeply. Caress the pillow they slept on and hug it tight. All of these things can help bring you back to a time and place when they were still there with you. Breathe them in as you go through all the things they left behind. 

3. Ask for guidance

When you're ready, talk to your loved one as if they were still there sitting next to you. Ask them to help you and guide you as you try to cope with your grief and sadness. You may even want to ask that they be your angel guide and help you through your most troubling days ahead.

Asking for divine guidance from your loved ones that have died before you is a healthy way to grieve their loss. Continuing the bonds of love by keeping them close to your heart is encouraged as you make your way in your new life without them.

4. Have a memorial

Planning a memorial to honor the life of your loved one is a way to bring together all the people who had special meaning in their life.

A memorial service is a time to come together and remember your loved one who's died. You'll be able to share in your grief and offer love and support to one another. Having a community of people who are bound by love, loss, and grief may help you cope with your loss.

5. Light a candle

The ritual of lighting a candle in honor and remembrance of a loved one can bring some peace to your heart and home, especially while you are healing. The traditional color of candle to use is white whenever you're holding a candlelight vigil or lighting a candle at home in private prayer. 

Depending on your religious or spiritual beliefs, the lighting of a candle can have different meanings.  

In some beliefs, a white candle represents the lighting of the path for your loved one who died as they make their way to the afterlife. In others, a white candle means bathing your loved one in God's love and light.

While in yet other beliefs, a white candle symbolizes purity, divine peace, comfort, and love. A white candle is said to bring spiritual peace and protection to those who are grieving the loss of a loved one.

6. Keep a journal

Journaling has always been a way to help you keep track of your thoughts, feelings, and ideas. When you've lost someone you love, it also helps to keep a journal for you to track all of the things you're experiencing as a result of their loss. The first few days after suffering a loss, you'll likely not remember everything you were feeling, thinking, and experiencing.

The rush of emotions and the sudden inability to think straight will cloud your memory and recollection of things. Start journaling as soon as you have the mindset to do so. Most likely you won't think to begin a journal in the hours following the news that your loved one has died. But as soon as things settle, reach for pen and paper and write things down as they come to you.

7. Create a scrapbook

Creating a scrapbook of old photos, concert tickets, train and plane tickets, and all the things that bring back memories of your loved one will help you in your grief journey. Scrapbooks are a way of memorializing the special times the two of you shared.

Looking back through it will bring you comfort and joy as you remember all the good times that you shared. Time has a way of robbing us of our memories and the details of past experiences. A scrapbook will help piece everything together as you later recount stories of your past. 

8. Plant a tree

Planting a memorial tree can remind you of the circle of life and death. When one thing dies, another is born. A tree of life planted in honor and memory of your loved one will bring shade, comfort, and joy to others for generations to come.

Consider installing a small memorial plaque at the base of the tree with your loved one's name and dates of birth and death etched on it. This can become your special place to come and enjoy nature as you contemplate on your loved one. 

9. Create sacred space

Creating a sacred space in your home or garden is a special way of remembering your loved one. It can be something as simple as a tabletop with a photograph of your loved one, a candle, and flowers.

Or, you can opt for something a bit more elaborate such as a bistro table and chairs out in your garden patio. Wherever you can go to remember your loved one, this spot can be turned into your very own personal sacred space. 

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How to Help a Loved One Who Lost a Romantic Partner

Anyone who's lost a significant part of their life will need time to adjust to their loss. There's no going back to everyday life for them because their life has forever changed. They'll have to search for a new way of moving forward without their partner. If you’re unsure where to start, here are a few tips to help a loved one with this loss.

1. Be a source of support

Whether it's a close friend, relative, or another loved one that's lost their partner, realize that a significant part of their life is now gone. It'll take many weeks and months of adjustment to get used to living their life without their partner. You can expect them to experience fluctuating grief-related emotions as they cope with their loss.

How can you best support someone who's suffering this type of loss? Start with being a good friend and listener, show up often, and be there when times get rough. 

2. Give a thoughtful gift

Anytime someone suffers through heartbreak, the mind and body go into a type of survival mode that makes it difficult to focus, function, eat or sleep. Expect that your loved one will experience many of these symptoms associated with loss.

Thoughtful condolence gift ideas include books on grief, relaxation candles, or a meal service for a few days. The most immediate need may be the more practical gifts such as the meal service, but as your loved one progresses through their grief, the books and candles will either help answer questions they may have or alleviate some of their fear and anxiety.

3. Help make the announcement

In almost every family or social situation, you can expect at least one person to feel resentful of not hearing the news of the death firsthand. Funerals, much like weddings, are a significant source of socialization for many people, and they take offense when they feel slighted or left out.

In many cases, some people make it a point to let the bereaved know just how the news of the death has affected them, mainly when they weren’t the first to know. You can do your loved one a considerable service by handling all the death announcements and fielding phone calls during the first few days after the death. 

4. Make yourself available

After an appropriate amount of time has passed, usually after the initial mourning period, stop by for a visit and make yourself available for whatever is needed. Ask your loved one if they need help sorting out their household chores, finances, or any end-of-life paperwork that still needs addressing.

Other things worth considering are the sorting and disposing of their partner's possessions. Ask if you can help go through these things together so that they're not alone when undertaking such an emotionally charged task.

5. Provide continuing companionship

The death of a partner doesn't signal the end of your loved one's social life. Keep in mind that your loved one may feel incredibly lonely now that their partner has died. You don't have to become their cheerleader through their emotional slumps, but it helps to show up for them more often.

Loneliness and depression are two consequences of experiencing the loss of a partner. You can help your loved one stave off these feelings and emotions by occupying their time during the first few months after their partner's death.  

Remembering Your Romantic Partner

Nothing in the world will ever completely take away the pain of losing your loved one. Time will lessen that pain, and you’ll find ways of coping with your loss. The love the two of you shared is special, sacred, and meant to be celebrated and remembered. You don’t have to let go of that love or forget that it ever existed.

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