How to manage when grieving returns
April 1, 2022 | View PDF
Q: It’s been several months since my loved one passed away. I have been through the stages of grief and have finally reached acceptance. But then - out of nowhere - I find myself plunged back into the depths of sadness. What could be causing this?
A: It might be that you are experiencing reawakened grief. This is a phenomenon that can occur after a death when certain triggers cause a person to relive the loss. If you are struggling with reawakened grief, it is important to remember that this is a normal response to loss and you are not alone.
One of the most difficult things about this reoccurrence is that it can seem like you are grieving all over again. You might experience the same intense emotions, such as sadness, guilt, loneliness and fear. These feelings can be extremely overwhelming and may cause withdrawal from usual activities.
Sadness on anniversary death dates or the date of the funeral can be extremely difficult. These times can be a reminder of everything you have lost. Make sure to take care of yourself on these days - have some sort of distraction in place so you can take your mind off your sadness for a little while. Suggested examples could be reading a book, watching a TV show, or even something as simple as going outside to take a walk. You may need to take time off work, or you might need to spend time with family and friends. Do whatever you need to do to make it through those tough days.
The guilt of wishing you could have done more to have helped them, or feeling like you didn’t do enough, can be crushing. It is important to remember that everyone grieves differently. Just because you don’t think you are grieving “properly,” it doesn’t mean that there is something wrong with you. Grief is a process and takes time. Allow yourself to grieve in a way that feels right for you.
Beginning new traditions can be helpful in keeping loneliness at bay. If you used to spend holidays with your loved one, for example, starting a new holiday tradition can help fill the void their absence has left. This could be something like gathering with friends or taking a trip to visit relatives.
It is also important not to bottle up your emotions or push them away. Sadness, anger, fear and loneliness are all normal parts of the grieving process. Allow yourself to feel these things, and don’t be afraid to cry when you need to.
Know there are ways to cope
Just because you are grieving it doesn’t mean that you have to forget about the good memories. In fact, remembering happy times can be a helpful coping mechanism. It can remind you that your loved one was capable of happiness and that you will be able to feel happiness again too.
Find a hobby or activity that you can throw yourself into. When confronted with reawakened grief, it can be helpful to have something to focus on that isn’t sadness personified. Doing things that make you feel invigorated and keep you busy can help take your mind off the loss.
Surround yourself with others who can support you. It is important to talk with someone who understands and relates to what you are experiencing. This could be family, friends or even a therapist. If you don’t have anybody in your life who fits this description, there are hotlines and online forums where you can find support from others. These people can help you through the tough times and remind you that you are not alone.
There is no set time-limit for experiencing grief. Just because it’s been a year or even several years since your loved one died, it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t still be grieving. Grief is a process and everybody deals with it in their own way and on their own timeline.
Summarized tips for dealing with reawakened grief
Identify your triggers. Once you know what is causing your grief to be reawakened, manage your awareness and find ways to cope with these triggers.
Allow yourself to grieve. Don’t try to push your emotions away. It is important to allow yourself to feel what you are feeling.
Seek professional help if needed. If you are struggling to cope, it might be helpful to talk to a coach or therapist who can provide guidance.
It is possible to get through reawakened grief with the help of family, friends and other support systems. Just take things one day at a time and be patient with yourself. You will eventually start to feel better.