17 Common Mistakes People Make When They Lose a Loved One

The loss of a loved one is a painful experience that almost all of us have, or will one day, have to live through. Grief is a personal and complex journey, and there is no right or wrong way to navigate it. However, certain behaviors can make the process more challenging or prolonged. Here, we reveal the 17 most common mistakes people make when mourning.

Avoiding Reminders of the Deceased

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Psychology Tools asserts that avoidance is a common behavior for grieving individuals, particularly in the initial, raw stages of grief. It’s important to note that remembering a loved one is part of the healing process and that gradually reintroducing reminders (like photos, places, songs, and personal effects) will eventually be necessary to move on healthily.

Blaming Yourself

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It’s natural to search for answers and meaning after a loss, but it’s not a good idea to dwell on allocating blame, whether to yourself or others. Doing so gets in the way of processing emotional pain and can slow the healing process, prompting unnecessary anger and negativity. It’s more productive to focus on what can be controlled rather than hypothetical ‘what ifs.’

Neglecting Self-Care

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Grieving takes a toll on your physical and emotional well-being, and it can be a struggle to find the motivation to prioritize self-care. Although such actions may seem pointless, getting enough sleep, eating healthy meals, and engaging in regular physical activity can help support grieving individuals.

Making Major Life Decisions

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Grief can cloud judgment and make it difficult to think clearly, so it’s unwise to make monumental life decisions in the middle of a bereavement. LCB Senior Care states that many people make rash property decisions after their spouse passes, but it isn’t the best time to make changes, including changing careers, selling your house, or ending a relationship.

Ignoring Symptoms

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Not many people realize that grief can manifest in various ways, both physically and emotionally. Ignoring symptoms like persistent fatigue, changes in appetite, or difficulty concentrating can lead to a lack of support when you need it most. Don’t hesitate to seek professional medical or mental health support if you are unsure.

Suppressing Your Emotions

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Bottling up your emotions can slow down the healing process. Some things you cannot go around—you just have to go through them, no matter how tough. People suffering a loss should allow themselves to feel the full range of emotions associated with grief, even the difficult ones like anger, sadness, and guilt.

Being Strong for Others

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While offering support to others grieving the same loss is commendable, it’s vital to acknowledge your own pain. The Times of India states that this is essential to the mourning process and that focusing on the feelings of others will only deny your emotional response, delaying the inevitable. It’s okay to express your own grief and seek support from others.

Ignoring Legal and Financial Matters

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Suffering a loss can leave us unable to contemplate dealing with the legalities and financial ramifications, including reading wills and managing estates. Instead of neglecting such matters, seek professional guidance to help navigate the more practical aspects of your loved one’s passing.

Comparing Your Grief to Others’

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Everyone expresses grief in their own way, at varying intensities, and over different time periods. Bereaved people shouldn’t compare their experiences to others, whether online, in the media, or through friends and family. It’s more productive for them to focus on their personal journey and find healthy ways to cope with their grief.

Isolating Yourself

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Grief can feel overwhelming and socially unacceptable, so withdrawing from friends and family and seeking solitude can be a natural reaction. It’s better for bereaved individuals to speak to trusted loved ones, friends, or therapists, who can offer emotional support, connection, and a safe space to share.

Rushing the Grieving Process

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Grief is a personal journey with no ‘one size fits all’ timeline. Expecting yourself to “get over it” quickly or comparing your healing process to others can create unnecessary pressure and unrealistic expectations. Charlin Health Services says, “The most common mistake made by grieving families after losing a loved one is setting a time frame for the grieving process.”

Expecting Everyone to Understand

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Sadly, not everyone will understand the profoundness or impact of your grief or be able to support you effectively. Communicate your needs openly and honestly with loved ones, and don’t be afraid to set boundaries if certain people insist on behaving in an unhelpful or hurtful way.

Using Unhealthy Coping Mechanisms

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It can be sorely tempting to reach for alcohol, fast food, self-harm, or drugs when coping with intense sadness, especially if you’ve used these things as a crutch in the past. Unfortunately, doing so will only exacerbate your problems and hinder healing. Find healthy coping mechanisms like exercise, meditation, outdoor activities, or creative pursuits.

Ignoring Spiritual Needs

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Spiritual or religious beliefs can provide comfort and strength during times of grief, so engaging in prayer, meditation, or attending religious services can offer solace and a sense of connection to the person who has passed. Whether through organized religion or personal beliefs, don’t neglect this critical source of comfort during tough times.

Fearing the Future

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Grief can make the future seem like a terrifying abyss of uncertainty, particularly if the person who died was someone you lived with or relied upon. Feeling uncertain about what will happen is normal, but try not to dwell on negative premonitions or fears. Focus on the present moment, take things one day at a time, and trust that you will find a way to move forward.

Avoiding Professional Help

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There is no shame in admitting when you need professional help from a grief counselor or professional psychologist. If you are struggling to cope with grief and find it difficult to function in your daily life, professionals can offer invaluable support, guidance, and tools to help you understand and process your grief.

Giving Up Hope

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A bereavement makes us feel hopeless and aimless, but don’t forget that this painful experience won’t last forever. Although you will always remember your loved one and miss their presence, you will eventually feel ‘normal’ again and be able to enjoy life as before. Your grief will never disappear, but you will ultimately learn to accept it and carry it with you.

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