How Do You Make it Through After a Loved One Dies? By Dr Monica Johnson

Dr Monica Johnson

The experience of grief can vary widely from person to person and may involve a range of emotions, such as sadness, anger, guilt, anxiety, and despair. Grief can also affect an individual’s thinking and cognition, leading to difficulty concentrating, making decisions, or remembering things. Physical symptoms of grief may include fatigue, insomnia, and headaches. Grief can also lead to changes in behavior, such as withdrawal from social activities and relationships, or engaging in risky or self-destructive behaviors.

Grief is a process that can unfold over time, so it won’t always look the same, even in the same person. Some individuals may experience a sense of numbness or disbelief immediately following a loss, while others may be overwhelmed by their emotions. Over time, individuals may move through a variety of stages of grief, such as shock, denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. In grief, you can flow back and forward and around when it comes to your responses to the loss.

Everyone feels bad sometimes. But the next time you’re in a funk, you’ll recover more quickly if you treat yourself with kindness by following these three simple steps. Click play below to listen.

How to deal with grief

Dr. Therese Rando is a psychologist and grief specialist who developed what is called the Six R’s of Grief. Her process of mourning is a model for understanding the grieving process and helping individuals cope with the emotions and experiences associated with loss. Her model emphasizes the importance of actively engaging in the mourning process and offers a framework for understanding the complex and often unpredictable nature of grief. Rando’s process of mourning includes six stages. Let’s take a look at each stage.

Recognizing the loss

The first stage of Rando’s model involves recognizing the reality of the loss and acknowledging its significance. This may involve experiencing shock, disbelief, or denial, but eventually, you begin to accept the reality of the loss. As you approach and understand the permanence of the loss and the circumstances surrounding it, you can move forward to other stages. This stage can be difficult and may involve a range of emotions, including sadness, anger, confusion, or numbness. It is important that you allow yourself to experience and express these emotions in a healthy and safe way, such as through talking with a trusted friend or therapist, writing in a journal, or engaging in creative activities.

Reacting to the separation

The second stage involves experiencing a range of emotional reactions to the loss, such as sadness, anger, guilt, or anxiety. This stage can be intense and may involve physical symptoms, such as fatigue, sleep disturbances, or changes in appetite. It is important to allow yourself to feel and express these emotions, as suppressing or avoiding them can prolong the grieving process. Additionally, it’s important to recognize and grieve the secondary losses associated with this loss. This can include unmet needs, dreams, hopes, expectations, or status to name a few. If we want to eventually adjust to a new reality, we must have a comprehensive understanding of the void that’s been left by the loss.

Recollecting and re-experiencing the deceased and the relationship

The third stage involves reflecting on the relationship with the person who has died and remembering the positive, negative, or neutral experiences that were shared. This may involve recollecting memories, looking at photographs or other mementos, or engaging in activities that were meaningful to the relationship. This stage can be painful but also offers an opportunity to honor and remember the person who has been lost. It is important to note that this stage can take time and may involve a range of emotions and experiences. If you want to untie yourself from the bonds of grief, you have to first assess the knot



Relinquishing the old attachments

The fourth stage involves gradually releasing the attachments to the person who has died and the relationship that was shared. This may involve letting go of possessions, habits, or activities that were associated with the deceased. This stage can be difficult and may involve feelings of guilt or anxiety, but it is important to recognize that letting go is a normal part of the grieving process. This stage may also involve finding new ways to connect with the person who has been lost, such as through creating a memorial or participating in a ritual or ceremony.

Readjusting to the new world without forgetting the old

The fifth stage involves finding ways to adjust to life without the person who has died, while still maintaining a connection to their memory. This may involve making changes to daily routines, engaging in new activities or hobbies, or establishing new relationships. This stage can be challenging but also offers an opportunity to create a new life that incorporates the loss. It is important to note that this stage does not mean forgetting or moving on from the loss, but rather finding a way to continue living in spite of it.


Reinvesting in the new reality

The final stage involves finding a way to move forward and create a new life that incorporates the loss. This may involve pursuing new goals, taking on new roles or responsibilities, or finding ways to give back to others. You need to redirect the emotional energy that was bestowed to the relationship with the deceased loved one back into your life in healthy ways. This stage can be empowering and may involve finding new meaning or purpose in life.

Afraid of a loved one dying? The fear of a loved one’s death is a profound, existential anxiety. This article by previous Savvy Psychologist, Dr. Jade Wu gets into two different anxiety-inducing scenarios and some ways to stop being paralyzed by worry so you can get the most meaning and joy out of your life with your loved one, instead.

It is important to note that the process of mourning is unique to each individual, and there is no set timeline for moving through each stage. It is also common for individuals to move back and forth between stages or experience multiple stages simultaneously.


Dr. Monica Johnson is a clinical psychologist and owner of Kind Mind Psychology, a private practice in NYC that specializes in evidenced based approaches to treating a wide range of mental health issues (e.g. depression, anxiety, trauma, and personality disorders). Additionally, she has a focus on working with marginalized groups of people including BIPOC, LGBTQ+, and alternative lifestyles to manage minority stress.

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