It’s hard to know what to do when a loved one dies. You might feel like you’re the only person in the world who’s ever been through this and that no one understands what you’re going through. But we want you to know: We get it. And we’re here to help.
The death of a loved one can be devastating, especially if they were taken from you unexpectedly or at a young age. It’s natural for your emotions to feel all over the place. Trying to figure out how to deal with your feelings about their passing and what happens next in your life can feel overwhelming.
You may be wondering: What do I do now? What are my responsibilities? How do I cope with my grief? How do I move forward from this?
The good news is that we have answers for you! This article will walk you through everything from the first steps after losing someone close—like making arrangements for their funeral and getting copies of their will—to dealing with the emotional aftermath of losing someone precious in your life.
The Five Stages of Grief
The five stages of grief were first introduced in 1969 by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, a Swiss-American psychiatrist. The stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Grief is a normal and natural reaction to loss, but the stages of grief are not always linear. You may experience these feelings in a different order or even simultaneously, which is okay and normal.
Some people will only experience one or two of these stages. Others will experience them all over the course of several months or even years. You may also find yourself experiencing some of them again and again—that’s okay too! There’s no right way to grieve, but we must give ourselves space for those feelings to move through them as best we can.
Stage 1: Denial
When someone dies, it can feel like your world is falling apart. The first thing you might do is deny that the person has died. You might think about all the things you have left to do with them—what their voice sounds like, what they smell like when they come home from work—and you might tell yourself that if you just keep thinking about them, they’ll be there when you turn around. But eventually, you’ll realize that nothing has changed: They’re still gone, and you have no way to get them back.
Stage 2: Anger
Anger is a natural response to loss.
When someone you love and care about passes away, it’s normal to feel all kinds of emotions, including anger. You might be angry at yourself for not responding in time, or you might be angry at the person who passed away for leaving you behind.
If you’re feeling anger, don’t beat yourself up about it! It’s okay. Instead, try to accept that you’re feeling this way and then move on with your life. The best thing you can do for yourself is continue your daily routine as much as possible—and if that means taking some time off from work or school, take it! Take care of yourself by eating well and getting enough sleep so that when you get back into your regular routine, you’ll be able to do so with a clear mind and full of good energy.
And remember: even though right now may feel like all-consuming darkness without any light at the end of the tunnel… someday, things will get better again.
Stage 3: Bargaining
During this stage, you may find yourself trying to negotiate with God or another higher power about the loss you’ve experienced. You might ask for the return of a loved one in exchange for something you believe will bring you peace, or you might try to bargain away your pain by promising that if your loved one can be returned to life, you’ll do whatever it takes.
However, this stage differs from the previous stages because it involves an element of hope—even if it’s just a tiny glimmer. This stage allows us to imagine what life might look like without our loved one and what we’ll have to do to get them back. We’re still working through our feelings and understanding how they relate to our losses, but we’re also starting to develop ideas about moving forward without them.
Stage 4: Depression
The fourth stage of grief is depression.
It’s normal to feel sadness when you’re grieving, but if it becomes overwhelming and interferes with your ability to function, it’s important to seek help. Depression is a serious condition that can be treated with therapy and medication. It’s also important to honor your emotions and seek support and community as you need it.
Stage 5: Acceptance
Acceptance is the final stage of grief. It is when you finally come to terms with your loss and start to rebuild your life.
When you are in the early stages of grief, it can feel like you have no hope. You may feel like you will never get over this loss and that it will ruin your life forever. But the more time passes, the easier it gets to find acceptance. Once you accept what has happened, you can move forward healthily.
When you are in the acceptance stage of grief, you have come to terms with your loss and decided that while it may be painful, there is no sense in dwelling on it or trying to change what has happened. Instead, this stage is about moving forward and finding ways to be happy again—even if it doesn’t happen overnight!
Navigating Your Responsibilities After a Loss
Informing Others of the Passing
When it comes to the death of someone close to you, it can be hard to know how to approach the people in your life who are in the same situation.
You might be wondering how best to inform them of their loss or if there’s a right way at all. The good news is that there are no rules—you can decide what feels right for you and your loved ones. But there are some things you should keep in mind:
It’s important to remember that everyone processes grief differently. Don’t worry if they don’t get back to you immediately or seem like they’re not reacting. Some people may need time alone with their thoughts before talking about it; others might want to talk immediately. Either way, let them know you’re there for them and ready whenever they need an ear.
Holding space means allowing people around you enough room for their own emotions and needs without trying to control them or make them conform to your expectations. This includes giving yourself enough space as well—don’t try too hard to be strong or hide your feelings because it will only add more stress on top of everything else going on right now.
Dealing with the Legality of Death
Dealing with the legal processes required after death can be a complicated and taxing process. It may be tempting to just deal with it yourself, but the best course here is to reach out for help. You may feel like you shouldn’t lean on your friends or family for support as they are grieving too, but remember, you have also suffered a loss and are in need of community.
Also, consider professional assistance, like working with a probate attorney. They can help you navigate the paperwork and ensure it’s done correctly, allowing you to focus on healing after suffering this loss.
Preparing for a Funeral
Funerals can be emotionally taxing and expensive. Many people are forced to take out loans or use their savings to cover the costs of a funeral that may not have been planned for. This can lead to undue stress on grieving family members and friends, which can be hard enough without adding financial concerns.
But there’s good news: You don’t have to put yourself in a financial crisis when your loved one passes away. By protecting yourself with the right insurance policy before death, you can avoid unnecessary end-of-life expenses and ensure that your family doesn’t have to worry about how they will pay for everything.
Grief affects everyone differently. Again, it can be crippling and overwhelming, but most people who have lost someone close to them know that help is always available. Whether from a professional or a friend, please don’t be afraid to open up about how you feel. If you have any questions about planning for end-of-life costs and what that process looks like, don’t hesitate to reach out. Our experienced agents are here to help!