How to cope with lost loved ones

PHOTO: Individuals decorate gravestones to remember their lost loved ones.

By Lyah Fitzpatrick, Staff– 

Especially in a pandemic, the death of a loved one may bring about a confusing whirlwind of emotions. It is important to know how to deal with loss.

According to psychologist Leslie Silver, there are two universal ways to cope with loss. The first is to talk about it.

“What isn’t good is if people bury their emotions […] because usually the emotions will resurface at some point down the line,” Silver said. She encourages contacting free, professional counseling offered by Yolo Hospice, or talking to friends and family.

The second way of grieving is to honor the one who has passed. 

Davis High senior Kavi McKinney lost his grandmother in eighth grade. “[There was] just a lot of talking with my family about it and celebrating her life by telling stories,” McKinney said.

“Sometimes marking the passing of someone is really important symbolically,” Silver said. She encourages clients to go through photographs of their lost one, or visit a place they went together.

In some cases, an individual may have unresolved issues with someone who has passed. In these cases, Silver suggests “making right by the people that are still alive in their life.”

And lastly, Silver suggests reconnecting with a religious, or spiritual belief, old family tradition or hobby. With the right mindset, there can be positives that stem from losing someone close to you. 

However, there are certainly things not to do while grieving. Resa Ware, Yolo Hospice Stepping Stones Coordinator, notes that many unhealthy coping mechanisms exist, such as turning to drugs or alcohol.

Instead, she urges individuals to face grief head on. 

“Anything that you’re doing to cover up or hide how we feel is typically unhealthy,” Ware said. “If you feel sad, be okay with it. Sit with that emotion and accept it [and] allow yourself to experience joy.” 

She reminds those grieving to be patient. “Just take it one day at a time. […] Grief is different for everybody.”

Over time, McKinney has adopted an optimistic perspective. “A lot of people who die have lived super full lives and it’s just their time to go,” he said.

Ware gives one last comment: “If you’re struggling, know you’re not alone.” Click here for a list of “things that might help cope with grief,” compiled by Stepping Stones participants.

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