Dealing With Loss

Dealing with loss or terminal illness of a loved one is a very traumatic event and one most people will face at some point in their life.

As difficult as this type of grief is, it can be complicated immensely when you are dealing with mental illness.

Thankfully, there are some tried and true methods for dealing with loss, whether you face mental illness or not.  

This page discusses the five stages of grief, then talks about some emotionally healthy ways of dealing with that grief/loss, and then discusses watching out for mental illness warning signs as you are moving through your pain.  

After that, this page touches on the benefits of journalling to work through the grief, and some journalling prompts to help you stay in-the-moment and in touch with your feelings.  

Finally, the page concludes by talking about a possible unexpected benefit to walking through a loss and summarizes the page. 

It is basically accepted that there are five distinct stages of grief, however contrary to popular belief, you may not go through them all.

In fact, you may skip one and then revisit it at a later date. To put it another way, the stages of grief are not linear.

The Stages of Grief as You Are Dealing With Loss

 1. Denial

Generally accepted as the first stage and perhaps the only stage of grief that a majority of people will deal with first when learning of a death or terminal illness. Denying that death has come or is imminent is a defense mechanism that delays the inevitable pain until the griever is better able to deal with the situation. During denial an individual may tend to withdraw from others and life in general.

2. Anger

When reality does set in it is normal to experience anger, which may be aimed at the deceased loved one, yourself, other members of the family or even inanimate objects. Anger toward the physician who diagnosed the disease or the hospital that “let” your loved one die is also reasonable at this stage. Why do you feel so much rage? It is again a protection mechanism, if you are angry you do not have to deal with the pain of loss.

3. Bargaining

This is the point in grief where those left behind want to strike a deal with a higher power, especially when a loved one has a terminal illness. Feelings of doubt and guilt are common as is the practice of praying and offering to trade just about anything for a loved one’s life. The realistic part of the mind knows this will not work, but it is another way to at least delay the inevitable pain of loss. Dealing with loss will push you to try all types of bargains!

4. Depression

During a time of loss, depression and anxiety are common. When you are facing a sudden unexpected loss there can be financial issues from both illness and the final preparation costs. Burial or cremation, vault or not and many other concerns may need to be dealt with, especially if your loved one was not prepared. You may also feel a deep sense of longing and loss which results in depression.

5. Acceptance

Grief eventually brings most people to a place of acceptance. Will everyone reach this stage of dealing with loss? Unfortunately, no, in fact some continue to experience grief for years after the loss of a loved one. Acceptance is not necessarily a happy time in a mourner’s life, but more a calm peace and resignation to the situation. Extended periods of grief can occur lasting a more than a year, in this case it is a good idea to get some professional help for dealing with loss.

Dealing With Loss in Emotionally Healthy Ways

As human beings, it is perfectly natural to run from things that threaten us, physically or emotionally.

Losing someone you love is definitely a threat to your emotional well-being; however, you should never run from the grieving process. Although it sounds counterproductive, the best thing you can do is fully embrace the stages of grief and move through them at your own pace.

Bottling up anger, pain, grief and other emotions you will deal with at this time is not healthy!

Other healthy ways to deal with loss include:

  • Sharing the load- do not try to handle the loss all on your own. Talking with another family member can be very therapeutic, particularly when you share the same kind of bond with the person you lost.
  • Hobby- a hobby or project is a great way to channel your pain and nervous energy into something productive.
  • Pets- there is a reason pet owners live longer, animals relieve stress and they can provide a great albeit hairy shoulder to cry on.

Mental Illness and Loss

Do you or someone you love suffer from mental illness? Illness or death of a loved one can result in a relapse. There are ways to minimize or alleviate a relapse if you or someone close to you is mentally ill and dealing with loss.


  • Warning Signs- Preventing a relapse really starts before the loss of a loved one, you need to identify your warning signs. Think back to the last time you experienced a relapse or episode, now pay attention to the signs that led up to that moment. Did your behavior gradually change? If you cannot remember or think of a sign, ask those close to you.
  • Redirection- During times of grief participating in an art project or otherwise redirecting your thoughts can aid in dealing with loss.

Journalling as a Way to Deal With Grief

 A good way of dealing with grief is to keep a journal. This allows you the freedom to share every thought in safety and security. Sort of like an exorcism of the grief and pain, as you pour out the emotion on paper (or computer) it will lessen the internal turmoil. What should you write about? Some ideas include:

  • I need...
  • I feel...
  • I wish...
  • List the bad experiences in your life and then burn the note.


Dealing with loss and grief is not an easy process, but it is one you can come through.

You may even find you have come through stronger or with fresh insight, which can give you a bit of unseen benefit.

Whatever you do during this time, professional help, crying on a shoulder, journalling or your own personal grief regimen, find someone who can stand behind you throughout the entire process.

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