Love our Articles? Be the first one to read our newest Articles.

Losing a loved one is the worst pain and a leading cause of Depression

13 Mar 2015


Sunita lost her husband  to a heart attack. Just like any other day, she had packed lunch for her husband in the morning after which he left for office, but unlike on other days, that day he never returned. It was traumatic for her. It seemed like Sunita had disappeared into another world. She had stopped talking, refused to eat and was not even crying.

She just sat on her bed all day clutching her husband’s photograph. After her children insisted, she started eating but she completely withdrew herself from social interactions. Eventually, she started ignoring her personal hygiene, her diet, her sleep, and her daily chores and her life became a chaos. She would wake up at night having severe chest pains which made her hopeful that she was dying too and would meet her husband again. This went on for months.

Her children got worried and took her for therapy. After few months of therapy, Sunita now feels better and has been able to pull through her depression and come to terms with her loss. She is now staying with her daughter and where she spends time with her daughter, regularly meets with her neighbors, and takes part in family and social gatherings. She often talks about her husband, but she has learnt to share her love for him with other members of her family too.


Dealing with the loss of a loved one brings devastating grief. Grieving for a loved one is very normal and albeit necessary. The period of mourning after the death of a loved one is called bereavement.

In this article, you’ll get an idea as to when you should start worrying that the bereavement process is getting extended for far too long and needs immediate management.  Most importantly, this article shares evidence based self-help and management strategies that can go a long way in helping a person with the grieving process following the loss of a loved one.


Bereavement is an automatic process when you experience loss.

According to Kubler-Ross (1969), there are 5 stages of grief:

  1. Denial: Believing that nothing happened to your loved one & that its a bad dream
  2. Anger:  Getting Angry on the situation & your loss.
  3. Bargaining: Constant feelings of trading anything to get your loved one back
  4. Depression: Sadness & Persistent Low mood
  5. Acceptance: Accepting the reality & moving on

These stages are commonly expressed by the acronym DABDA. These stages do not occur in the same order or for the same duration. People experience some of these or all of these while experiencing loss of a loved one.


Signs & Symptoms of Grief

The signs and symptoms of grief encompass our physical, emotional and behavioral responses and each area gets affected differently for different people. Some of the common symptoms are:

Physical symptoms: Crying, headache, sleep and appetite disturbances, fatigue and weakness, chest pains, other physical illness.

Emotional: Feeling of sadness and yearning, anxiety, frustration, anger, worry and guilt, preoccupation with loss, inability to show joy.

Behavioral: Different age groups experience this differently.

  • Children below 7 years of age see death of a loved one as a separation and feel abandoned and scared. They might not want to be alone at night or go to a play school. Throwing temper tantrums, refuse to talk, bed wetting, eating- sleeping-toileting problems may commonly occur.


  • Children between 7 to 12years of age see this as threat to personal safety. Problems concentrating on schoolwork, following directions, and doing daily tasks are common.


  • Teenagers, sometimes join cult or religious groups to pacify their feelings. Some may engage in activities like reckless driving, drug abuse, risky sexual behavior or act out on suicidal ideations.


  • Adults resolve to religious activities or may become extremely possessive of their living loved ones. They may repeatedly look at old photo albums or recordings, reliving their memories with the lost one.


  • Elder persons above 60 years see death of a loved one as their own impending death. They start fearing they may be ‘next’. They try to relate and match up to the symptoms of the loved one, they have lost. If the loved one was younger (child or a grandchild), it is common to have ‘survivors’ guilt’ and resort to questioning their own existence

Social: Social detachment and withdrawal, isolation, unsocial behavior.

Spiritual: Questioning spiritual faith regarding the death.


Symptoms demanding immediate attention

  1. Unusual experiences, for example, vivid and persistent nightmares about loved one. 
  2. Persistent suicidal behavior or thoughts such as talking, drawing or writing about death 
  3. Suspended state of disbelief that the death or separation never occurred that loved one is alive.
  4. Going to familiar places in search of loved one or avoiding places who remind of the deceased.
  5. Inability to get on with usual life even after a very long time and feeling that life is meaningless
  6. Personal and social relationships are getting affected by and large
  7. Inability to move on and preoccupied with the thoughts and memories of the loved one




You can possibly grieve healthily and move on if you try to follow these self-management strategies:

  1. Accept the loss: For example, let go of the belongings of the person whom you have lost.
  2. Express your pain: Acknowledge your feelings. You may be able to suppress your feelings but you can’t avoid them forever.
  3. Allow you to feel and emote: Crying as well as verbally and non-verbally expressing your emotions is effective and important. Unresolved grief only leads to complications like depression, anxiety, prolonged grief and health problems. Don’t box it up, let it all out.
  4. Do it gradually: You can’t handle everything at once. Do it step wise. One day, you can go out and meet a friend, next day you can cook a meal or organize some activity with a family and eventually getting along with all the daily activities
  5. Take care of yourself:  Exercise, eat and sleep healthily. Maintain a schedule to monitor your daily routine. Eating nutritious meals, exercising or walking and sleeping on time are important to battle fatigue and stress. Stay away from substance abuse as a way to artificially lift your moods. Healthy mind dwells in a healthy body.
  6. Choose support instead of isolation: Do not grieve alone; sharing makes it easy to carry the burden of grief. Talk to someone. It doesn’t make you weak. It will only help you. Move towards friends and family members for support. You can talk to anybody you like, anyone you think who will listen and understand. It can be your teacher, your parent, your sibling, your best friend or your grandparent. You can also draw comfort from your religion/spiritual beliefs –follow mourning rituals and indulge in spiritual activities.
  7. Understand your emotions: You are the best judge of your emotions so do not let anybody tells you how to emote or feel. Your grief is your own, and no one has the right to tell you when it’s time to “move on” or “stop grieving”.
  8.   Engage yourself in other self-growth promoting activities:  like watch positive movies and documentaries, read inspirational books and poetries, pursue a hobby you are passionate about and focus on positive things with them
  9. Be prepared with the painful old memories coming back: Anniversaries, holidays and related ceremonies are the hardest time. It is normal to feel low but you can talk to someone or do something to honor the person you are remembering and let it pass. Milestones you accomplished with the loved ones can reawaken the memories associated with losing your loved one. Plan ahead for what you are going to do on these days so as to feel strong and in control of your feelings. You may want to celebrate their birthday with the family or feed the underprivileged or engage in spiritual activities. For example, on your anniversary, you can provide things to an orphanage and tell them how great your wife/ husband was.
  10. Say the final goodbye: You can write a letter about the things you wished you could have done or words that you could have said. You can also write about how you remember the person and conclude it with a goodbye. You can also make a scrapbook or photo album or get involved with an activity or organization the person was involved with.
  11. Make good use of your time: When we have experienced a recent loss –death of a loved one, our motivation to do things we once liked and enjoyed often decreases. You may find that you have given up on your hobbies. This makes you feel even worse and a cycle can begin which is difficult to escape from.



Seek professional help:  Grief counseling

Grief Counseling offers a safe, empathetic relationship with the counselor to guide the aggrieved through the stages of anger, sadness, and justifying, letting go. It will help you with:

 Learning to accept that the loss has happened and is for real

Feeling OK about experiencing the emotional pain related to loss

Adjusting to living without the departed soul as there would be losses of shared activities making your life feel emptier.


Find a safe place in your heart and memories for your departed loved one, and motivate yourself to move on with life without guilt or other negative emotions.


At ePsyClinic, the click is a step away. If you could identify with the symptoms and reasons mentioned in this article, its time you seek help for yourself and your loved ones now!

Our psychologists are here to help you. You are just one click away from a stress free healthy life!!


Tags: #loss of a loved one #grief #sadness #alone #missing #can't live without