5 Simple Steps to Help Cope With and Recover From a Sudden and Traumatic Loss in Your Life

A man holding his head in his hands by a window - coping with traumatic loss

When a sudden and traumatic loss occurs in your life, such as the death of a loved one, it can seem as if it has turned the whole world upside down. You might feel disoriented, lost, and overcome by an overwhelming sense of grief. Yet, if you follow these steps, they can help you work towards recovery and moving forward with your life.

5 steps to help you cope with traumatic loss

1. Make room to feel

It can be very tempting when you experience a traumatic loss to shy away from the emotions and pain associated with it. The pain and hurt can sometimes be too great. Yet, pushing those emotions to the side or burying them deep down would be a mistake. You need to face and experience those feelings in order for your brain to process what happened and for your soul to heal. That’s why, when you start to experience those painful feelings, allow yourself the room to feel them, even if it’s hard.

2. Avoid Negative Coping Strategies

When we experience a loss we often look to negative coping strategies that we think will work in the moment, but only damage us in the long run. For example:

  • Drinking too much alcohol
  • Using recreational drugs or abusing prescription ones
  • Social isolation

These will only serve to numb or dull the emotions you are feeling. And, in the case of social isolation, there is a danger that you can retreat into your own world and get caught up in negative thinking patterns that can cause further harm. So, be aware if you find yourself sliding towards these things as they only exacerbate the problem. They don’t solve it.

3. Share your feelings

One of the best ways to cope with a traumatic loss is to talk about your feelings with others. Why? Because talking about what happened allows your brain to process what happened. You are better able to make sense of the situation. Sometimes, such as when there is an unexpected death in the family, there may not be any final resolution that provides an “answer.” Yet, by talking about it with other family members, close friends, or a counsellor, you can begin the healing process.

4. Continue to be Active

Besides talking about what happened, another effective thing you can do is stay physically active. If you already have an exercise routine, great. Stick with that routine as the physical exertion and the structure can be of significant benefit. When you move your body, you release chemicals that affect your mood. Also, you become more focused on what you are doing at the moment, which takes your attention off of the trauma, at least for a little while. Even if you don’t have a regular exercise routine already established, you can get outside of the house and go for a walk. The fresh air and sunshine will help too!

5. Letting go

There is a reason why we have funerals for those we have lost, or ceremonies to mark the passing of a particular event (for example, retirement). Events like these help us with the healing process and create closure. Some ideas for creating your own ceremony include:

  • Writing a letter to your loved one and then destroying it.
  • Creating a piece of art and leaving it at a meaningful spot.
  • Crafting a poem or story and reciting it.
  • Holding a small gathering.

Our ancestors knew well that ceremonies are important and we could take a lesson from them when coping with trauma and loss.

But what if I am still struggling with traumatic loss?

We will all experience loss in our lifetimes. It’s inevitable. However, by following these steps we can make sure that those experiences do not become burdens.

If you are still struggling, consider seeing a counsellor experienced in grief counselling. Together you can process what happened, understand why you are feeling what you are feeling, and hopefully achieve closure.

If you would like to speak with someone, in confidence, please call us on 0151 329 3637, email enquiries@counselling-matters.org.uk or complete the online referral form. We would be happy to take your call.

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