Losing someone you love is never easy. The loss can take a toll on a person’s mental wellbeing as grief and memories flood the mind. Feelings can range from sadness and loneliness to anger, shock and numbness.
The Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) Manual says bereavement, or feelings of sadness and grief that occur with the death of a loved one, is a normal experience. A person may experience emotions similar to depression during this time.
The grieving process is natural and unique to everyone, and bereavement grief has some of the same symptoms as major depression, like intense sadness and withdrawal from daily activities. However, grief and depression are different in important ways — one being the treatments they respond to. And a person may have challenges with both grief and depression.
If intense grief lasts longer than six months and impairs daily habits and functions, it may be a sign of “complicated grief.” Complicated grief affects about 7-10% of bereaved people.
Mental Health First Aiders should be careful as they assess the situation before deciding whether to approach and assist a person experiencing grief. The First Aider can encourage professional help such as seeing a primary care provider, therapist or psychiatrist.
Finding a way to honor a loved one also helps some people process loss and grief. The gesture can be small and personal or more public — whatever feels appropriate.
Here are a few ways people can honor the loss of a loved one:
How you honor a loved one is a personal matter; there’s no right or wrong way to do it. In fact, it can be something you do every year — maybe on their birthday or the anniversary of their death — or just once as a way of finding closure and serving your own mental wellbeing needs.