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Fact Sheet

Moving on after someone dies


After the memorial service

The time after a funeral (or other type of memorial service) can be hard. Attending the service might help you feel connected to the person you’ve lost or a sense of closure with their death. But after the service, you might also start to feel empty, lonely and sad. You might have to start thinking about returning to your everyday routine including school or work.

It’s likely that you’re still grieving, which can make it hard to get back into a balanced routine. Sometimes it can be difficult to do day-to-day stuff. Other times, you might want to throw yourself back into work or school as a helpful distraction.

Everybody is different, and you’re the only one who can judge what you’re able to handle. It’s a good idea to get back into your routine at a pace that suits you. Keep in mind that it’s normal to have some days that are tougher than others. Over time, it’s likely that you’ll get back into the swing of things.

When friends and family are moving on

Your friends and family may have started to get back to their normal routines, or maybe they never really got out of them in the first place. Because you’re all in different emotional states, it might be that your friends and family aren’t able to support you in the way that you need or that they are experiencing their grieving differently. It might be hard for your friends and family who weren’t connected to the person who died to know what to do and how to help you. It’s a good idea to keep your friends and family in the loop with how you’re feeling. Let them know what you need and how they can help. The odds are that they’re waiting for you to ask for support and will support you in the way that you need.

Making the shift back to your routine manageable

You might find these tips helpful when you get back into your routine including work or school.

Talk to your teacher or boss. If you’re going back to school and/or work, it might be a good idea to talk with your teacher or boss about what you want others to know about your loss. Discussing your workload with your teacher or boss about might also help you ease back in. It’s OK to ask for some consideration on homework or your work responsibilities. Also, keep in mind that difficulties with concentration and memory are common during the grieving process, and they might affect your performance. If this happens, it may help to discuss it with your teacher or boss.

Take time out. It’s important for you to manage how you’re feeling. It might be helpful to set aside some time in the day to deal with your thoughts. During this time, you might want to write in a journal, draw, punch a pillow or exercise to let off some steam.

Value your memories. Memories help you to remember the person you’ve lost, and over time the pain will fade into happy memories. Setting aside a time for you to remember your loved one can be helpful. If you’re worried you are going to forget the memories, write them down. Remember that it’s O.K. to cry and be saddened by the memories at first. Over time, it often becomes easier to remember. There is no set time frame for this, though, because everyone is different.

Talk to someone. Sometimes talking to someone about how you’re feeling helps you manage your emotions and make sense of them. You might want to talk to someone who’s going through a similar circumstance, like a family member, friend, teacher or counselor or other mental health professional. Check out the Get Help section for more information about how these people can help you. If you need to talk to someone immediately, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or The Boys Town National Hotline at 1-800-448-3000. Both hotlines are free and have trained volunteers available to speak with you 24/7.

There’s no timeline or deadline: Don’t worry about how long grieving should last, or any judgments that you should be “over it” by now. Everyone experiences grief in their own way and on their own timeline. And you may feel better for a while and then experience a fresh wave of grief – especially if something happens that reminds you of the person, or as a significant holiday or anniversary approaches.

Acknowledgments:

The American Society of Clinical Oncology website, “Coping with Change After the Death of Someone You Love”

Some of the information is adapted from the book After Suicide, Help For The Bereaved by Sheila Clark. Published in 1995 by Hill of Content Publishing Company Pty Ltd, Melbourne 3000.

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