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Someone Died. What Do I Do?

What are we supposed to do when someone dies? I wish I had a simple answer. And in some ways, I do. There is nothing you can do except ride the waves of grief. Loss is so unexpected, even when it is expected. We cannot fathom what it will feel like to lose someone close to us. There is no comparison to the experience of deep grief.

I understand why people ask me what they should do. The feelings of grief can be so overwhelming and consuming and confusing that you just want to know what to do. You want a formula, a plan, a prescription for how to move through it. You want to know that you will survive the pain. You want to know that you will be okay.

You will be okay. You will never be the same, but nor should you want to be the same. Your life will be forever transformed because of your loss.

Other people may not understand this all the time. Other people will say dumb things sometimes. Other people will fail to show up in the ways you most need. But you will be okay. In fact, if you give yourself over to the grief process you will be transformed into someone who is wiser, attuned and compassionate than you were before.

But before that happens you must allow yourself to move through the motions of grief. This looks different for each person. Our grief is as unique as the relationship we had with the person we lost. We cannot know what we need to do or feel until we listen to what grief is asking of us. And that is what I tell people to do. Listen to your grief, allow yourself to feel your pain. It won’t be easy, so seek support during the process. But there is nothing to do except to be in it. Only when we can allow ourselves to fully grieve, can we allow ourselves to fully heal.

If you have lost someone you love, either recently, or decades ago, ask yourself – have you fully grieved?
Are there ways in which you still need to feel sad or angry? Are there aspects of the loss that you have yet to face? Do you need to seek forgiveness with yourself or others? Are you finding ways to make meaning out of your loss? Are you finding ways to connect with your loved one? Are you finding ways to connect with yourself?

Grief is never easy and unfortunately, there is no simple answer for how to move through it. But by allowing yourself to really feel it, you will find relief and healing.

Posted with permission from clairebidwellsmith.com.

What Really Matters


October 15–17, 2021

Join grief therapist Claire Bidwell Smith, death doula Alua Arthur, and hospice and palliative medicine physician Dr. Bruce (BJ) Miller, Jr. for an encouraging weekend of hope, healing and transformation.