Grief: Coping with reminders after a loss
Grief doesn't magically end at a certain point after a loved one's death. Reminders often bring back the pain of loss. Here's help coping — and healing.By Mayo Clinic Staff
When a loved one dies, you might be faced with grief over your loss again and again — sometimes even years later. Feelings of grief might return on the anniversary of your loved one's death or other special days throughout the year.
These feelings, sometimes called an anniversary reaction, aren't necessarily a setback in the grieving process. They're a reflection that your loved one's life was important to you.
To continue on the path toward healing, know what to expect — and how to cope with reminders of your loss.
Reminders can be anywhere
Certain reminders of your loved one might be inevitable, such as a visit to the loved one's grave, the anniversary of the person's death, holidays, birthdays or new events you know he or she would have enjoyed. Even memorial celebrations for others can trigger the pain of your own loss.
Reminders also can be tied to sights, sounds and smells — and they can be unexpected. You might suddenly be flooded with emotions when you drive by the restaurant your partner loved or when you hear your child's favorite song.
What to expect when grief returns
The course of grief is unpredictable. Anniversary reactions can last for days at a time or — in more extreme cases — much longer. During an anniversary reaction you might experience the intense emotions and reactions that you first experienced when you lost your loved one, including:
- Crying spells
- Fatigue, or lack of energy
- Trouble sleeping
Anniversary reactions can also evoke powerful memories of the feelings and events surrounding your loved one's death. For example, you might remember in great detail where you were and what you were doing when your loved one died.
Sept. 24, 2015
See more In-depth
- Shear MK. Grief and bereavement in adults: Clinical features. http://www.uptodate.com. Accessed Aug. 29, 2015.
- Shear MK. Clinical practice: Complicated grief. New England Journal of Medicine. 2015;372:153.
- Holtslander L, et al. An inner struggle for hope: Insights from the diaries of bereaved family caregivers. International Journal of Palliative Nursing. 2008;14:478.
- Reminders of trauma: Anniversaries. United States Department of Veterans Affairs. http://www.ptsd.va.gov/public/problems/anniversary-reactions.asp. Accessed Sept. 5, 2015.
- Vale-Taylor P. "We will remember them": A mixed-method study to explore which post-funeral remembrance activities are most significant and important to bereaved people living with loss, and why those particular activities are chosen. Palliative Medicine. 2009;23:537.
- Shear MK. Grief and bereavment in adults: Management. http://www.uptodate.com. Accessed Aug. 29, 2015.
- Zisook S, et al. Bereavement: Course, consequences, and care. Current Psychiatry Reports. 2014;16:482.