Coping with Loss: A Counselor's Guide to Finding Solace in Memories

UPDATED June 2024

Picture of Rychel Johnson, M.S., LCPC

Rychel Johnson, M.S., LCPC

Senior Contributing Editor

Coping with loss is tough. Even the most comprehensive self-help book can’t possibly articulate how a person’s journey through grief may feel. We can agree that the grief timeline is often more complicated than the five stages we know about: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance [1]. “Messy” and “confusing” could be accurate descriptors for walking through grief. 

Coping with Loss A Counselor’s Guide to Finding Solace in Memories

Losing a loved one is an inevitable part of life, yet it’s one of the most challenging experiences we may endure. The waves of grief can feel overwhelming, engulfing us in sorrow and leaving us searching for some semblance of solace. However, amidst the pain, there lies a powerful source of comfort: memories.

Finding comfort after enduring a personal loss can be a slow and gradual process. This article will provide readers with perspectives from a counselor and some ways to help cope with grief, utilizing the comfort of memories to find solace.

The Power of Memories

Memories have a unique ability to transcend time and space, allowing us to reconnect with someone we’ve lost. They serve as a bridge between the past and the present, reminding us of the love, laughter, and cherished moments we shared with our loved ones. While grief may feel like trudging through mud sometimes, finding comfort in memories can provide a beacon of hope to navigate through the darkest days.

One of the most profound aspects of memories is their ability to evoke emotions that span the entire spectrum of human experience. In moments of grief, reminiscing about the happy times spent with our loved ones can provide us with a sense of warmth and comfort. Whether it’s a shared joke or a simple gesture of kindness, these memories serve as a reminder that love endures beyond physical presence.

Moreover, memories offer us a sense of continuity and connection to the past. They allow us to preserve the essence of those we’ve lost, keeping their spirit alive in our hearts and minds. In revisiting these memories in the form of photos, videos, or simply reflecting on past conversations, we honor the lives of our loved ones and can find reassurance.

How to Cope with Loss

While you’re gathering memories and working through the emotions that are healthy and normal to experience after a death, you may need tangible steps toward feeling better. Some direction can help you feel ready to emerge after a loss and better equipped to resume living your life.

Allow Yourself to Grieve

Give yourself permission to feel the full range of emotions that come with loss – sadness, anger, guilt, or even relief. It’s okay to feel whatever you’re feeling, and it’s important not to suppress these emotions. Journaling and spending time alone to allow tears to flow are healthy ways to release intense emotions.

Take Care of Yourself

Make self-care a priority during this time. Ensure you get enough rest, eat well, and engage in activities that bring you joy and relaxation. Find a physical movement practice or exercise that gets your blood pumping to help you feel better. Physical well-being can have a significant impact on emotional well-being and overall mental health [2].

Find Meaning in the Loss with Memories

While it may be difficult to see it at first, try to find meaning or purpose in the loss. You can find ways to carry your loved one’s values into your life by honoring their legacy. Additionally, you may be able to seek personal growth from the experience despite feeling emotional pain from your loss.

Coping with grief isn’t solely about dwelling on the past; it’s also about finding ways to honor the memory of our loved ones while moving forward with our lives. Honoring a loved one can take many forms, from creating a tribute or memorial to finding ways to carry on their legacy through acts of kindness and compassion. By channeling our grief into positive action, we not only honor the memory of our loved ones but also find a sense of purpose and meaning surrounding loss.

Seek Support

If you’re struggling to cope with the loss on your own, don’t hesitate to reach out to a mental health therapist or bereavement counselor. They can provide you with the tools and support you need to navigate your grief in a healthy way. You may also want to surround yourself with friends, family, or a support group who can offer comfort and understanding. Talking about your feelings with others who are going through similar experiences can be incredibly helpful. Remember, the only way out of grief is to go through it.

Finding solace in memories is not a solitary journey but one that is shareable with others who are also grieving. Coming together to share stories and support one another can be incredibly healing, providing a sense of community and understanding that eases the burden of grief. In sharing our memories, we find strength in the bonds that connect us, knowing we are not alone in our pain [3].

Conclusion

While grief may never fully dissipate, finding solace in memories can help us navigate the journey with greater resilience and grace. By embracing the richness of the past and finding ways to honor the memory of our loved ones, we can find comfort in the knowledge that they will always live on in our hearts. And in doing so, we discover that even amid grief, there is hope, love, and the enduring power of cherished memories.

Remember that finding comfort in loss is a profoundly personal journey, and what works for one person may not work for another. It’s important to be gentle with yourself and to allow yourself to experience your emotions fully as you navigate this difficult time.

References

  1. Tyrrell, P., Harberger, S., Schoo, C., & Siddiqui, W. (2023, February 26). Kubler-Ross stages of dying and subsequent models of grief. Nih.gov; StatPearls Publishing. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/
  2. ‌Mahindru, A., Patil, P., & Agrawal, V. (2023). Role of Physical Activity on Mental Health and Well-Being: a Review. Cureus, 15(1). https://doi.org/10.7759/
  3. ‌Institute of Medicine (US) Committee for the Study of Health Consequences of the Stress of Bereavement, Osterweis, M., Solomon, F., & Green, M. (2015). Reactions to Particular Types of Bereavement. Nih.gov; National Academies Press (US). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/