dealing with grief and loss

Coping With Loss as a Young Adult

The death of a loved one is always difficult, but grief in your 20s and 30s brings its own unique challenges. As a young adult, you may feel grief more acutely and struggle to cope in the wake of a devastating loss.

Feeling Invincible No Longer

When you’re young, you often feel invincible. The people around you, especially family, seem like permanent fixtures in your life. So the death of a parent, sibling, friend or partner can shake your world in ways you’re not prepared for.

Overcoming Guilt and Unfairness

You may feel guilty for experiencing such all-consuming grief. After all, death is a natural part of life. Why should it hit you so hard? But grief does not follow any rules or timelines. Your pain is real and justified, no matter your age or circumstances. Do not let anyone tell you otherwise or make you feel guilty for how deeply it impacts you.

Coping with grief in your youth also means dealing with a tremendous sense of unfairness. Whether it was a sudden, tragic loss or a long illness, you likely feel robbed of more time with your loved one. You probably had so many plans, dreams and milestones imagined with them by your side. When they are ripped away prematurely, anger and bewilderment are normal.

Common Challenges Grieving in Your Youth

The grief process will be different for everyone. But common experiences in young adulthood include:

  • Difficulty concentrating or feelings of mental fogginess. Tasks for work or school that were once simple may suddenly feel impossible.
  • Disruption in your sleep patterns and appetite. You may have trouble sleeping at night and no energy or desire to eat. Or the opposite – you sleep all day and overeat for comfort.
  • Withdrawal from friends and social activities. The idea of laughter, parties or group settings may feel wrong when you’re grieving. But isolation only deepens the pain over time.
  • Questioning of priorities, beliefs and direction in life. The loss of someone integral to your world shifts your perspective. You may doubt past decisions or feel lost in where to go next.
  • Inability to move forward. Days and months pass, but the grief remains raw. Moving on seems impossible when it means truly letting go.

Healthy Ways to Cope with Loss

The chasm left by their absence will always ache. But there are healthy ways to carry grief that can ease the burden over time:

  • Allow yourself to fully feel and process the loss. Cry, scream, sit in silence – do whatever feels right in the moment without judgment.
  • Talk about your loved one often. Share funny stories, what you miss and how they impacted you with others.
  • Take care of your physical self. Keep up routines as best you can, take time off if needed and limit unhealthy coping mechanisms.
  • Commemorate their memory. Create memorials, write letters, visit meaningful places you shared and participate in healing rituals.
  • Seek counseling or grief support groups. Connecting with others experiencing loss can validate and normalize your feelings.
  • Be patient and kind to yourself. Grief comes in waves and there is no perfect way to navigate it. You may take two steps forward and one step back.

Moving Forward with Grief

Losing someone important at a young age alters you forever. But your grief does not have to define you or prevent you from living fully. By discovering healthy outlets for sorrow, surrounding yourself with support and learning to integrate the loss into your story, you can move forward while keeping their memory close. The pain may never dissipate entirely – nor should it. But one day, you’ll be able to look back with more gratitude for the time you had together than despair over it ending too soon.

If you are struggling with grief and loss, know that I am here to help if you need it. You can reach me by email or phone and details can be found on the contact page.  Other organisations like Kids Helpline and Beyond blue also have resources and support.

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