There is no struggle quite like death. Although life provides a variety of challenges and difficulties, they are all framed within the concept of…life. Death takes the context through which you have dealt with past hardships, and shakes that. Many of life’s hardships can be managed cerebrally, keeping emotionality to a minimum. But death has a way of overpowering, to the degree that it feels like there is nothing that can be done.

The good news is that there are things that can be done, even in the difficult, early stages of grieving. Lots of literature exists detailing how best to move through the grieving process, but said literature hinges on one important point:

The key to coping with loss is to actually allow yourself to experience and feel the pain.

As hard and unpleasant as it sounds (and frankly, as it is), it must be done. The only thing worse than a serious loss, is an unresolved loss, one that continually eats at you and never goes away. This unfortunately happens because in the attempt to try to sever or distance one’s self from intense pain, psychological defense mechanisms block the experience from happening on the deeper levels.  Emotions and thoughts related to the turmoil of death need to be gone through, expressed, and released.

Other key principles exist in coping: Maintaining a healthy lifestyle through nutrition and exercise, avoiding significant changes in the early stages (moving, new job, etc.), preparing for potentially painful reminders of the lost (birthdays, anniversaries, holiday traditions). However, these practices alone will not bring lasting peace if an individual hasn’t stood squarely in the midst of their pain, and really felt it.

If you find yourself experiencing a difficult death, or a loss of any kind, keep in mind the necessity of this experience. Honoring those we love who have passed is not done by perpetually struggling and missing life without them: Honoring them is done by living a full, rich life with their memory as a guide and reminder of the kind of things you want to be remembered for.