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I can pinpoint the exact moment when my life changed irrevocably; a line drawn suddenly in the sand marking an indelible “before” and “after.” When I lost my mom on August 13, 2009, I couldn’t have predicted how much it would change me. We don’t often think about loss as a time of major transition in our lives. Our minds go to milestones like college, marriage, or retirement, but loss has an equal power over us. Seven years later, reflecting on the most difficult point in my life, here is my advice for others navigating their own personal loss.

Open up about How You’re Feeling: The period of shock has passed and reality has set in. Many have expressed their sorrow for your loss and inevitably have moved on with their lives, and you’re left feeling like the earth has shifted on its axis but life is moving on as if nothing has changed. It’s important, especially during these times when you’re feeling alone, to let your trusted friends and loved ones (even if it’s just one or two) know how you’re feeling. Talking about grief can be a precarious thing because people may be afraid to make you sad by bringing it up or you might feel like it’s too heavy to insert into everyday conversation. Nothing normalizes grief and helps connect you more closely to others than sharing your experience and being open.

Take Time for Yourself: There are plenty of times in life to put others first, but this isn’t one of them. Losing a loved one can be a time of turmoil and change, and taking care of yourself and your own needs should be your first priority. Don’t be afraid to to lean on others, and to prioritize self-care.

Talk to a Counselor: There are so many variables with grief. Your family may not want to talk about the loss. You might be having reoccurring dreams about your loved one’s death. Whatever your experience with grief is, if it’s interfering with your everyday life consider finding a mental health professional that you can talk to. This is an impartial person you can talk to without limits on what you “should” or “shouldn’t” say or how often you say it.

Monitor yourself for Symptoms of Depression or Anxiety: Looking back it’s obvious that my anxiety started after my mom died but at the time there was so much going on that I didn’t even consider my changed behavior. It’s important to be in tune with your mental health throughout your grieving period. Remember, you can always check in on your symptoms at http://helpyourselfhelpothers.org.

Loss marks our lives in a profound way. It’s so important that that we open up with those we love, reach out for help when we need it, and take note of our mental health.

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