And it’s totally normal.
Grief is hard work. Whether you’ve lost a parent, sibling, a friend, or someone else, a loved one’s death can lead to a feeling of tremendous loss.
Everyone grieves differently. For some, talking to a deceased loved one at their grave is comforting, while others like to post messages on someone’s Facebook after they have died. If you’ve ever found yourself having a conversation with someone you love who has passed away, don’t worry. If you’ve ever wondered whether this is an unhealthy coping mechanism, experts argue it is a completely valid and healthy way to cope with loss.
“Speaking out loud to a loved one who has passed — whether at a grave site or out loud at home — is helpful for many people processing grief,” Dr. Alison Forti, an assistant professor in the Department of Counseling at Wake Forest University, told Teen Vogue. “I will sometimes encourage my clients to speak to an empty chair in an effort to help them cope with grief. Many people will experience a sense of disbelief after they lose a loved one. By encouraging people to speak out loud to their loved one it helps them resolve that disbelief.”
It’s also normal to see, hear, and/or sense the presence of a deceased loved one as well. According to the Conversation, sensing someone’s presence even though they have died is totally normal. Oftentimes, this presence can be comforting. If that’s something you’ve experienced, it’s OK, and it’s even a good thing.
For instance, as an exercise, licensed counselor Dr. Sherrie Campbell sometimes ask her clients to write letters to their deceased loved ones to air out any grievances or final thoughts, such as what the client wish they could have said before their loved one died.
“When a relationship is ripped away from us through death, it takes the heart time to let go,” Dr. Campbell told Teen Vogue. “We still have things left unsaid, emotions and experiences we want to share, things to get closure on and a place to receive or feel a sense of connection and comfort. I tell my patients, young and old, that although our loved one’s may not be here in physical form, that they are right next door watching over us. We can find a sense of comfort in feeling that they are still close to us, conversations can still be had.”
In any case, remember that everyone goes through the process of grief at a different pace. For instance, if a close friend you attended school with passes away, and your other friends seem to be moving on, it’s okay to still feel down and feel like you can’t quite move on just yet.
“Many people have heard of the stages of grief and make a false assumption that grief is linear,” added Dr. Forti. “However, grief comes in waves and can hit people when they least expect it. People can actively grieve, move forward in life with their grief, years go by, and the simple smell of a perfume brings them back to an angry or sad moment of grieving.”