Coping After the Loss of a Loved One

After the loss of a loved one, the world can feel unempathetic and meaningless. We become so attached to the day-to-day routine of our lives, but when we lose someone we love, the day-to-day seems to have no purpose – no meaning. The days moving forward seem less significant because the one you love isn’t able to share the day with you. This feeling deepens when the one you love was killed by an act of violence. Not only does your sadness take over, but anger and fear. You might feel survivors guilt – “Why not me?” you might think. You may be wondering how in the world you will ever be able to cope with the emotions you are feeling.

While we can never fully understand the pain you feel, we will help support you. By talking with a trained advocate, we can discuss goals and how to prepare for anniversaries. While you can never fully prepare yourself for the feelings you will experience after the loss of a loved one, you can move forward knowing you are doing the best you can.


What do you want your goals to be moving forward? Be specific – when and how will you accomplish these goals? After a loss, you may want to keep it simple: “My goal is to get 8 hours of sleep tonight,” or “My goal is to eat a full meal tomorrow.” Start small, then work your way up to the bigger ones.

When you are ready, you can start to work towards bigger goals: “My goal is to go back to work for a half day/full day, etc.” or, “My goal is to attend a support group by the end of the week.” Know there is no right pace to be on when it comes to mourning – you may not be on the same timeline as someone else and that is okay. Your healing journey is unique to you, so keep your goals that way too.

Continue working towards your goals. If you fail, remember that that is okay – you are doing the best you can to bring normalcy back into your life.


Everything after the loss of a loved one will be a new “first:” First day back to work after their passing, first time going on vacation after their passing, first time going to the grocery store and not having to buy their favorite snack, the first time you dream of them... While you can never fully prepare for every “first,” you can start by proactively working towards a plan when these “firsts” come. What will you do to take care of yourself when a new “first” comes? Who will your support system be?

Holidays are often another “first” that can be a challenge to prepare for. Holidays are often full of traditions and surrounded by family. What will you need the day of each first holiday? Will you need to be around a support system? Will you need to be alone? Will you need to be at their cemetary or favorite place to feel closer to your loved one? Make a plan ahead of time for what you think you need, and know that if what you need the day of changes, that is okay too. What will holidays look like after two years, three, four? During the first year after a loss, family is often supportive and physically available for you. Many times, after year two or three, support may diminish to an extent because people assume it gets easier.


Many survivors of homicide tell us music can be a challenge to listen to at first – songs remind them of their loved one, and it can be a strong reminder of their passing. Other’s tell us music helps. What helps you might be different than what helps someone else and that is okay.

Material items: Family members sometimes fight and argue over material items or money after the loss of a loved one. Understand that emotions are heightened and members of the family are often expressing their pain in ways they may not even understand. When an unexpected death occurs in the family, there may not be a will or any “organization” in who will receive what. Self-care during this time will be essential for your well-being. How will you take care of yourself during challenging times?

You will eventually learn to cope on your own, and you will one day gain your strength back. Be patient and gentle with yourself – you are doing everything you can.

To learn about the Crime Victim’s Compensation Fund, find a free and confidential program near you, or to reach out for support, call the Iowa Victim Service Call Center at 1.800.770.1650 or text ‘IOWAHELP’ to 201-21.