How to cope with grief
We all have to deal with grief at some point, whether it's following the death of a pet when we're young, a parent or elderly relative or a partner - and it's often something we don't or cannot prepare for.
It can be a deep heartache that stops us in our tracks and sucks the life out of us, and for others there simply is no way through the pain of loss. Everyone deals with it in different ways, but here are a few simple pointers which might just help you put a positive spin on the worst of times.
Russell Willoughby, who has been dealing with grief for decades as a leading Los Angeles pastor, has a few words of comfort for those struggling with the loss of a loved one: "I would just say that grief doesn't have to last forever. It can fade or morph into other feelings over time, if we let it. In the very beginning, talking and sharing with others is very therapeutic for many people."
He adds, "We are communal by nature, and this is the best context within which we may find healing and solace."
Pastor Russell warns against making "big, life-changing decisions soon after losing a loved one", insisting it is a "fallacy" to assume that such bold moves will help those in mourning overcome their pain.
"The actions are often reactive and can lead to other problems," he explains. "Also, don't feel like you need to go through your loved one's stuff, immediately - you don't need to get rid of everything that reminds you of them. That said, avoid creating shrines that keep you stuck in your grief. Strike a balance between keeping memories and letting go of the loss."
And what does the pastor tell those who come to him for comfort as they struggle with a death in the family or the passing of a close friend?
"I usually tell people that a person's life is never completely lost at death," he adds. "The importance/effects of our lives continue on in many, many ways and situations.
"Throughout history, people from a variety of cultures have sought reward, justice, healing, or peace for human beings in a realm or existence beyond death. This may be encapsulated in beliefs about heaven, paradise, nirvana, reincarnation or other concepts."
Pastor Russell leads services at the Little Brown Church in Studio City and Church of the Valley in Van Nuys, California. He believes funeral services are very important to those seeking light in the darkness of grief, insisting memorial services or "some other form of ritual" are "important as ways to bring closure to an event of loss".
"I believe that the pain of loss is better soothed in the long run by celebrating the best of who a person was during his or her life than by speculating about life after death," he notes. "The value of a person's lived existence is something we can explore, uncover, remember, and share with others... I am a strong supporter of family and friends holding memorial or life celebration services rather than traditional funerals."