- When you miss someone, your body and brain go through a painful response. The grieving process may affect your appetite, ability to sleep, and even your brain chemistry, too.
- Whether you’re missing someone because of a divorce, loss of a friendship, or due to deployment, there are steps that you can follow to minimize your negative emotions.
- Try recording a voice message that states all the things you’ve been holding inside and giving them space if they’ve requested it.
- Joining a support group, creating wind-down time before bed, and practicing thought replacement strategies from cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help, too.
When our loved ones are away, there can be times when we miss them intensely; we reminisce about having them close at hand and recall the times we shared. But in some situations, the relationship just… ends. And whether it’s due to death, divorce, military service, or just a bad argument, we may be left with nothing but mementos and scattered memories of a relationship. And the cold feeling that settles into our stomach, the racing thoughts, and the sleepless nights are quite real—scientists now know that the psychological and physiological pain of losing someone is part of a complex process that’s similar to withdrawals.
But how we cope when we’re missing someone is up to us, and sometimes it’s easier to try and look away from the mess in front of us. However, all is not lost; not completely. Though it’s true that we may find ourselves reflecting nostalgically on the times spent with the person we’ve lost, it’s actually okay to miss them. In fact, acknowledging that we’ve experienced a loss can be a healthy way to work through what we’re feeling.
Will I Ever Stop Missing Them?
Yes—but the length of time that it will take to recover from losing them depends on how long you knew them, what happened, and the nature of the relationship you shared. You can expect to experience the following when you’re deeply missing someone:
- The 5 stages of grief: Denial is the first stage; you don’t want to believe that the situation you’re faced with is real. The next stage is anger, where you try to blame yourself, others, or simply life for taking away your loved one. From there, you begin bargaining, thinking incessantly about things you could’ve done to prevent losing them. Next comes depression, an intense sadness that may feel inconsolable for some time. And the fifth stage is acceptance: you come to terms with the simple fact that you’ve lost someone close. Acceptance is a highly subjective state of mind and may look and feel different to everyone.
- Insomnia: When you miss someone, it’s normal to have trouble falling or staying asleep. Your mind can wander and you might start obsessing when you’re missing someone. The lack of sleep isn’t helpful for your mental health, but it’s not uncommon either. Insomnia can be manageable at first, but the grieving process can take upwards of a year, in some cases. Besides being unpleasant, sleep deprivation is also dangerous: It increases your risk of stroke, heart attack, vehicular accidents, and can also negatively affect your work performance and sex drive.
- Loss of appetite: When you’re missing someone, especially if they’ve died, they aren’t speaking to you, or your relationship with them has ended, you might become locked into survival mode; this common phenomenon is related back to the stages of grief. Although you may not be in immediate danger, your brain is a primal piece of hardware that’s doing its best to process and cope with your loss. Until you’re able to make sense of the situation that’s taken someone out of your life, your body won’t want to prioritize food, because your fight-or-flight response has been triggered. Stress hormones may inhibit your hunger cravings.
- Changes in brain chemistry: Scientific studies indicate that your brain reacts significantly when you’re missing someone you love: The oxytocin and dopamine that’s released during a relationship suddenly stop flowing. You become chemically dependent on their presence in your life. Researchers note that romantic love is addictive on purpose—the rush of chemicals encourages us to seek out partners and form social bonds.
5 Ways to Cope with Missing Someone
Loss of any kind can be a staggering blow to your emotional self-confidence, self-image, and optimism about the future. Here are 5 ways to cope with missing someone:
- Record a voice message that you wish they could hear. Say everything that’s on your mind. Instead of bottling up the pain, you might be surprised at the words that come out. Don’t hold back, because the negative emotions you’re feeling shouldn’t be locked inside you. They’ll only cause more damage. You don’t even need to share your message with anyone—in fact, it might be better not to.
- Give them space if you’re going through a breakup, divorce, or have lost a friendship: It’s tempting to reach out, beg, or plead with the person who’s left you to come back. Yet with too much prodding, you can not only ruin the chances of reconciling with that person (on some level) but postpone your own healing process, too. Instead of worrying about what they’re doing, think critically; the relationship may not have actually been healthy, for either of you.
- Joining a support group, especially if you lost a loved one who was serving in the military: Having a spouse, child, or sibling who’s serving in the armed forces, or who was killed in active duty, is a unique experience that can trigger a wide range of emotions. While it’s important to reach out to those in your immediate support system, it could be truly cathartic to connect with the spouses, parents, or siblings of other servicemen and women. Taking the time to search for a support group could connect you with other people who may relate better to the pain, stress, and love that you feel.
- Restructure your routine before bed so that you actually get some sleep: Take 30 minutes before lights out to stretch, make tea, or journal. There’s nothing worse than lying awake in the dark with racing thoughts; be proactive and protect your sleep schedule, even if it’s the last thing you feel motivated to do.
- Pay extra attention to your train of thought: A tactic straight out of the cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) playbook, you can practice thought replacement on your own. When a negative emotion arises, trace it back to what you’re focused on. Odds are, you can shift your perspective slightly in order to view the situation in a more positive light. Think: “Okay, I feel sad, hopeless, or angry. But is that an accurate representation of the entire situation?” Most likely, it isn’t.
Moving on Requires the Right Mindset
What matters is your mindset, and that’s often the difficult part. Accepting that life continues on without your loved one seems impossible, but it will, and you will, too. Focusing on yourself and valuing your own experience, post-loss, is the only way you’ll survive, regardless of who you miss. Healing doesn’t mean that you forget: It means that you learn to accept their absence. And although stitching together such a deep emotional wound can take a really long time, it is possible.
As you start moving forward, it’s normal to feel like some days you take two steps back, and things seem to freeze in place. But there are still good things all around us, even if they’re attached to the person you miss. Maybe an old photo with them in it, a memento they gave you, a medal they’ve earned, or a uniform they’ve worn with pride. Whatever they’ve left behind, it doesn’t have to be viewed as a painful reminder of their absence. It’s a celebration of their impact on your life.