The loss of a family member or close friend is never easy to deal with. However, when the death of a loved one occurs suddenly due to a car accident, you must face a wave of difficult emotions that crashes on you all at once. Compared to when a loved one’s death is gradual and expected, the experience can be overwhelming.

Despite well-meaning advice you may receive, grief is not something that you “get over.” Rather, it is a process that you have to work through. Your emotions set the pace, not your conscious will. However, you can take actions that will help to advance the process rather than impede it.

1. Care for yourself physically

You can better equip yourself to deal with the emotions of your loss by looking after your physical health. Avoid “self-medicating” with drugs or alcohol. Instead, establish habits of healthy eating, regular exercise and sufficient sleep. Physical health affects emotional health via the mind-body connection.

2. Do not suppress emotions

Denying your grief does not make it go away. Instead, it makes the grieving process longer and puts you at risk of complications to your mental and physical health. Acknowledge the pain that you are feeling and face up to it openly.

3. Anticipate triggers

Following the unexpected death of a loved one, there are events that you can expect to trigger feelings of sadness. These include milestones such as birthdays and anniversaries as well as holidays. Fortunately, because you know these events are coming in advance, you can plan ahead for how you will handle them.

4. Find a creative outlet

If you find it easier to express yourself visually, you can create a photo album or scrapbook celebrating the life of the person you have lost. If you prefer to express yourself verbally, you can write a letter expressing the things you never got to say to the person directly or work out your feelings through journaling. If you feel comfortable and think it would be helpful, you can share your creations with others. However, if you would rather keep them private, that is okay too.