There is a huge literature on grieving, but like all areas of healthcare, in the age of neuroscience, we will start fresh. We have a lot to learn about grieving, but there are new ideas based on emotional neuroplasticity that can bring comfort and healing at these difficult times.
Attachments last beyond the grave, because the other person and our experiential learning ("circuits") live inside us, and nobody can take those wires away from us. When we activate a memory, we can sense and feel the person's presence. However, relationships are so central to survival that the circuits in our unconscious memory systems of attachment to them are blown apart by the loss and grieving can be extremely hard. We must pick up the pieces and process each wire emotionally. Thinking, relaxing or distracting do not cut the mustard. To heal, we must feel.
If you are grieving, I recommend doing whatever you need to do to feel better and being very clear that you will not judge yourself. It takes as long as it takes, no matter what anyone says. Your brain is unique and that relationship was and is unique. I was a daughter in a very close family and my mother died 12 years ago, and my father died 3 years ago. My closest friend committed suicide after his Parkinson's disease became so bad that he knew if he didn't do something he would be bed-ridden for decades and, of course, my first child passed away, but I may be a grieving "light weight" compared to you. What I want to share is a few ideas from emotional brain training that could help you understand the process, and perhaps access the support that is right for you.
The first idea is that isolation is not a good idea. However, if you need that, then do not judge yourself for it. Do what you need to do. However, from a BBH perspective, the circuits that will need rewiring are stored at the very bottom of the brain and the warm presence of another person listening to you, can enhance your thinking brain's ability to focus on your emotions and process them.
Another key point is that the pain you feel may last forever. No one can guarantee us that our pain will disappear ever, but a pain-free life is not a normal life. We wouldn't wish that pain on ourselves and as we rewire these Stress Circuits, joy returns and the pain often subsides.
The pain is a reminder of needing that kernel of wisdom. Each time you feel like your heart is going to break and use emotional tools, you will discover the hidden message from that Stress Circuit, and rewire your brain to emotionally evolve. This means that grieving, as must as we would never want it, continues in more extreme ways until we have wrestled every bit of wisdom out of the experience.
When in stress overload, get help. Help may come in the form of medications, a psychotherapist, an emotional brain training group or talking to a friend. We are not lone islands, as much as we might like to be, and from a BBH perspective if we are in stress overload, the thinking brain cannot steer the emotional ship, and process hurts effectively. Get help, so that the agony can subside more rapidly and when you feel really bad, remember that is it not you. It's an emotional wire, and you have the tools and support to process it.
Appreciate that the stress of processing the loss may cause false highs, unnecessary lows or numbness. You may have red hot anger, be relieved they are gone or a myriad of emotions. Knowing that brings a gritty joy. All feelings are good feelings, even if they feed bad. We know we are alive, human, and living an authentic life! Last, bring up a memory of your loved one, and know that this wire was encoded by your experience of being with them. Your senses and emotions come alive. That is your emotional brain's gift to you!