Dealing with the Death of a Loved One
The death of a loved one is always a traumatic moment in our lives, but it’s usually something we all have to go through several times in our lives. But it never truly seems to get easier to do, since each person we lose is special in their own way.
Whether the loss is expected or unexpected, it still creates a huge void in our life that is a constant reminder of our lost loved one. They’re not around to help comfort us, like they probably have at other dark moments in our lives.
So how do we cope with the loss of a loved one? What things should we consider that might help soften an otherwise awful time period, and is it OK to want to soften it?
- Understand Just Exactly What Grief Is
Grief is the strong emotions felt after the loss of something, including loved ones. While deep sadness might be the most common emotion exhibited, it’s also quite common for people to display anger and distress while they’re grieving. It’s the natural reaction to loss, but it’s incredibly painful to the heart and mind, and it affects us in different ways.
- Learning the 5 Stages of Grief
By understanding what the different stages of grief are, you can help yourself or the rest of your family prepare for them, which will help beyond each stage.
- Denial: We don’t want to believe this is happening to us, so our mind refuses to cope with it. This is a defense mechanism our minds engage in to temporarily soften the shock.
- Anger: We might want to blame friends, doctors, God, and even the person we lost, and your temper rises when you think of the perceived injustice of death. Ironically, we can also feel guilt about our anger, which can then make us even angrier.
- Bargaining: Whether we bargain with god or just with ourselves, asking for something to be undone or for the inevitable to change. This is just our mind beginning to cope with the loss, but asking to postpone it.
- Depression: As we continue to cope, we realize there’s nothing we can do to change things, making us feel insignificant, and sadness sets in when we realize how our lives will be different going forward.
- Acceptance: Many times, acceptance doesn’t arrive for a long time, if ever, but this is the final stage of grief, as we begin making our peace with the loss of a loved one. This doesn’t mean we forget our loved ones, or that we no longer get upset when we think about them. But we finally understand that this is the reality, and we begin to look ahead at how we can live on without them.
- Talking About Your Lost Loved One Can Be a Good Thing
While many people deal with loss differently, opening up about our feelings can help us get past the early stages of grief. Opening up to someone about the death of a loved one, whether it’s to another family member, a friend, a therapist or even just in a journal can help you understand some of the emotions you’re feeling.
- Time Softens Grief, and Strengthens Love
We often hear the phrase, “Time heals all wounds,” and we check it off as just another tired saying. But the more time that passes between the initial shock and the present, the stronger you’ll become in dealing with it. It’s important to know, though, that you’re supposed to be feeling all of these emotions, and that you aren’t alone. As time wears on, you’ll gain new memories and new experiences, and the loss will soften. This is why having friends and family members around to help you get out and be active is important. Keep your mind busy. You’ll never forget your lost loved one, so don’t feel guilty about starting to move on. In time, you’ll share memories of them that will make you smile over and over again, rather than having them just stir up sadness.
- Moving On Does Not Mean Forgetting
The term “moving on” is not quite correct, since we don’t ever want to, nor can we, “move on” from our loved ones. They will be with us in our hearts and minds forever. So rather than think of it as “moving on,” we should think of it as “continue living,” which some might feel guilty about.
But by continuing to live and doing things to celebrate life, you’re honoring the loss of your loved one. Consider doing something you’ve never done before or going somewhere you’ve never been.
- Grieving is Normal
The deep physical pain you feel in your heart is anything but common to your body, but it’s important to know that others have gone through similar emotions in their lives – and they’ve continued on. Give yourself time to grieve and don’t push the emotions deep down. Talk with your family and friends, and share memories.
Take special note of the people that help you deal with your loss, as you might be surprised at who steps up and becomes a great sounding board for your pain. Later on, you’ll want to go back and thank them.
- Your Friends Mean Well
It’s very possible – and probably quite likely – that your friends will say something or do something that irritates you during this difficult time. Whether it’s saying something insensitive about your loss, like “I know exactly how you feel,” or by overstaying their welcome as they try to help you grieve, you should always keep in mind that they mean well. If you take a step back and ask yourself, “Would my friend purposefully say/do something to hurt me during my most vulnerable moments?” You’d realize they definitely would not – or else they wouldn’t be your friend to begin with.
Your loss and your current state of grief is an uncomfortable situation for them, too, and they might make a mistake as they try to comfort you. It’s the latter part of that sentence you should keep in mind – they’re trying to comfort you. No matt how clumsily their attempt is.
- Your Family Needs You More Than Ever
While you are dealing with your loss, remember that your entire family is going through the same thing. If you are able to help them cope with their grief, you’ll be surprised how it will also help yourself. It is really important, though, for you to take some time for yourself, so that you can properly deal with your emotions. Make some time each day to either talk with a friend about what you’re going through.
- Honor the Memories of Your Loved Ones
Consider making plans to work with a charity that your loved one cared for or one that could help others that might be suffering what they went through. Maybe you can donate to them, or get involved in a bigger way. Also, think about planting a tree in their memory or devoting a section of your backyard in their honor, making a peaceful garden area or place a bird fountain there.
There are numerous ways you can honor the memory of your loved ones, and many of them are ways that will bring great peace in your own life.
Dealing with the loss of a loved one might be different for everyone, but pain and sadness affects us all. Understanding what to expect, how to share your feelings and how move on are all important things to help you get past a difficult time.