grief

Coping With The Loss Of Someone Close

Seasons of life and loss

Throughout our lives, we move through seasons. Some seasons bring much joy to us, But, our seasons of grief or loss can be the most difficult we face as human beings. As we discovered in the previous 2 posts of this series, we all suffer some type of loss in our lives. It is safe to say we will face multiple kinds of loss. It can also be said that how we manage our loss is as individual as we are.

While some losses are just harder the closer, we were to the loved one. Some losses challenge us at the heart of who we are, such as, a mother, who had lost her only child, can struggle to find her place now that she has no claim upon the title of ‘Mom’.

If your loss was sudden, shock and disbelief can take over. If protracted, you may be exhausted and relieved, yet, feeling guilt and remorse.

 

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How to cope with guilt when you lose a loved one

When you lose a loved one, it can be incredibly difficult to carry on, as you’ll find yourself feeling empty and possibly depressed for a long time following. This is a normal part of the grieving process, and by facing and embracing these emotions, you will gradually be able to heal and remember that person in a more positive way.

But another common emotion to be struggling with at this point is guilt. While this is another common emotion, it is not as adaptive and can be unhealthy. Here we will look at where the guilt comes from and what you can do about it.

Why you feel guilt or remorse

When someone dies of natural causes or an accident, it is no one’s fault. However, it is very easy to end up blaming yourself and feeling remorse. Perhaps you think if you hadn’t called them over, then they never would have been on the road when that car came. Maybe you think you could have encouraged them to go to the doctor sooner.

This is one cause of guilt during grief, but it is far from the only one. Likewise, it is also common to feel guilt over the way you’ve handled their death. Perhaps you feel guilty for not being sadder or too sad. Maybe you feel guilty for not being more supportive of your family. Or maybe you feel guilty years later for moving on with your life. Sometimes, you can simply feel guilty for being alive when your loved one isn’t.

All these things are very normal, but they are not healthy, and ultimately, they need to be overcome for you to move on with your life.

Overcoming your guilt

Overcoming guilt is about learning to forgive yourself and let go. Because, ultimately, your loved one would undoubtedly prefer that you were happy and getting on with your life as you should.

This means sitting down and honestly assessing your feelings. Of course, if events had been different, then your loved one may have died, or they may not have. You could not have known the future, and you acted as you thought was best at the time. Likewise, everyone else is equally culpable for their actions or inactions, and most likely, nothing anyone did would have made a difference anyway.

Likewise, you should not feel guilty about being alive or for being happy. If anything, you should cherish your happiness even more out of respect for those who don’t have it. You owe it to your family who are still alive to be the happiest and best version of yourself.

It is easy to say these things and less easy to believe them or act on them. Consider seeing a cognitive behavioral therapist, and they will be able to help you come to terms with reality and adopt better-coping strategies.

 

Some pain is simply the normal grief of human existence. That is pain that I try to make room for. I honor my grief.
— Marianne Williamson

 

Dealing with the practicalities

When a loved one dies, it can sometimes seem disrespectful or churlish to think of the practical implications. Seemingly, the best thing to do is to focus on the emotional aspects, on how much we are going to miss that person and how tragic it is that they have died.

And, of course, in some ways that should be your primary concern. But at the same time, it’s important not to forget the considerable, practical implications that can also have a big impact on your life and that can contribute to your feelings of love and loss.

Losing a partner

Losing your partner essentially means losing your plans for the future. It means facing life alone or, potentially, having to go through the stresses of dating again one day in the distant future. What’s more, it might mean a lot of financial strain. Perhaps you’ll need to leave your home now that you are only on one salary. Perhaps you will struggle to raise children if you are at that stage.

Final preparations

Whether you are a relative or a partner, there is also a good chance you may be responsible for funeral preparations. This can involve another big expense on your part, as you pay for the costs. Likewise, the sheer scale of the event to organize, especially one that has such an emotional element, can be overwhelming.

Paperwork

There’s also a lot of stressful paperwork involved when you have lost a loved one. This might mean claiming life insurance, or it might mean removing your loved one’s name from bills and other official documents for example.

There is no stopping

Meanwhile, you will find that life just doesn’t stop, as much as you might wish it would. Eventually, you will need to return to work, children will need to be taken to school, and you will need to do your food shopping.

How to Cope

All this makes it considerably more difficult to deal with the powerful, negative emotions you will be going through.

The first thing is simply to recognize this element and to be prepared for it. If you are struggling, then note that this is something that other people can help you with, and they will surely be willing. Asking someone to do a food shop, to take the kids to school, or to help you with legal documents can be a lot off your mind, and they will be happy to help.

If possible, you should prepare for this eventuality before the fact. This is why life insurance is so important as well as creating a will. While we never like to think of our mortality, doing so can be a huge help for our surviving family and is well worth the effort.

What you can do to support the person who’s lost someone close

When someone is going through the loss of a loved one, it can be incredibly hard for the friends and family who are watching on. When you see someone in so much pain, you will, of course, want to help and support them, but what can you possibly say or do that will make them feel better? How should you act around them?

Be there for them

The first thing to recognize is that no ‘blanket advice’ is going to be particularly useful. Everyone is different, and thus, the right approach will depend on their personality, their experience, and the relationship they had with that person.

But no matter who your friend or relative is and no matter what their circumstances, one thing that isn’t helpful is to try and avoid them. This is the reaction that some people have when they’re too unsure as to how they should treat the person who is suffering. Of course, this is an unintentionally selfish reaction that will make someone who is going through a terrible loss feel ostracized and more alone.

Talking does help

While people differ, you shouldn’t assume that your friend or relative doesn’t want to talk about their loss, especially a long time after the fact. For someone who has suffered a great loss, it’s often hard to speak openly about that person or their relationship without worrying they will make people feel uncomfortable. This results in a situation where they are left feeling as though they must swallow an awful lot of pain and where they can’t talk about someone very important to them. Often, the best thing you can do is to ask them about that person or how they’re feeling but follow their lead on this.

Never offer comparisons

While your impulse might be to say, ‘it will be alright’, or ‘it’s like the time I lost my rabbit’, these are not helpful comments. Unfortunately, when someone has died it has already ‘not been alright’. Likewise, it is folly to compare grief and it can (unintentionally) come across as though you are undermining their pain.

Be sympathetic and listen, but don’t claim to understand, and don’t try to reassure them that it’s ‘not that bad’. Just be there to listen.

Offer diversions

The offer of a meal out, a movie, or a walk in the park to your friend or relative might allow them to forget their troubles for a while. Again, follow their lead. Don’t treat them as though they’re made of glass because sometimes a bit of normality is exactly what they need.

 

I hope this post has given you food for thought both as someone who has lost someone close or in the supporting role of someone who has had to assist a friend or relative. I would be most grateful if you share this post.

Moving Forward After Losing A Loved One

Grams Wisdom 9

My Gram and I shared a very important loss. Her eldest daughter, my Mother, had an aneurysm the day after her 72nd birthday and was gone in the blink of an eye. Leaving us to learn this lesson together. How do you move forward after losing someone you love?

I moved through the time until the funeral as if in a daze. Gram had given me my instructions the day after Mom was gone, and that carried me through. She, on the other hand, once the last guest had gone, never spoke my Mother’s name for the next 6 months.

Note: Gram and I navigated through our grief together, yet with very different approaches. I spoke frequently of my Mom, telling stories about her from my childhood, while Gram looked through photo albums with pictures of a serious faced little girl who grew up to be that woman.

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Getting over a loved one’s loss

Losing someone that you love is one of the most painful and distressing experiences that many of us will ever go through, and it’s something that other people just can’t relate to unless it has happened to them.

In the days and weeks following this hurt, it can sometimes feel as though nothing will ever be the same and as though you can never go on. It can often feel as though you shouldn’t want things to return to normal or even for yourself to be happy, as though your happiness is disrespectful to the one you’ve lost. The thought of laughing or playing again can be enough to make you cringe and maybe it was poet W.S. Merwin who said it best:

Your Absence has gone through me

Like thread through a needle.

Everything I do is stitched with its color.

So, the question you might be asking now is whether things ever will get better. How can they?

Time the great healer

The important thing to understand is that you never ‘get over’ the loss of someone you love. You will always carry the scars of that loss with you, and it will influence everything you ever say and do. It will make you more sensitive to others, it will change your idea of ‘what matters’, and you will never forget that person.

But this does not mean that you aren’t allowed to move forward with your life and that you won’t be happy again. And in fact, what you will find is that it is far from being disrespectful. Being happy is the most respectful thing you can do for the deceased.

You will know that you are coping well when you are able to remember something that your loved one said or did and smile. When you can look back on your memories of them happily and smile about it, then you can more effectively keep them alive in your mind, while moving on with your own life.

How long does this take? That depends on a lot of factors and there is no hard and fast rule. Generally, though, after a couple of months you should find that you spend a little less time focusing on the feelings of despair and that you’re able to slowly start picking up the pieces.

Keeping their memories alive

When we lose someone we love, one of the most painful things we must deal with is the knowledge that we’re not going to see them again. This is ultimately a ‘selfish’ perspective that focuses on your own feelings, but it’s also a very human response and a testament to your love for that person.

But worse than not seeing someone again, is not remembering them at all. That is why it’s important to fight the urge to ‘avoid’ painful feelings and why it’s so important to find ways that you keep their memory alive. Here are some ways you can do that.

Tell others about them

As briefly alluded to before, some people will respond to grief by shutting down and pretending it’s not there. If the memory of someone is too painful, then it can be tempting to avoid it all together.

Instead though, try to keep your loved one in mind by bringing them up in conversation. Don’t be afraid to point out how much your friend, partner, parent, or child would have loved what you’re doing, or how much you miss them. The more you talk about them, the easier it will become, and the more you’ll be able to enjoy their memory with others.

Display photos

Keeping photos of your loved one around is also a nice way to keep them in mind. Keeping them in group photos is a nice way to prevent those photos from being morose.

And consider where you’re going to keep those photos. Sometimes, it’s easy to have a photo on a desk and never to look at it. One unique idea is to keep a photo of your loved one in a drawer that you will open regularly. That way, you’ll find yourself having to look at it occasionally.

Emulate their best qualities

When someone dies, their humor, their beliefs, their good nature, and their ideas can live on in you. Try to remember the best qualities of the person that you miss and to emulate those in your own actions. If a deceased friend was notable for their enthusiasm and positivity, then try to channel a bit of positivity in your own approach to things. When you do, you’ll be keeping their spirit alive and ensuring that they made a positive contribution to your life.

I hope you have found this post useful. Please share it with anyone you feel could benefit from its message.

We All Face Loss And Grief

Illustrating grief

When you think of “grief” do you conclude that it means the loss of a loved one? While that is the most obvious of its meanings it is certainly not the only one. Grief can encompass many differing life circumstances and have similar emotions to the loss of a loved one. Let’s look at other less considered examples of grief to see how they are different in form, and yet alike in the feeling of loss.

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Sources of grief

Resembling the loss of a loved one, a divorce or break-up can also cause grief. Often, the assumption is that breaking up isn’t ‘as bad’ as someone dying, but of course, you can never compare emotions. If a breakup is final, then you will experience many of the same things: you will never see that person again (potentially), you will have to reassess your future, and you will have to think of the implications it has on other people you know either directly or peripherally. At the same time, you will have to deal with the idea that this person no longer loves you and that a once very close friend now harbors negative feelings toward you.

Likewise, losing a job can also cause types of ‘grief’. This results in the loss of the future you thought you had secured. It affects your sense of self-esteem. It forces you to reassess your identity, and it means a drastic change in your routine and the people you were seeing regularly. Losing a home, losing a beloved pet, or even being ill or injured can all have similar effects.

Many kinds of grief

With so many different causes, it should come as no surprise that different types of grief can be categorized differently. Often grief is described as ‘normal grief’, with other types including ‘anticipatory grief’ (grief that results from something expected), ‘complicating grief’ (grief mixed with other more complex emotions), ‘chronic grief’ (grief that does not subside as expected), ‘delayed grief’, ‘collective grief’, ‘inhibited grief’, and more.

Learning all these labels is not necessarily helpful as, even then, you may experience a form of grief that defies description or that can fall under several headings. The point is that ‘grief’ can emerge in many forms and as a result of many different triggers. You should never approach grief of your own, or of anyone else’s, with preconceptions or prejudice. Our grief is just as individual as we are.

 

Grief is in two parts. The first is loss. The second is the remaking of life.
— Anne Roiphe

 

Grief should never be compared

‘Why are they crying so much? It was only their Granddad!’

If you have ever thought or felt the above, then it’s important to change the way you think about grief and sadness. Likewise, if you have ever thought that your own personal experience of loss ‘trumps’ that of someone else, then you, again, are probably wrong.

The key thing to keep in mind here is that sadness and grief are not quantifiable. What’s more, no, one instance of loss is ‘worse’ than another.

Grief is an individual feeling

One reason for this is that every relationship is different. Just because your Granddad is ‘old’ doesn’t mean you will feel less or be any less sad when they die. If you have a close relationship with them, if you talk to them often on the phone, and if you consider them one of your closest friends, then losing them can be just as bad as losing someone who is traditionally closer.

Likewise, the way people respond to grief is different. Some people are simply more sensitive than others and more inclined to react very badly if they should lose someone they love. Regardless of whether you think they are being ‘overly’ sensitive, that sadness is very real to them.

Moreover, every situation is different and has its own tragedy. Losing someone suddenly can be a terrible shock that leaves you reeling and unable to come to terms with what has happened. Losing someone slowly though will often mean watching them die over time and having to deal with a drawn-out loss.

Then there are the subsequent complications: the way that your children deal with the loss, the way in which your employer reacts, the fact that you might also fall ill at the same time.

No two situations are ever the same, and thus, they cannot be compared objectively. You can’t put yourself in someone else’s shoes unless you have experienced the exact same thing that they have and even then you may not feel the same..

Seek for objectivity in grief

For these reasons, you should never compare grief. That means you should never judge someone’s reaction as being over the top or too detached, and you should never get a sense of superiority out of your own experiences.

At the same time though, it also means you should never judge your own reactions. Allow yourself to react as you react, and don’t have any expectations for what you consider to be appropriate feeling. It’s by objectively accepting your emotions that you will be able to move on healthily in time.

 

I hope you found this post beneficial and that you will share it with anyone you believe might also benefit from its message.