Life is a collection of memories that we make with our loved ones. But there are times when we are forcefully separated from them. The grief of losing a loved one is one of the most stinging reminders of how unfair life can be.
Death is like a lightning bolt that hits us and shakes our foundations. We start questioning everything- our existence, our identity, and our destination. Grief has a life of its own and the power to break the strongest of people.
Different people have different ways of coping with the loss. Everyone goes through one or more of the following stages of grief, not necessarily in the same sequence:
Denial: Usually the first reaction is the inability to accept the loss. The grief makes us numb and our heart is unwilling to face the reality.
Anger: Once the weight of the reality dawns upon us, it is normal to feel angry about it. The anger may be directed at yourself, the loved one for leaving you, or even at God for being so unkind.
Depression: The feeling of a part of your life snatched from you with so much left unsaid and unexpressed is the most depressing feeling in the world. The sadness can shoot to extremes when we realize that life will never be the same.
Acceptance: This is the final stage of grief when you come to terms with the reality. This doesn’t guarantee that you will not revisit the above stages but it makes you more strong towards facing the memories.
Everyone processes grief differently and there can never be an advice strong enough to help one guide through the journey. Nevertheless, I hope the following points can be of some help:
Know that this will take time:
There is so much happening at once. The loss of a loved one, the soul-wrenching feeling of something being separated from your heart, the repercussions of the loss on the people around you, the impulses of a scream originating inside you, the fear of losing anything else in life, and the horror of facing and convincing yourself. The world seems shattered and your existence and stature seem minuscule in the larger scheme of things. Take your time.
Even before you reach the acceptance stage of the grief, you must know that this will be the most difficult journey. But this is your personal journey and you are allowed to feel, say, or do whatever you need in order to heal.
Open up; talk about it:
It won’t be easy. Every message of condolence will be a harsh reminder of what has happened. Denial might be your first response but you can’t live in denial for eternity. You can’t wear that plastic smile for the rest of your life. Sometimes, out of love and care for the people around us, we pretend to be stronger than we are.
We feel that we are sparing them the pain by letting them know that we are fine even though we are in the middle of an internal battle. There is nothing wrong with it but eventually, we are going to have to face ourselves. You must open up about your feelings and talk about it to the people close to you, but only once you are ready.
Allow your friends to be there for you:
A lot of times, we are so broken by the loss that we tend to shut everyone out. There is a period when you will not feel like sharing your feelings with anyone. Anger and grief don’t work so well together. No matter how much our friends want to help us, we will never give ourselves to them. We feel like no amount of care and words can fill the void in our life, which is true, but it can surely help us in our journey towards acceptance.
It is a wonderful feeling to know how much your friends might be willing to help and that they have your back always. But you have to let them in for them to be able to support you.
Know that you are allowed to be a mess:
There is no magical, invisible clock that is ticking and pressurizing you to get over it. There is no deadline for you to finish “dealing with” the loss. This is your experience. The constant reminders of a future that won’t exist and the past that you want to run away from will create a chaos in your head. Don’t try to run away from it; live with it, deal with it in your own time.
Put the bottle down:
Don’t let yourself be carried away and get under the control of alcohol and drugs. Alcohol may temporarily make you numb about your feelings but it is not an answer. Masking the pain with alcohol will only push back the healing process. Put the bottle down and pick the phone up!
First you take a drink, then the drink takes a drink, and finally, the drink takes you.
Do what makes you happy:
As difficult as it might sound, you need to start looking at life again. You will not heal unless you want to. People will tell you to “keep yourself busy” to help forget the past. But doing something that doesn’t make you happy just for the sake of keeping busy will not do any good. It might make you more depressed and irritated. Death of a loved one is a painful reminder that life is way too short. Don’t waste it doing something you don’t love.
Cherish the memories of your loved one:
The memories will always be beautiful. You need to surrender to the power of god and accept the truth. It is hard to let go. There is so much that you could have said or done. The “I love you” that remained unsaid will always haunt you. But in order to be stronger, you need to cherish the memories of the past. The memories you had were definitely beautiful and they will give you the strength to survive. The one you lost is always with you – in the garden, in the sunshine, in the wind, in the leaves of the trees, and in your heart. No one can take that away from you.
It is not generally the loss that we are trying to cope with, but the change. We try to resist any change strongly and choose to stay in our comfort zone. Death of a loved one pushes us out of our cozy palaces and throws us in the face of how hard life can be. The only way to deal with the change is to change yourself too.
The greatest thing about death is that it helps us grow up; it teaches us to let go.