Everyone grieves in a unique way. You can’t do it wrong. You will do it even if no one tells you how. Any change presents a loss. One of the losses most difficult to manage is the unexpected death of someone we love dearly and rely on heavily; most often this is a spouse, sibling, parent, or best friend. You may feel completely overwhelmed and question your ability to cope. People may be there for you but you can’t even think straight about what you need. You go through motions that seem like living, but nothing seems real. Life in rich technicolor high-definition 3D wide-screen now seems to be trapped in a 12 inch black-and-white TV with poor reception. You can’t imagine how you’ll carry on. Luckily, reality doesn’t need to be imagined.
The reality is you will survive. You will recover . Things won’t ever be the same, but they won’t be worse – just different. You will struggle. You will change and you will grow. You will accept the loss, not because it will mean any less, but because it will become a part of you and your journey. How do I know? I know because you want it . You asked for help by reading this article. Some are content to be miserable. You aren’t. You are willing or at least willing to be willing to do what needs to be done to find contentment again. You are willing to surrender to a power greater than you, even if it is just the people about you with whom you’ve shared this piece of your pain. You have the will to be filled with and to share what all those who know and have ever known you love. Where there is a will, there is a way. The way is your personal journey of healing.
Because much of life does not come with an instruction manual, including dealing with loss, we can only rely on our own experience and that of others to work through such difficult times. We will discover some people want to help, while others are too emotionally fragile. Bear in mind that while you are struggling with your loss, you will not be able to fulfill some of the needs others have relied upon you to fill. Whether purposeful or not, relieving yourself of some of your responsibilities is necessary to muster the energy to deal with your loss. As you may be struggling to find the support your recently passed loved one provided, others near you may realize they need to build their support system as well. Though painful, this is one small way in which a significant loss can bring about good.
In today’s society, where family is spread far apart and friends are often few and superficially squeezed into our busy lives, we very often rely too heavily on just a few individuals to meet all of our needs. We must learn to reach out and connect. We must learn to identify our needs and search out multiple ways of meeting them. We aren’t looking to replace the one we’ve lost but rather to join in community with the larger web of existence. We are meant to be interdependent as a species. No one or few people should be our sole support anymore than we should put ourselves in that role for someone else. The sooner we began this journey of self-discovery and connection, the sooner the devastating effects of our loss will subside. Remember, too, that no one leaves the world untouched. The imprint of your loved one is pressed into more than your heart and memory. How you travel this journey will be unique to you. As a starting point, I’ve offered below what helped me most in my earliest days of grieving different losses in my life. I wish I had had them all at my disposal from the beginning, but surviving loss continues to be a learning process for me. I only hope that my experience will make yours more bearable.
Connect With Your Emotions
*Use art to express your emotions (you don’t have to be an artist).
*Journal, write letters to your departed loved one, or write stream of conscience about one emotion you pick to focus on.
*Make some dates with yourself, maybe 30 minutes twice per day (to start), to fully honor your need to feel your feelings and equally honor your need to take a break from them.
*Attend a grief support group or see an individual therapist specializing in grief;
Connect the Past & Present
*Reminisce aloud or write about happy memories, especially ones that make you laugh, as much as possible.
*Make a list of what you learned from the person who is no longer with you.
*Try to get to know better the younger generation whose genes your loved one passed on.
*Contemplate your loved ones legacy and continued presence: donations s/he made to charities, something s/he helped create, words s/he wrote, causes s/he supported, traditions, etc;
Connect With Others Who Shared in Your Loved One’s Life
*Ask other people to contribute to the above or below.
*Gather some help to put together a memory box or scrapbook of your loved one’s life for a younger generation of your family or his/hers.
*As you are confronted with handling your loved ones belongings or things s/he gave you, consider what you might part with knowing how it could touch someone else’s heart.
Connect With the World Around You
*Force yourself to be around people as much as possible, but don’t force yourself to interact if it’s too exhausting.
*Invite people over; let them know you don’t feel like being alone but don’t necessarily want to do anything particular.
*Visit museums or library events or explore other out-of-home interests, especially ones your loved one may not have enjoyed, that don’t expect anything of you.
*Fully engage yourself in whatever you are doing, redirecting your attention to your five senses if you become distracted by your inner turmoil.