Whether we realize it or not, life would be incomplete without people to share it with. Have you imagined yourself being the owner of all the resources on earth with unlimited control as to how you use it? Ok then, now picture yourself being alone in the earth or at best being surrounded by robots. You would agree with me that all those resources would mean nothing without loved ones to share it with. Often times, our most memorable moments were not those spent in isolation but those shared with the people that mean more than the world to us.
How devastating would it now be when our loved ones leave us? If they probably severed the relationship we have with them, there is still hope of reconciliation. However, what happens when a loved one dies and we won’t ever see them again. Such a person won’t be around to share our joy with us again and even our sorrows. Suddenly, we feel left alone and somewhat abandoned. This could really leave us in despair.
Recently, I lost my best friend to cancer. He was more than a friend; he was a brother. I received the news with great shock. I was devastated. The only question on my mind was “Why?” I still can’t articulate my feelings with words. At best, let me say I was broken, totally! Life was unfair. Suddenly, feelings of regret overwhelmed me. “Maybe if I had been more present or had prayed some more, maybe he would have survived,” I thought to myself. I felt partly responsible for his death. I blamed myself in many ways. Tears flowed without control.
A month had passed and I was partly still in denial. I still couldn’t bring myself to accept the fact that my friend was no more. No day passed without thoughts of him followed by tears. Later, I found out I could remember him and smile, sometimes even laugh. This was because we had a lot of happy moments. I began to feel like I had gotten over my grief until one day while I was at work trying to get some things done, I remembered my friend and couldn’t stop myself from crying. I had to excuse myself and find a place to cry. I really didn’t think much about this until it happened a second time. Then I knew I had to get help. I didn’t want to go from grief to depression. The things I discovered in my search for help is what I want to share with you.
5 ways to deal with the death of a loved one
- Accept the feelings of grief: Understand that it is ok to feel bad, even terrible, after the death of a loved one. Experts have come to agree that there is really no right or wrong way to feel after the death of a loved one. We all respond (or would respond) differently to situations like this. You could wake up in the morning feeling great and feel totally down before midday. It’s ok. Just remind yourself that the feelings are yours and it is perfectly normal.
- Allow yourself to grieve: There is no point trying to “form superman”. Don’t put a time limit to getting out of grief. With time, the feelings of grief would pass. Experts have said there are 5 stages of grief and I have found this to be true in my experience. These are:
- Denial: You can’t believe that he/she is gone. Everything feels unreal; you actually feel like someone is “doing you film trick”.
- Anger: This anger has no limits. It can extend towards your friends, your family, even the loved one that died and yes, God. In my case, I was first angry with myself, and then my friend (for leaving me as though he wanted to) and finally, at God. I had all sorts of questions that God needed to answer (as though he was responsible). It was all anger. Underneath this anger is pain. This anger can even later extend towards someone who maybe missed the funeral. In any case, it is ok to allow yourself feel this anger. As you allow it, it will dissipate. Trust me.
- Bargaining: This stage often also come with regret. You begin to feel like “What if you had done something differently, maybe the person wouldn’t have died”. Then you try negotiating with God in order to get things to return to how they were before the loved one died. Statements beginning with “if only” are common at this stage. It’s all part of the process.
- Depression: You feel an overwhelming sadness. You know life would never be the same and you feel you wouldn’t be able to carry on without that person. This stage is however not to be taken as a sign of mental illness. In fact, it is a perfect response to the death of a loved one. You want to withdraw from everything in life. You start seeing life has empty and pointless. This response is usual and normal; and it is ok to feel this way. It simply means you are on the road to recovery.
- Acceptance: This is where you finally accept that the person is really gone. You might not like it but you will eventually learn to live with it. I am not sure I am at this stage yet but then, I have found out that we must learn to adjust to this new reality. At this stage, we would need to recognize the roles the beloved one has played in our lives, reassign them or take them on ourselves. We can never replace what has been lost but we can make new and meaningful relationships. It is important to realize that we cannot come to this stage until we have given grief its time.
Kindly note that these stages are not necessarily experienced in their order. Also, one can move forward to another stage and relapse to a previous one.
- Get support: The death of a loved one usually leaves a wide vacuum in the life of the survivor. It is therefore necessary to get as much support as one can from family, friends, pastor, imam or even a therapist. True, you might wish to be alone in this period but it is helpful to receive support from people that can be there for you emotionally and physically, if there is need for that.
- Talk about the person that died: People around you might not want to do this in order not to upset you. However, talking can help you get a lot off your mind. I found it very helpful to talk with other friends about the good times I had with my deceased friend. It has not been as upsetting as it looks on the surface. In fact, it has helped me cherish our relationship even more.
- Embrace life: The pain felt after the death of a loved one is real and must be felt but then, at some point, you must begin to live your own life once more. We all cope with grief differently and there is no telling how long it will last. It is needful to remember that our loved one would want us to get our lives back on track. In fact, it is one way we can honour the memory of our deceased loved one. If, however, you find out that doing this is difficult or seemingly impossible, you should seek help from a doctor, a guidance counsellor or your religious leader.
I miss my friend. Life has not been the same since his passing. However, I have beautiful memories to hold on to. I am taking my time to go through the grieving process. If you are in my shoes, you should do the same too.
Have you ever lost a loved one? How did you cope? Share with me in the comment section below.