Dealing with the loss of a loved one

Dealing with loss, some insights into the journey.

It’s arguably one of the hardest things you’ll ever have to deal with in your life, the loss of a loved one. But it is a completely natural experience and many people have gone through loss and determined ways to make it that little bit easier.

It is so important to realize that the grieving process never ends, you must be patient with yourself and allow yourself time to accept the loss you are experiencing. The finality of losing a loved one deeply affect family and friends as sometimes the loss causes a real lack of closure.

This blog will take you through some of the experiences of losing a loved one and give you some insight as to how to acknowledge which stage you're in and cope effectively. The first thing which is incredibly useful and is really the first step to starting life again without your loved one. That is remembering your loved one's memory does not live in the pain of your grief.

Remembering your loved one

What does that really mean? Essentially you must never forget that you have the power to remember them in the best way possible, your loved one's memories lives in you. It lives in the stories which you remember and retell, the memories you share together with your friends and family, all the memories and stories which will likely bring up laughter and maybe a tear or three... There is beauty in the memories. Memories are usually embedded in a place, or a thing, a photograph, a song or a secret recipe. In the beginning, it will be difficult to even consider interacting with these things as the pain will be too great, however, with time you will absolutely cherish the small things that reconnect you to that individual. Pass them down to children when they are old enough, let the memories remain everpresent in your life. You will likely seek comfort in this.

We as humans are capable of some truly amazing things, like being so resilient and adaptable. As time passes your brain learns to manage and cope with the emotional pain and, slowly but surely, you get a little more control over the memory of your loved one. As you get further from your loss, the pain starts to ease just a little bit. Always keep in mind that it is not that your loved one is disappearing as your pain diminishes; rather, you are learning to live with the memory of your loved one in a different way.

Often individuals may experience guilt when starting to move forward in life and continue from where the rug was ripped from under your feet. You are encouraged to embrace the idea that as the pain diminishes, you may actually find more space to continue bonds and to keep your loved one’s memory alive.

Stages of grief

It’s also useful to keep in mind the different stages of grief and keep them in mind to see where you may find yourself in the journey. Everyone has a different journey but everyone can find something useful out of knowing the stages.

1. Shock and Denial

You will, in this first stage, react to learning of your loss with shock and numbed disbelief. Even if you may have expected the loss of your loved one was ill, it will still be shocking and raw. The shock gives you emotional protection from being overwhelmed, and you will likely deny its reality, just to escape its raw knowledge.

2. Pain and Guilt

Shock wears off and is replaced by intense pain. It is essential that you experience it fully. It is your mind’s way of acknowledging its wound and the new void in your life. There will also be guilt over things you did or didn't do with your loved one, or even that you’re making other peoples lives harder with your emotions and needs. This stage is completely normal and don’t undermine it, take the time you need to experience the pain, it will ultimately help with your healing journey.

3. Anger and Bargaining

You may lash out towards others and lay unwarranted blame in this stage. You must try your best to control this stage, as you must avoid damage to other relationships. You will also probably try to bargain with higher powers that you will do anything to have your loved one returned. This stage is quite sad as you can risk creating more damage than necessary, so try and be reasonable and very forgiving of yourself and others.

4. Depression, Reflection and Loneliness

You begin to realise the true magnitude of your loss. It is an enormous weight to bare especially if other family or friends were very reliant on the individual recently passed. You may feel somewhat depressed, focussing solely on memories of the past and how other memories you were looking forward to creating have been taken away from you (most commonly a father walking his daughter down the aisle on her wedding day, or something like that). You may isolate yourself to deal with your grief, but
know that it’s vital to maintain a support system of people. Funerals are especially important in knowing who is there for you.

5. The Upward Turn

Even if you didn’t realise it could, life goes on, as it does, and you start to adjust to living it without your loved one. It’s not easy but slowly living becomes calmer and more organised, and your despair starts to lift. This is the middle stage of grief, and by sensing a dawn to come, you will feel strengthened and motivated, and begin to reawaken.

6. Reconstruction and Working Through It all

You will begin to rebuild your life slowly but surely. You will seek realistic solutions to practical problems that you no longer share with your loved one. You will become more functional, determined, and refreshed, and you begin reconstructing your life. It is fair to say that this is a necessary stage but can also take a while to reach. Sometimes it means redefining your purpose in life or your goals in the future, do you want to go travelling? Do you want to give back to your community? What is it that will make you tick?

7. Acceptance and Hope for the future

This is the final stage of grieving. It does not mean that you are over your loss. In fact, you likely will never be. It simply means that you have acknowledged your pain and feel okay with moving forward. Your loved one will always be there, forever in your memories, and you will be grateful for the time you shared.

These stages are all a natural part of the grieving process, there is no set length and time you should be experiencing each one, and perhaps the order may vary in different experiences. The key is to ensure that you are able to reach out if you need help and be very patient with yourself if you ever feel you have let yourself down in any way.

Remember, grief is intensely personal. It is a long and arduous journey –from that first shocking news, through mourning and funerals or memorials, until you reach a state of coping with it all. If you ever need help coping with your pain and feelings, please reach out for the support you need. Be it a mental health professional, or just a good friend, there is no shame in asking for help when trying to cope with the tragic loss.

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