Billie Holiday sang, “I’ll be seeing you in all the old familiar places that this heart of mine embraces all day and through”. That’s exactly how it is when we lose a loved one to death. We see them everywhere that we spent time with them. A song, a smell, or even a recipe can remind you of the person you lost. Some people actually have to move because the memories are too painful.
It is very hard to go on with life after losing a loved one. Guilt can play a big part in the grief process. Why didn’t I do more? Why didn’t I see there was a problem or know they were sick? We can’t let ourselves feel responsible for things that are not within our control. There are 5 stages in the grief process: 1. Denial-you can’t believe this has happened. This is a survival instinct to protect yourself. 2. Anger-you can get angry at the doctors, God, loved ones, yourself and even to the one who is deceased. Anger is something to hold onto when the world doesn’t make sense and you feel lost. Anger is a necessary part of grief-you need to feel the anger and work through it to heal. 3. Bargaining-How many times have we asked, if only one more day, what if? We want to go back in time and do things differently-we fantasize of a happier ending. 4. Depression-is an appropriate response to a great loss and to not experience would be unusual. 5. Acceptance-this is not saying that we are okay that our loved one is gone; we just accept the reality that they are gone. We must try to live in a world that our loved one is no longer a part of. Every person is unique in how they handle grief and how long they stay in each stage. Grief is a normal process and everyone will need to go through it at some point in their lifetime.
Here are some tips to help you through the grieving process:
- Let yourself grieve. Take time to grieve.
- Talk to a therapist or grieve counselor if you feel that your grieving is causing dysfunction in your life or you feel you cannot go on living anymore.
- Join a support group online or offline or both
- Lean on family and friends
- During the holidays it can be rough and old wounds can be ripped back open. Create a new tradition in memory of your loved one. When my grandmother passed away, a family friend took all the ribbons off of her funeral flowers and made beautiful ornaments for each of the grandchildren. Every year, I place the ornament on my tree and I feel like my grandmother is spending Christmas with me.
- Keep traditions going- having a loved one’s recipe or sharing stories about that loved one can keep that person’s memory alive.
- Stay healthy. People who are grieving can have trouble sleeping, lose interest in eating or activities and have difficulty concentrating and making decisions. Get lots of rest, eat right, exercise, avoid alcohol/drugs, and drink lots of water. Try relaxation techniques, breathing exercises, etc. to get your needed rest.
- Get engaged in activities. Keeping yourself busy can help with the constant thought of things you cannot change.
- Turn to your faith
- Express your feelings
- Do something in honor of your deceased loved one, like plant a tree or rose bush, start a charity walk in their name, etc.
- Focus on the positive aspects of life
Losing a loved one is very rough, but our loved ones wouldn’t want us to dwell in our grief. They would want us to honor them in living the best life we can. Here is a beautiful poem dealing with grief, written by A.L. Frink.
The Rose Beyond The Wall
A rose once grew where all could see,
sheltered beside a garden wall,
And as the days passed swiftly by,
it spread its branches, straight and tall...
One day, a beam of light shone through
a crevice that had opened wide
The rose bent gently toward its warmth
then passed beyond to the other side
Now, you who deeply feel its loss,
be comforted - the rose blooms there-
its beauty even greater now, nurtured by
God's own loving care.