Coping with Death and Loss – 5 Ways to Help You Through The Grieving Process
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My grandfather on my mother’s side was buried last Wednesday, and I’ve just received news that my grandfather on my father’s side is now receiving the last sacrament. Both of them were 85 so I didn’t really expect to have another 5 more years with them, but still the news seem somewhat sudden to me. It seems that this Spring, as much as it’s filled with new life, has also been marked by Death.
During painful times, such as these, we often cling close to family. In my case however, that family is about 5000 miles away. The only one for me to depend on here in China, is my husband. To deal with these personal losses and still feel supported, optimistic and joyful in my daily life, I have developed some personal ways to deal with my grief.
Grief is very personal. Everyone deals with death or other types of loss differently. The culture you grew up in; your personal experiences; your most important relationships; they all enter into how you grief. It also depends on who you lost and how they died: Your grief process will be very different if it concerns a spouse who died in a car crash or an elderly uncle who passed away peacefully in his sleep. Death after a long, incurable illness is something you might have expected. Perhaps the person who died even got to say goodbye and leave you with their final thoughts and wishes.
As many differences as there are, however, losing someone you love is always a painful experience. If you’re looking for comfort, or a moment to cherish, maybe one of the 5 following techniques can help you.
1. Share your grief
“Grief and sadness knits two hearts in closer bonds than happiness ever can; and common sufferings are far stronger than common joys.” (Alphonse de Lamartine)
Running away and trying to forget about what happened, is a sure way of increasing your pain. You can’t avoid your pain, you can only postpone it. I find that talking to others who have lost the same person – family and friends, for example – can help you to focus on dealing with what happened. Talking about death makes it more real and lets the news really sink in. This step is hard, because it confronts you with your pain and the sadness of others. This involves a lot of sobbing on the phone and empty tissue boxes. But it can also bring you together, and help you get on the way to reminiscing about all the good times you shared.
“He who has gone, so we but cherish his memory, abides with us, more potent, nay, more present than the living man.” (Antoine de Saint-Exupery)
It may be a surprising idea that someone can be with us more vividly in memory than in real life, but consider this: Which is the more recent, your last contact with a certain person or your last thought of that person?
I came up with a personal technique for fully immersing myself in a memory, and bringing the person back to the present, if only for a while. Imagine yourself visiting your loved one, in their everyday life. How did they usually greet you? What did you talk about? How did they look? You can read more about this exercise here.
3. Feel Grateful for the Good Times
“When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.” (Kahlil Gibran)
Have you ever looked at grief as something good and beautiful? It is! You grief because you have lost something you loved. That means you have had the privilege of knowing another human being in the way they (and we all) were meant to be known. You have shared the most intense connection and the most wonderful joy two people can share. Any frequent readers of this website, and those aware of the Law of Attraction, are already familiar with the power of Gratitude. It becomes even more powerful when you apply it in situations that would normally be a cause for anger, fear and anxiety. There is so much in a person’s life to be thankful for and to celebrate. You can read what I feel grateful for in my grandfather’s life here.
4. Accept Your New Reality
“She was no longer wrestling with the grief,
but could sit down with it as a lasting companion
and make it a sharer in her thoughts.”
Nothing will ever be quite the same. As soon as we can accept this, we can look for ways to make the best of our new reality. In grief counseling, this is referred to as the ‘new normal’. How different this new reality is, depends on how important this person was in your daily life. I visited my grandparents rarely in the last two years, living so far apart, but for my grandmothers, life will be completely different now.
A new reality can’t include the person you lost, but it CAN include the memory of them and the conscious joy of having known them.
5. Grief Creatively
“So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.”
In Sonnet 18, Shakespeare writes about how he can make his love immortal by writing her down in a poem. And he was right. Now, nearly 400 years after his death, we still learn about the one he loved through his written words. For me, it’s writing poems. For you, it might be painting, drawing, crafts, gardening, writing, graphic design, blogging, etc.
Even if you’re not a master poet or brilliant painter, creating something to commemorate the loss of a loved one, in which you can pour your feelings for the person, can be a powerful way to comfort yourself. You’re really creating a piece of art that can remind you of your loved one for years to come. And you’re using your devotion to create something beautiful and unique. That, in itself, is a very positive act.
Have you found any of these techniques to be helpful or worthwhile? Do you have more advice you would like to offer others, on how to deal with the death of a loved one? Feel free to share your experiences and ideas!
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This article was contributed by Jorinde Berben, a guest blogger.
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