In case you haven’t read Greg Trutner’s article from earlier this week in his column, “From the Outside, Looking In,” his grandma recently died. This week’s Life Skills article deals with ways to cope with grief and loss.
At the reception back at my parents’ house, I helped my relatives grieve, or at least I hope I did.
For my cousin, I hugged her. She hugged me back tightly, so I knew she was in distress. I made sure to give her plenty of hugs.
I also distracted others, talking about subjects such as politics and the Great Courses by the Learning Company. I recognize that not everyone wants to talk about what has made them sad.
Finally, for me, I wrote a tribute on the night my grandma died and showed it to two cousins — the one that’s found here. For me, channeling feelings into something productive helps as well.
These are just some of the many, many ways that people cope with the death of a loved one.
Loss and grieving are difficult regardless of the reason for the loss and grief. At some point in life, all of us will suffer the loss of a loved one whether it’s a family member or someone we felt close to for any number of reasons. Whether it’s unexpected or after a lengthy illness or due to old age, death has a way of broadsiding everyone in its wake.
The first thing to remember is that love never dies. The love you felt before the loss is still with you after the loss.
Just as important is remembering that everyone is an individual which means that everyone has their own way of moving through the stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.
Denial: No one likes to admit that there’s nothing that can be done about losing someone they care about. They may know it on an intellectual level, but on an emotional level, logic is set aside while the unreality of what has happened sets in. There’s nothing wrong with being in denial as long as you work your way through denial into the next stage of grief.
Anger: Oftentimes people experience anger and guilt at the same time. They are angry for any number of reasons from wanting to believe that the loss could have been avoided somehow through to feelings of abandonment, and all manner of emotions in between. When logic kicks back in, guilt creeps in because we’re able to see how unreasonable the expectations that anger hung on the loss really are. There’s nothing wrong with being angry over the loss of someone who made a difference in your life. And there’s no reason to beat yourself up over it either.
Bargaining: For some, bargaining is a step that’s moved through quickly whereas for others it’s a long drawn out affair. The bargaining can be anything from wanting assurances from the universe or a higher power that no one else will be taken from you ever again, all the way down to wanting assurances that the next time something like this happens, that it’s over and done with before you realize what’s happened.
Depression: Once the reality of the situation sinks in, and you start to realize that bargaining won’t work since none of us has much control over certain situations in life, depression takes root. We begin to think of the loved one who is no longer there … who will not be there ever again for as long as you live. You remember any number of memories that are important to you. At this point, you have a choice to make about these memories. Do you want to continue moving deeper into depression with your memories, are do you want to accept that those memories will keep your loved one alive in your heart?
Acceptance: Arriving at this stage in the grieving process doesn’t mean that you don’t feel the loss of your loved one. It means that you have come to understand that the only control you have over what has happened is to live fully and completely. Remember the lessons you may have learned from the one you lost. Take what you have learned and share it with others so their lives can be enriched. And don’t be afraid to share stories about the times you shared together.
Loss can knock you off your feet – emotionally, physically, mentally, and/or spiritually. You don’t have to stay knocked off your feet. Take the time you need to move through the stages of grief until you find your footing again. And if, for whatever reason, you feel you are stuck somewhere within the process, there’s no weakness in turning to others – whether it’s friends, family, or professionals – to help you move through the process.
Article researched, compiled and written by MIC volunteers, Elyse Bruce and Greg Trutner.