Dealing with loss can be a difficult process for families, especially when unprepared for this lack of ‘normal’. The loss of a loved one always comes as a shock, and coming to terms with the event can take weeks, months, or even years. For some, the feelings of numbness and disbelief can even turn into denial, unwilling to accept that their loved one is gone. A common feeling for those dealing with this experience is that their loved one is just in another room, ready to reappear in a moment’s notice. Of course, these people don’t intellectually deny that their loved one is gone, but deep feelings are rarely intellectual. Because they have a deep need for their lost ones support, their feelings begin to play tricks on them.
Beyond the question of how to grieve through such a loss, there’s the question of how to cope with the situation altogether. Even after the reality has sunk in, feelings such as sadness, guilt, fear, and anger may come pouring in, complicating this process even more. The intensity of these feelings is different for every situation, but the core feelings are generally the same, referred to as the stages of grief. Of course, there’s no set time for any single stage; some may go through it within a few months, while others take years. But at the end of the day, every person that has dealt with grief has shared in the collective process of coping and rebuilding. Because of this unified experience, there are general takeaways applicable to everyone. Learning about methods that others have used for coping can be a crucial aspect of addressing one’s feelings, and finally moving on.
Before we discuss coping methods for different situations, it would be helpful to list off some common feelings associated with grief, to better understand how they come into play.
Feelings Associated with Grief
Sadness can be seen through sorrow, generally being upset, and tears. The most prominent emotion linked to grief.
A loved one can leave an empty void, which people will try to fill in different ways (some turn to drugs or alcohol, others to physical activity, etc.)
With the loved one gone, feeling alone is very common.
A serious flux of emotions, or feelings that are totally disconnected from the events at hand are very common when dealing with grief.
Some people feel guilt that they could not stop their loved one from passing away, referred to as ‘survivor’s guilt’. A cause for this can also be if things were left unsaid or undone prior to the loved ones death.
This can range anywhere from worry and anxiety, all the way to severe panic.
When there’s no one to blame, people may project anger on all those around them. This can include the lost loved one, and even themselves.
This manifests itself through depression or general apathy, and can even have a physical effect, such as fatigue, illness, aching, pain, insomnia, eating disorders, or mental issues. This is the most serious feeling associated with grief, and should be dealt with quickly.
Death is inevitable. Any grown child and adult understands that their parents and grandparents will one day pass away, but this doesn’t lessen the impact of their loss in any way. When family members were dependent on the parents and grandparents that passed, their loss can also mean a loss of emotional or financial support, leading to fear of being alone and immense grief. The upside is that these feelings will lose their intensity with the passing of time, but coping methods can help speed this process up even more.
It’s important to remember that the loved one would want their family members to be happy, and to continue living their lives to the fullest. Doing anything else would be insulting to their memory, and detrimental to one’s living style. Remembering and memorializing the loved one can be a great way to overcome the loss. By looking at their possessions, writing down memories associated with them, or even having a photo at hand can help one to integrate the best aspects of their lost ones into their lives as they move forward. Dealing with the emotion itself is a point of contention among the grieving. Some choose to express their emotions, whether they be fear, anger, or sadness. Exerting oneself physically, crying, or confiding in friends is an excellent way to address these feelings and quiet them. Others choose to bottle up the emotions and move on, although this is likely to cause issues down the line.
Perhaps the only thing worse than a child losing their parent, is a parent losing their child. Children are meant to outlive their parents, and when a child dies, their future potential dies with them. Some parents see no meaning in their lives after losing their child, but even this loss can be overcome. No parent will ever get over losing their child, but this event should not be life ruining. Many parents turn to drugs and alcohol, and stop caring altogether. This only makes a bad situation worse, and ruins what they have left.
Seeking support is an excellent idea in such situations. Sometimes, a spouse expresses grief differently, or just doesn’t understand how the other parent is dealing with their grief. Looking to other friends and family, and even speaking with professional counselors or therapists can be very helpful in understanding and overcoming grief.
When someone you love becomes a memory, the memory becomes a treasure.
Much like with any other loved one, memorializing the child is extremely important. Some parents put up photos of the child throughout the home, or glorify their belongings. Others look to outside sources, such as activist clubs and online followings to memorialize their child. For example, if one’s child is killed by a drunk driver, joining an organization such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving can be a powerful release for anger and grief stemming from the death. It’s important to keep the child’s memory alive, as a way of continuing the ongoing potential they would have had.
Another loss that is absolutely life changing is that of a spouse. When someone has chosen to spend the rest of their lives with their spouse, their loss forces them to completely change their living style, and to acclimate to being alone. The first step, is realizing that things will never be the same. Even if one is able to begin dating again, and eventually can remarry, the new relationship will never replace the old, and there’s no reason to try to forget or suppress the first relationship. Feelings for the lost spouse will likely linger for years to come, and this is a common effect of such a loss.
However, wallowing in the memories of one’s former relationship can be harmful, and it’s necessary to take steps to move on. Doing things alone will be scary and confusing, but these are the stepping stones to reigniting the passion in life. Signing up for community classes, finding opportunities to meet new people, and playing an active role with one’s friends and family is crucial to reentering life as a functional human being. Isolating oneself with memories will make the grief only last longer. Friends and family can act as a support system for dealing with such loss, helping to lay to rest the many reminders of one’s former life.
Dealing with the loss of a loved one can be the most difficult time in a person’s life. The things they knew and valued come crashing down in instants, forcing them to change their outlook on life, and live with an empty void in their heart. There’s no right or wrong way to deal with grief, and everyone does it how they see fit. The pain that comes with it can linger for years to come, and only through an active effort to move on and put the pieces back can one begin to live a healthy life again. It’s important to remember that the loved one would want their family to be happy and healthy, and the process of dealing with grief is done for the best wished of the lost loved one.
For situations where the grief remains, and conventional coping mechanisms don’t work, individuals and families are urged to seek professional treatment and aid. This is best done in the early stages, so it can have as powerful of an impact as possible.
People deal with grief every single day, forced to move on from such a shocking event. The information in this article is meant to help individuals through this process, no matter how immense the pain.