Grieving: Coping With
the Loss of a Loved One
From my own experience and through working with the bereaved, I have found that one of the most helpful things
in navigating the loss of a loved one, is understanding a little of what to expect:
The first thing that I always remind people is that grieving is an ally, not an enemy.
It is the very thing that protects our physical and mental wellbeing - by helping us to outwardly process the pain.
After all, suppressing our emotions is what compromises our mental and physical health.
Grieving will never overwhelm you – it has an uncanny way of gently gauging how much a person can cope with
at any given time, and finding the moments that are best to grieve. The sooner you trust and surrender to it,
the sooner you will recover… let the cathartic tears flow – knowing that each one takes you a step nearer
to regaining your full happiness. (And yes, hard though it may be to imagine right now...
Take heart from the knowledge that you really WILL regain your full happiness!).
The 3 stages of grieving –
Everyone is unique and, as such, responds in their own unique way – but, this is the most common pattern of grieving.
2) Suffering – which can include feelings of anger, guilt, sadness, and anxiety.
Think you’re going mad? -
Misplacing keys? Locking yourself out of the house? Barely managing to concentrate?
Rest assured, this is a normal part of the grieving process. Early on, it is often a sign that you are still in shock.
Later on, it serves as an invaluable reminder to slow down and go easier on yourself…
and allow yourself the time to grieve. A close friend recently wrote of her grieving experiences – i.e. forgetting where she’d parked her car, getting parking tickets etc. - “Even when you are pulled out of reality
the outside rules still apply!!” I couldn’t have put it better myself…
You are not alone –
After a loss, you will see how quickly you encounter others that have been through the same loss before you.
It is as if they are sent to us, to give us vital insights & advice and to remind us that
bereavement is a natural part of life...i.e.that the world keeps on turning and we are not alone.
Be open to these encounters, they help pave the way ahead …
There are no rules on how long grieving lasts -
This will depend on the severity of the loss, the circumstances of the loss and your relationship to the person you’ve lost. If it is the first time you have lost someone dear to you, this can also have a bearing. But above all, it depends on you - glorious, beautiful, unique, individual, you. For instance, if you were at the side of a person when they passed, this may take a little longer to process – particularly if it’s the first time you have ever witnessed a passing.
For others, not being at the person’s side can have a more enhanced effect - making closure less easy.
The most important thing to know is that you WILL recover – at exactly the rate that is right for you.
It is for no one else to dictate how long your process should or shouldn’t take.
Just take things day by day. Give it time, and, above all, be kind to yourself. If you’re feeling overwhelmed,
or having difficulty coping – or even just wanting to check that you are on the right track – book in for some
In the earliest stages of grieving, you hold your loved one in your conscious mind every waking moment.
As you start to recover, you will find that there are moments that you are not all-consumed with thoughts of them.
Soon, you find that a day goes by without thinking of them…then a whole week and so on. This is a good thing.
Do not feel guilty for this. To allow yourself to heal – it is important that you understand that the sight, smell, touch
and sound of your loved one will never fade. And even when not in your conscious mind, they are always in your heart. Also on the subject of memories, at certain phases of grieving or shock your longer term memory of your loved one
can shut off whilst you deal with the recent memory of the loss – but, as you recover, the long-term memories
come flooding back into focus; there for you to recall whenever you so please.
What would your loved one say –
Particularly with any guilt, always ask yourself: who is this guilt serving? How are the “what ifs” helping?
Would your loved one want to see you like this? If you could hear them, what would they say?
If it were the other way round, what would you want to say to them? The most likely thing is that they’d want to apologise to you for all the pain they are seeing you go through, beg you to stop beating yourself up,
and ask that you just get on and make the most of your life (which would make much better/more interesting viewing
for them!) After all, they are in a better place – why not let them enjoy this without any guilt of their own…
Let them see that you are OK too…
And remember –
The level of pain that you feel from the loss of someone, serves as a sweet reminder of the corresponding level of great joy that they brought you in life – THIS is the part that will never die and stay with you forever…
Your loved one will always be around you – just watch/listen for their familiar signs… All is well.
I leave you today with 2 poems that have proven very effective in comforting those (myself included) that have lost a loved one:
Do not stand at my grave and weep
Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glint on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you wake in the morning hush,
I am the swift, uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circling flight.
I am the soft starlight at night.
Do not stand at my grave and weep.
I am not there, I do not sleep.
Do not stand at my grave and cry.
I am not there, I did not die!
- Mary Frye (1932)
Death is nothing at all
Death is nothing at all.
I have only slipped away to the next room.
I am I and you are you.
Whatever we were to each other,
That, we still are.
Call me by my old familiar name.
Speak to me in the easy way
which you always used.
Put no difference into your tone.
Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow.
Laugh as we always laughed
at the little jokes we enjoyed together.
Play, smile, think of me. Pray for me.
Let my name be ever the household word
that it always was.
Let it be spoken without effect.
Without the trace of a shadow on it.
Life means all that it ever meant.
It is the same that it ever was.
There is absolute unbroken continuity.
Why should I be out of mind
because I am out of sight?
I am but waiting for you.
For an interval.
Somewhere. Very near.
Just around the corner.
All is well.
- Henry Scott Holland