Losing someone you love is one of the hardest experiences you’ll have. While all the guests at the wake say what they believe are comforting platitudes, inside, you feel numb. Maybe you cried. Maybe the decision of life or death had been in your hands.
Every grieving is different. IDGAF what the psychologists say about the stages of grief because I’ve had too many rides on this merry-go-round. I offer you my take on how to grieve.
- Do it your way. Grief is messy and disorderly. Cry, scream, tell morbid jokes, or laugh hysterically. You don’t have to conform to what society thinks is the “proper” way to grieve.
- Don’t put a time limit on your grief. Expect at least three years to grieve. At first, you’ll drown in enormous waves of sorrow. Eventually, it will become bearable and then it will become a normal part of your life. “Getting over it” is not an option.
- Make time for self-care. The last thing your loved one would want is for you to fall ill or abandon living. Eat well, sleep deeply, and go to the doctor when needed. Treat yourself from time to time. Imagine each triumph as a gift from the person you lost.
Experiences to Anticipate
Things will be said or done that will cause a host of chaotic feelings. Here are the top four scenarios I’ve experienced that left me bewildered.
- Relationships with the living will change. If the death is traumatic, this will be especially true, but it happens after every death. Some will make the death about them or about you. Some will feel guilt and ghost. Some will hang around for the beginning and disappear. Some will stick around. Sometimes you will be left alone.
- You’ll forget the sound of your loved one’s voice. You’ll begin to do things that don’t include your loved one. You’ll build a new life.
- You will learn things about the life lived by your loved one. Some will be good, and some will be unpleasant. Each revelation gives you an opportunity to rewrite the past and find closure for yourself.
- When a person’s illness consumes month to years of your time in caring for him, or if you wished that she would die so that her pain would end, guilt and relief are healthy responses to the stress of prolonged illness.
Top Four Worst Kinds of Losses
I’ve experienced all four of the losses to one degree or another so I think I can rank these deaths with some authority.
- Death of a child: there is no title for someone who has lost a child. Think about it: widow/er, orphan, and – there is no word to describe this kind of grief. Even miscarriages take their toll.
- Death of a significant other: your entire life changes. Your closest relationship, outside of the one between mother-figure and child, is gone.
- Death of an abusive parent/partner: the guilt of feeling relief and anger is worse than the loss itself. Coming to terms with this kind of death confuses but also frees you.
- Suicide, homicide, and sudden deaths: there is no rhyme or reason to these deaths. They mug you in broad daylight and tell you it’s your fault that you didn’t see the signs.
Grief is your heart’s way of telling you that a part of how you defined yourself is absent. How you experience each loss is different each time. Whether the loss of your parent or child, or the death of a role model, grief has many faces. Each face is real and valid.
Find a way to be okay with your feelings, even the icky ones, and be kind to yourself. Be kind to others, even if one of them lands on the coffin and cries hysterically, even if it is for attention. You grieve your way and allow others to do the same.
And if you haven’t lost someone to death yet, buckle up for the ride. No one is exempt.
©2018. I.O. Kirkwood. All rights reserved for text. Images may be subject to copyright.