When you lose someone in life, you can find yourself feeling unmotivated, unhappy, and underwhelmed by what life has to offer.
These feelings may change over time, but a lot of people look at grief as something to run away from rather than walk beside. Grief is a lifelong process, and it shows up for different people in different ways.
The shock of it first startles you, even in situations where you knew it was a long time coming.
This is all of us, at some point in our lives. Wondering why someone was taken from us or why that loss had to occur. We want our pain and our grief to matter, to mean something in honour of the loss.
You need time with your grief.
You don’t need to have an answer as to why this happened.
There are a few ways to cope with loss and learn from it, too—that way you can grieve without guilt.
1. Tell others what you need
There’s a lot to gain from sharing vulnerabilities with others. They may feel invited to grieve too if you let them, if they also knew that person. They may look to you for that invitation for how to not be okay. It’s okay not to be okay.
If you’ve lost someone dear to you, you’ll also be fed certain platitudes. I’m sure you’re probably tired of hearing the old, “everything happens for a reason.” Or you’re tired of being told to compare your life to others’ lives for the sake of reminding yourself why you should be happy. You’re probably tired of the silver lining talk.
It’s easy to become frustrated with others’ insensitivities and overall ignorance.
Simply tell others you just want the chance to grieve.
They will want to speak in platitudes. They will want to help, and they have good intentions. However, it is difficult for them to register the pain you are going through currently, and you have to self-advocate that you need to be allowed time to grieve.
Rather than worry about what your grief process looks like to others, you must be invested only in yourself. Your process is unique to you and that’s what matters. Don’t let a comparison game control you.
Instead, let others know what you are feeling and what you think you need. Even if you don’t know the answer to either—that’s okay. Just start there.
It’s not just the loss of a loved one. It’s all the things we will miss with them. It’s the milestones and memories to be made. Grief is a full spectrum of things others don’t always understand.
It’s a part of us now missing. Maybe a part of us went with them.
When you can communicate your pain, you can let others help you. You can let them in.
2. You are entitled to emotions
You are entitled to your own emotions. You will feel a full spectrum of them from happy about the memories, regret about wishing there was more you could do, and sadness, maybe even anger if the loss felt too sudden or there was injustice involved. You are entitled to feel these things about this loss for the rest of your life.
We also get lost in the “supposed to be” mentality. They are supposed to be here. Life is supposed to be fair. Things are supposed to be right. But they are not always so.
We live in a society that teaches us to plaster on a fake smile and “fake it till we make it.” In honoring your loss, it’s best not to do that. It will comes in waves. It will come in stages.
You are entitled to your emotions in whatever order they come to you. It’s unique to each person to experience what they experience.
Denial is a defense mechanism where when you find out the news or learn of the loss, you won’t accept it. You say, “no, it can’t be!” Anger is at the injustice of the event. Bargaining is “if only” statements in terms of the loss and its prevention. “If only this had happened, this wouldn’t have happened.” Depression or sadness, numbness, emptiness is where we find ourselves trying to find meaning in all of this. Acceptance is the final stage and is meant for when we get help for ourselves and finally accept the loss.
You can even feel all of this at once.
You will feel like this loss can consume you some days.
Let it out.
Talk to a trusted friend or family member. Talk to a professional. Do not be opposed to letting others in.
You are entitled to feel. It’s not weak to show feeling. It’s strong in fact to be vulnerable.
3. Appreciation and new strength
Once you have accepted the loss, you can learn or relearn how to appreciate the person all over again. It starts with the simple things. What lessons did they teach you about life and love? That becomes part of your journey, your legacy now.
You can honor their memory better by leaning on an understanding that they are still with you. You may have lost them but their memory and legacy remain intact in you. What you set out to do and the story you tell about yourself and your life now includes them.
There’s no going back. As much as you cherish the memories, there’s no do-over. You can only make the best of what’s to come by recognizing that. Take them with you.
You will be a new person and have newfound strength when you are finally ready to walk forward. It doesn’t mean that you will forget them by learning to smile and to laugh again. Instead, they are part of what makes you happy. You will figure out that they would want you to be happy.
You only need to look forward to make a difference in someone’s life. Think about how you would like to be remembered. Think about how far you have come. Think what that person wanted for you. Therein lies the answer to your grief. It’s about sculpting some purpose in the senselessness that happens in this life.
The way to do that is to accept the loss. Figure out what you can do to help others understand what you need. Your emotions may go up and down like a rollercoaster. You might find yourself back where you started each time you go through a cycle of grief. Your grief may come in spurts. It’s up to you to decide what you want to do with it.
You can’t change the loss. Everyone wishes they could change the outcome of loss. Seemingly insignificant moments become extremely significant now. You may wish the loss never happened. But it’s now a part of you. It’s part of the story you tell. It’s part of your destiny. You just have to remember the love there, not just the loss.
“If I had a flower for every time I thought of you…I could walk in my own garden forever.” ~ Alfred Jennyon