“CAN I EVER LIVE WITHOUT…?” — COPING WITH THE LOSS OF A LOVED ONE
The loss of a loved one is one of the most stressful times and can cause emotional crisis. Rarely, people are able to make conscious efforts to move on. From denial to numbness, wide ranges of emotions are visible upon losing someone or even when expecting to lose someone. There is no particular order in the grieving process, yet the experiences may include denial, disbelief, confusion, shock, sadness, yearning, anger, humiliation, despair, and guilt. These feelings are normal and common reactions to loss. One may be unprepared for the intensity and duration, and may even doubt their mental health.
It is an inevitable part of life. Mostly, everyone experiences this in some time of his or her life; there is no exception to it. Yet, it remains a very untouched topic, mostly, because people are embarrassed, as they feel uncomfortable mostly due to the notion of gaining sympathy through grieving stories. A very common notion of “time will heal everything” and similar notions used, believing it will make it better, but it does not! It is high time we understand that moving on or coping is not a doing of time, nature, or even god; it comes through self while others are just a source of strength and hope.
There are many phases to coping with the loss. They are not necessarily in the same order for every person but are an essential part of the coping process.
Let yourself be vulnerable at times
The most common response after a loss is dedicated towards staying strong, hold the tears, move on, etc. Empathy is what is required the most but sometimes usually in the initial stage, sympathising helps too. For people trying to cope, let you be vulnerable at times. It is very normal and important as well to cry and not be all right, to miss, and yearn. Stop building an emotional dungeon just because people equate holding back tears with strength. It seems strange but to cope, one must know the importance of being vulnerable at times.
This takes the major time especially in case of a child. People stay in denial for a long time, which is a defence mechanism to avoid pain, theoretically. It can last for a very long duration and makes moving on harder than anyone can imagine. In case of children losing a loved one, it is a common phenomenon that they are comforted with various thoughts depending largely on traditions and cultures of people; for example reuniting with the loved one in the afterlife. There is no right or wrong to staying in denial. A fair amount is definitely required for coping otherwise it can lead to immediate anxiety and depression. Yet, a prolonged can keep one away from moving on in life.
Acceptance is usually the first step towards moving on and coping with the loss. It is not usually with subconscious efforts but in case of difficulty in acceptance, one can try talking about the deceased and their feelings, which is the most efficient way towards acceptance. One needs to confront their emotions in whatever way possible to be at ease. Hence, many practice eulogy during funeral or otherwise. Ease is required for acceptance because remember denial is a defence mechanism to avoid pain!
Mourning and Grief
These are the expression of the loss and are very much required to cope. They go hand in hand with acceptance as acceptance comes through it and it comes through acceptance. There are many rituals and traditions dedicated to it in various religions and can last for a lifetime as well. It also keeps you reminded of the loved one, which might sound painful but with acceptance and time becomes a satisfactory process to remember your loved one.
Ridding off the guilt
It is a very noticeable experience that people feel guilty if they have a good laugh after few hours, days, or even weeks of losing a loved one. They do not celebrate festivals, their birthdays, or keep them self away from things that once gave them joy. If they do so, they feel guilt. They start believing that they do not deserve to have a good laugh or be happy and are sometimes even concerned because they wonder what people of the same perception might think of them. This is because they equate it with moving on. Well, having a good time may not necessarily mean moving over or forgetting the loved one. It is definitely a part of coping but there is nothing to be guilty.
Often suggested that people resume with the things they love and shall move on with their own lives, which has various stages and recommendations added to it. Yet, one key point that leads a person to breaking the monotony and getting on with life is getting rid of the guilt. Be aware of what you deserve, bring your life goals to your conscious being, and do not equate your happiness with forgetting your loved one. Shift the focus to yourself and try keeping yourself healthy- physically, mentally, psychologically, socially and spiritually.
This could be a part of all the stages and is a phase in itself. It is a very courageous act to seek help in littlest of action possible. It is even risky as it could be hurtful. In addition, people might avoid it as they begin to fear attachments, a consequence of loss. However, it is much required. Seeking help could involve sharing of emotions with someone, diverting through someone’s company and there are many other healthy ways depending upon people. Having someone not only makes healing better but provides you with important people in your life and theirs as well. Remember, people, time, god, etc are only a source of strength and they cannot cope on your behalf so avoid relying completely on them.
When we love someone, we do various acts of love and cannot imagine life without them. We make memories with them which hits as nostalgia when we suffer from loss. Even in the process of healing, we feel guilt somewhere because we cannot accept we are capable of starting a life without them. It is very important to remember that you always will be capable of living without the people you could not imagine your life without, yet they may always have a place in your heart, mind and soul. This will not make it hurt any less but will ease you out of a lot of negative emotions and dependency on someone. Most important of all is to remember that healing is not linear, for if it would be then one would not value being high and would underestimate being low. It takes time and a lot of energy. Losses leave a great wound behind and can prove to do a great deal of damage. Coping is not easy to do, neither is all part of it usually done with conscious efforts. No one can make you cope and neither there is a guide to follow. People have had their own experiences and ways, and one can only be aware of them and take inspiration from it. It takes a great deal of strength to make a difference consciously. In this traumatic situation, being conscious and aware itself takes a lot of strength. The key will always be to find the inner strength to begin with the process of coping and to be prepared for the lows in the process.