Loss of a Loved One
Coping with the loss of a close friend or family member may be one of the hardest challenges that many of us face. When we lose a spouse, sibling or parent our grief can be particularly intense. Loss is understood as a natural part of life, but we can still be overcome by shock and confusion, leading to prolonged periods of sadness or depression. The sadness typically diminishes in intensity as time passes, but grieving is an important process in order to overcome these feelings and continue to embrace the time you had with your loved one.
Everyone reacts differently to death and employs personal coping mechanisms for grief. Research shows that most people can recover from loss on their own through the passage of time if they have social support and healthy habits. It may take months or a year to come to terms with a loss. There is no “normal” time period for someone to grieve. Don’t expect to pass through phases of grief either, as new research suggests that most people do not go through stages as progressive steps.
If your relationship with the deceased was difficult, this will also add another dimension to the grieving process. It may take some time and thought before you are able to look back on the relationship and adjust to the loss.
Grieving the Loss of a Child
The loss of a child is the most devastating experience a parent can face-and missing the child never goes away. A piece of yourself is lost and your future is forever changed.
The age of the child at the time of death does not lessen the hurt or devastation. It feels completely unnatural for a child to die before his or her parents. However, over 57,000 children under the age of 19 die every year in the United States.
Many grieving parents question whether life will hold any meaning for them and wonder how they will survive the pain of their loss. Parents describe the feeling as having a hole in their heart that will never heal, and may blame themselves and ask, “If only I had.” Or they may be angry with their spouse, the physician, God, or the government.
Parents feel alone and isolated in their grief, as friends and relatives are often at a loss as to what to say. But it is important to talk to people who understand the loss. This may be family, friends, clergy, therapists, or support groups.
Everyone suffers loss in different ways depending upon their beliefs, culture, family history, and relationship with the person who died. It doesn’t mean that others care less if they mourn differently than you do. Grief can also vary greatly depending upon how the child died. While some losses are less visible, such as miscarriage, other experiences of loss are more traumatic, such as an accident, illness, murder or death during war.
Face your feelings. You can try to suppress your grief, but you can’t avoid it forever. In order to heal, you have to acknowledge the pain. Trying to avoid feelings of sadness and loss only prolongs the grieving process. Unresolved grief can also lead to complications such as depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and health problems.
Express your feelings in a tangible way. Healing has come to me and to so many women I have worked with through sharing our story. I have watched those who have endured incredible pain, yet when they share, they now allow that wound to heal and through their healing offer help to others. It is a beautiful process to watch and I am so grateful that Scarred Beautiful has become a safe place for so many to find beauty in their past and their future. For those that are not ready to share their story with another, I encourage you to write in a journal, just as David wrote in the Psalms. Make your journal a prayer journal, reveal to God your pain, be honest about what happened, be honest about the anger you feel. You will find that God already knows, even those ugly emotions, and instead of His wrath, you will know His comfort. If you’ve lost a loved one, write a letter saying the things you never got to say. Get involved in a cause or organization in honor of the one you lost… or be part of an organization that tackles that very terrible event in your past and allow your involvement to help others find victory with and alongside you.
Look after your physical health. The mind and body are connected. When you feel good physically, you’ll also feel better emotionally. Don’t use alcohol or drugs to numb the pain of grief or lift your mood artificially.
Human beings are naturally resilient, considering most of us can endure loss and then continue on with our own lives. But some people may struggle with grief for longer periods of time and feel unable to carry out daily activities. Those with severe grief may be experiencing complicated grief. These individuals could benefit from the help of a psychologist or another licensed mental health professional with a specialization in grief.
At HelpGuide.org you learn more about the stages of grief, the many forms and reasons that grief becomes a factor in our lives, myths and facts about grief, symptoms of grief as well when it is time to seek help. Please go to: http://www.helpguide.org/articles/grief-loss/coping-with-grief-and-loss.htm.
PsychologyToday.com provides a locator of licensed psychologist, and therapists in your area. Please go to: https://therapists.psychologytoday.com/rms/.
Do not hesitate to seek professional help. Counselors are trained to assist in working through these tasks and other issues you may be facing. It is okay to ask for one session with a therapist to see if you both will be able to work together. Remember, with support, patience and effort, you will survive grief. In time, the pain will lessen, leaving you with cherished memories of your loved one.