The death of a loved one is one of life’s biggest challenges. Few things can come close to the difficulty of losing someone who holds a special place in your heart.
It is likely that following a significant loss you will experience a whole range of intense emotions, from profound sadness, to shock, to disbelief, or anger. You might spend time reflecting on how your connection could have been different when they were alive if the relationship was a particularly complicated one, or cling on to memories to such an extent that you totally neglect the present. All of the above are natural reactions to their passing.
If you have lost a friend, a parent, a child, a member of your family, your partner, or even a pet, it might feel like life will never be the same again and the intensity of your grief will continue forever. In time, and with help and support, your sorrow will lessen and you will be able to move on with fond memories and their love remaining with you all the while.
The five stages of grief
You might have heard of the five stages of grief -the idea that following a loss you will experience denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance, on loop, waxing and waning as time goes by. However, this concept was never meant to apply to the grief experienced from the loss of a loved one, but rather the stages one might go through if diagnosed with a terminal illness.
When it comes to bereavement, there are many different emotions you might feel. You may feel extreme shock if their death was sudden and unexpected, or you may even have mild hallucinatory or delusional experiences in response to their death. You might even feel a sense of peace if that individual had been struggling and in pain for years with a low quality of life and had lost their sense of self or dignity. To say that there are only five emotional states you may face following the death of someone close to you is not an accurate portrayal of the complex, nuanced nature of grief.
The process of grieving is also a highly individual one and can differ based on such things as personality, religiosity, or your unique coping style/methods. For some, it may take months or years to pick up the pieces. There’s no right or wrong time frame.
What is secondary grief?
Grief is known to have a domino effect that spills over into other areas of our lives. Not only have you lost a person you love, you will experience other losses too. Perhaps a loss of purpose, confidence, routine, or shared family or friendship dynamics that feel safe, familiar, and comforting.
When do you need help when dealing with grief?
No man is an island. We have this saying for good reason - we are not equipped to manage feelings of profound loss on our own. We need to reach out to a wider community to heal, be that in the form of friends, a partner, family, or maybe even mental health professionals. If you feel that you cannot cope and are struggling to look after yourself then there are many bereavement services that can help you during this difficult time.
How to manage the grieving process
Grief is an unruly beast that leaves us feeling emotionally spent, fatigued, and sometimes very, very alone. There’s no mould for how best to manage the process of grief but there are ways to navigate it that can be placating and healing.
It is all too easy to run away from difficult emotions. It’s certainly not hard to find distractions or even chemical solutions to shield you from your grief. Whilst this might initially work for a quick fix against intense emotional pain, there is no longevity in avoidance. You must allow yourself to feel, and to feel difficult emotions that truly test your sense of self and stability.
There are other options out there that can help. You could even write a letter to the deceased as part of your healing process, or perhaps journal to recognise and draw attention to the journey of your grief. If these things do not appeal to you there are several other avenues to explore. Finding someone to talk to that you trust and feel you can confide in openly is often a vital aspect to managing your grief. Whilst unique to you, your grief is part of a wider string of human connections. It might help to reach out to others going through a similar thing, or in fact grieving the same individual, to provide a sense of support to both parties.
Preparing for recurrence of grief can be very helpful. Though it might be something you wish to push to the back of your mind, the anniversary of their death, their birthday, or other significant dates relevant to them or your relationship will conjure up many emotions. It might be a good idea to come up with a plan for these specific occasions.
Helping children understand loss and grief
Depending on a child’s age, understanding of death might not be all too comprehensive. If they are a toddler, then the notion of death will not carry the same weight as it will for teenagers. It is important not to avoid the subject altogether, or withhold information under the pretense of shielding a child from difficult emotions. By doing so you might cause them to internalize things incorrectly. They might even blame themselves for the deceased’s death.
Fundamentally, kids grieve differently. They may switch from crying to playing intermittently, or even regress in their development temporarily in reaction to the loss. Letting your child express their feelings not only validates their emotions but helps them to heal too. You might want to show them pictures of the family member or friend that has passed to help them share how they are feeling, or perhaps read them a book that explains death to further their understanding.
It is likely that a child will worry about their parent’s death if a grandparent has passed away. Reassurance, education, and maintaining previously established schedules and routines will help the child feel more secure and grounded during this period.
We are here to help too
Aura Flights are a compassionate, empathetic bunch that are highly experienced in talking to a wide variety of people at various stages in the grieving process. We are person-centred in all that we do, and that applies to how we communicate with those struggling with the loss of a loved one. If you are interested in our services, we will lend a helping hand to guide you through every step of the way, with patience and care, be that in person, on the phone, or however you wish to get in touch.