A guide to coping with loss from
In the first weeks and months following a bereavement try not to make any major decisions about your life. You will almost certainly be emotionally confused and unsure of what you really want. As time passes you will begin to feel some normality returning and you will then be in a better position to know which direction you want your life to take. Don’t be pressured by well meaning friends into giving away your loved one’s clothes or possessions either. If this is what you decide to do, you will know when the time is right.
Remember your loved-one. Talk about them regularly to family and friends. Keep photographs around the house. These things will go a long way in helping to heal the raw wounds you are suffering.
Every soul is unique – a one-off. Such a thing is precious, priceless and irreplaceable. Keep, guard and treasure your memories of loved ones, because they are a tangible and valuable possession. Nurture them, for they will keep your loved-one always close to you.
Make and take time for yourself. Make sure you get plenty of rest. If possible make sure you eat at least one good meal a day. If you are having trouble sleeping, are feeling nauseous, or otherwise unwell, see your doctor. While these are probably a physical consequence of the shock you have suffered, your doctor will be only too pleased to advise you and offer whatever help he or she can. Lean on family or close friends if they offer the help that you need. Many people want to help as much as they can and will be only too pleased if you take up their offers. No-one will think you a nuisance.
When we are feeling low our gaze has a tendency to fall to the ground, to each step we take. Each one becomes more tedious and heavy. Our outlook becomes restricted and dulled, and our emotions quickly follow. Keep your gaze upward. Look around you; toward the horizon. Don’t miss a rainbow when it comes.
Leaden clouds of mottled grey,
wind-harried through the sky
bring rains that cause the colours
of the world to merge and run.
But sunlight shafts still beam through heaven,
hidden from the eye,
and rainbows wait with patience
knowing that their birth will come.
The burnished leaves that fall like tears
lie hapless all around,
and gild the sombre autumn day
with lavish floors of gold.
And in the earth’s cold shroud of white
that fell without a sound,
fresh footprints follow paths
that lead to promises untold.
Now take a walk my loved-one, here,
along this lonely shore,
and let the ocean breeze caress
the furrow from your brow.
For soon the long dark night will pass
and sunrise comes once more,
so take hold of the dreams we shared
and live them for me now.
Take one day at a time. You will have very good days, and you will have bad days. Concentrate on dealing with the moment, the hour or the day. Gradually the good days will increase until you have more good days than bad. The process you are going through is nature’s way of healing your shattered existence. Bereavement brings a number of recognised stages of grief. These are shock and disbelief, denial, guilt and anger, anxiety, despair and depression, and finally acceptance.
While this pattern is well known and probably follows this order, other emotions certainly come into play, and you will probably find that you will experience an interplay of emotions at different times, with different intensities. Be aware of your feelings and emotions. Keep a diary, or journal, of your thoughts and feelings. If you wish it may always remain private, and never seen by anybody else, but many people find this a helpful outlet and a good way of taking control of their emotional turmoil. In this way you can better understand your needs and be better placed to deal with them.
Find outlets for your anger. Don’t be afraid to cry in your sadness. Express your feelings of guilt or despair to someone you can trust. Different types and circumstances of loss will result in different emotional reactions. If you need help with dealing with your thoughts, questions or feelings, bereavement support services are available to guide you in the right direction.
Never be afraid to be vulnerable and reliant. We all depend upon each other to greater or lesser degrees. At difficult times in our lives, that dependence will see us through and we need not be ashamed of it. This will give us the strength to be the rock or the anchor to others in their need. A time which must eventually come to us all.
A journey rarely consists of a smooth and seamless flow, but of many individual steps. Of hills and valleys; of resting places and watering holes; of triumphs and setbacks. Each step taken, however, is one step nearer to our destination, and is therefore a triumph in itself.
At your lowest moments of despair and sadness you may feel worthless and that life is not worth living. These feelings will pass and you will move on, but to ease your suffering, counter these feelings with practical and positive exercises. Plan these in advance. You will not feel like doing so when you are actually at a low ebb. Make a list of activities or hobbies that you find interesting and be prepared to give them a try. Invite a friend around and cook them a favourite meal. Set yourself some aims or challenges like learning a new skill. Tackle a simple job in the home or garden that you have been wanting to do but not found the time. Keep your aims simple and realistic however. Over-ambitious plans that do not come to fruition may set you back. Consider treating yourself in some way. An appointment at the hairdressers, or a day out can give a real boost. These things will then give you fresh incentive and will occupy time that could be taken up with negative thoughts.
Be prepared to give yourself and your time to help others. It is easy to feel isolated by the wrong impression that we are facing life’s difficulties alone. Not only can you learn valuable lessons from others, but you also have valuable experience that can be used to help them through their difficulties. Be very careful to keep this at a very simple level. Do not get too involved in helping people with severe emotional or practical problems. This type of involvement may well serve to make you feel worse. Contact your local volunteer centre, who can guide you. Alternatively, if you know of people who require help with everyday tasks, gently offer yourself. Pride and satisfaction are genuine rewards that come from this type of activity, and if you had lost sight of the fact, they will help you regain the realisation of you own worth and value. You will also have the added benefit of social contact. If you work full or part time you may not feel able to cope with extra calls on your time and energy. While your energy levels will begin to rise as time passes, be careful not to overdo things.
All of these things must be looked at in a balanced way and in the light of your own circumstances, experience, and needs.
Light a candle and watch it flicker in the darkness. We can see dimly by its weak light. We can make out forms in our surroundings. Some, close to the flame, are clear. Those further away become dimmed in our sight. Blow out the candle and we see nothing in the dark except a halo in our mind’s eye where the flame once was. But while we cannot see our surroundings they are, nevertheless, still there, and as real as they were. No matter how dark the middle of the night, come the breaking of dawn and the full glare of day, we know that everything will become bathed in light.
In the days following a bereavement you will probably find yourself inundated with support from family and friends. Undoubtedly this support is greatly needed and will literally carry you through this early period. At times, however, you may find this attention overwhelming, and you may need time to be alone with your thoughts and your grief.
As weeks turn into months and people return to their own daily lives, encouraged by your improving demeanour, you may find yourself feeling lonely and isolated at times, especially if the deceased was your life-long partner. It is important to deal with this positively. Start in a small way if this is the most you feel able to cope with. If you have a bereavement support group in your area, steal your nerve and give them a call, or go along to a meeting. The benefit here is that you will meet people who have, or are, experiencing the same difficulties as you. If you previously had interests or hobbies, consider taking them up again. If you went to social or sporting events with your partner, the thought of going alone may seem daunting, but people are very kind and understanding, and renewing friendships is a positive step. If this is difficult consider joining new clubs or partaking in new activities.
If you find you have a heavy heart, find someone to help you carry it.
One of the difficulties faced soon after a bereavement is the discomfort that we feel as we see the apparent normality in the lives of people going about their business around us, while our own lives lay in tatters. Despite the setbacks, however, life does go on. Despite the enormity of our pain, it is slowly diminished by time. Acceptance of what has happened does come. Normality, of a different type, returns to us.
How much our lives change will depend ultimately on how close we were to the person who has died, and, possibly, the circumstances of their death. But our lives will change and we will never be quite the same again.
Life is a process of growing and developing that continues up to our own death. The experiences of life hopefully make us wiser, stronger and more mature. Don’t be afraid therefore of questioning the things that happen to you, and around you. If you find yourself needing answers to questions arising from circumstances of the past, or about your own life and future, make opportunities to speak to people who may be able to guide you to those answers.
Learn to find joy and peace, remember how to appreciate the wondrous. Marvel at birdsong in the dawn; the beauty of spring flowers; a baby’s smile. Actively seek to re-build your life because life is never about finding ourselves, but about creating ourselves.
You are a unique and precious soul. Learn from the past, plan for the future, but live fully today.
This youthful, chaste, free flowing spirit is like the garrulous
mountain stream that gleefully tumbles over rock and pebble.
Along the lonely wind swept crevice, steep exhilaration,
unburdened by the weight of many seasons’ bourne.
Lucid pools arrest the headlong rush and fall, while
myriad jewels of captured sunlight dance within the
seamless shallow flow, pure and crystal clear .
On and on as if immortal – euphoric outburst
of the new dawn’s promised fount of life.
Down through patchwork fields, and valleys carved unnoticed
over countless ages past by mirrored adolescent flight
from dizzy heights of panoramic birth.
Etching still the journey’s pattern in unyielding cradles
that conspire to stem her energetic tide.
Then in full resplendent grandeur glides the
molten silver serpent, wide as cloudless sky and deep;
foreboding as some ancient forest thick and dark.
Fertile banks of live profusion gild her gleaming face,
shielding from my eyes the wonders of her languid bed.
Ponderous and full of grace, then gives herself
to infant scramble over hidden shallows one more time.
Idyllic rains that swelled her fervent fertile breast now
drape the hills, that humbly bow to feel the soft caress
of ocean waves that brush the shore, like lovers’ finger tips.
The precious surge and pulse that gave her life, reluctant yield,
not mourning, to the ebb and flow of nature’s breath.
Sea birds cry ecstatic fanfares of delight, as with a subtle sigh,
she gently merges into perfect wholeness once again.
Nothing of any value, of any lasting worth, ever came without cost. The true cost of the love that we have for each other is felt in the pain of parting, and that pain is the most severe. The intensity of that pain is the measure of our love, and the pain that we endure is the price that we pay for love. But what of the future? Will our pain not diminish with time, and with it the love that we once had?
No. Grief is not for ever, but love is surely eternal.