I had seen birth and death but had thought they were different.
~ T. S. Eliot
I have written before about the difference between depression vs sadness. Losing a loved one can place you squarely inside the internment camps of both depression and sadness. Though I think for most of us it is an overwhelming grief and sadness that we must come to embrace and then eventually let go. Otherwise I fear that the loss and sadness can turn into a depression.
Please accept this exposition as a template of some of the things that have helped me learn how to deal with the death of a loved one. That loved one was my maternal grandmother to whom I was close.
She has been gone now for several years, and it is through the lens of time that I can offer some support and sympathy and offer that hollow cliche that time will help mend the broken heart. It does, though it is something we cannot hurry nor change.
But what we can do is manage our grief and sadness and myriad other feelings as we mourn the death of a loved one. And this is where we have the ability to act. And in the action we can learn to move with and finally through the sadness and grief. This is my hope for you. That my small, fragile offerings may find some use as you struggle and stumble upon the lumpy path of learning how to cope with the death of a loved one. I hope some of my thoughts may offer you strength and help.
Embrace your companion of sorrow
Learning to come to terms with the death of a loved one means learning to dance with sadness. In the Western World it seems as if sadness and grief cannot be openly explored. I think part of the reason for this is that grief and suffering is such a personal experience and most people are at a loss as to how to deal with it in others.
We can’t fix it in other people and we are a culture of go-getters and fixers. But we must learn to allow others to dance with grief and to be there with them. Just to be. To be present and to offer support when needed.
The first thing I found helpful was to allow myself to get intimate with my companion sorrow. He is a prickly and slippery fellow but I had to embrace him. I had to allow myself to be with the sadness.
It is not helpful to “put your best face forward” or to carry on and “keep your chin up”. We cannot deny sorrow and if we try he becomes a phantom who will taunt and prod us far longer than should be allowed. Embrace sorrow, dance with him, let him carry you in his arms for a while as you cry and mourn and reminisce.
Our loved ones are gone. Either permanently or to another form of existence depending on your belief system. What we are really grieving is the lack in our own lives. The gap that will be felt for some time.
Follow your heart and your soul
There are many ways that can be offered on how to cope with loss and death. There are bountiful tips and strategies. I have found it helpful and cathartic to set up a small shrine if only on a corner of a table with a couple of mementos that meant a lot to me that were my grandmothers. A photograph was helpful too.
Spending a few moments each day reminiscing about her and the times spent together was both heart wrenching and cathartic. Some might like to comb through photo albums, watch home made movies of your loved one in happier times.
However you decide to move through your sadness and grief is up to you. Let no one suggest that your way is inappropriate unless you are harming yourself or others.
But I do suggest taking time to sit and meditate or to think and embrace the memories and also the loss. It is hard and you will hurt and the pain will burn hot as coals in your chest and squeeze that gentle bird that is your heart to bursting. And your blood will boil and cascade from your eyes in hot tears.
But in time, like the sea that ebbs and flows. The sadness and the loss that you are drowning in now will subside and low tide will come in. And your heart will start to find peace. And the memories will warm you rather than burn.
In conclusion, learning how to deal with the death of a loved one is an individual experience. As such, it is a path that you must travel along alone. You can use the help of others to support you and lend you their ears.
But let no one suggest that you need to grieve and work through your pain in a certain way. Your experience and your heart will lead you to exploring and working your way through the grief and to the other side with the most ease and completeness.
To live is to experience the rainbow of feelings and emotions. From happiness and joy to peace and tranquility. But yes, also there is suffering and sorrow. To be fully human is to learn how to explore and allow for the experience of the complete plethora of human emotion. Once through the sorrow there will be time and space for more joy and love.