Death: Dealing with it Your Way

Some cry publicly, looking to friends and family members for support. Others internalize, keeping the emotional turmoil inside a secret sometimes indefinitely. Certain people reminisce, telling stories about good and bad times shared. And a few do all three.

People deal with the death of someone close to them in a variety of different ways, and no way is better or worse than another. How someone reacts to such a traumatic event, that all of us unfortunately must encounter at some point of our lives, is unique, hardly similar to how another person might deal with the same situation.

When a good friend of mine died more than two years ago, I initially felt nothing but a strange sense of deception. Family members of mine cried uncontrollably and I understood. That I expected. I did not expect to feel removed from the situation. But that is how I felt, and that feeling remained, through the viewing and the funeral. It took a couple of months for my emotions to surface and when they did, it only lasted so long. To this day, I feel as if I’ve internalized many of my feelings.

This week, I attended a funeral for a man whose daughter is a good friend of my fianc�© and me. The daughter mourned publicly but remained calm for her family and friends, thanking each one of them genuinely for their support. She told stories, cried with her family and seemed thankful for the time she had spent with her father. I had never seen someone react simultaneously on both ends of the spectrum. It was amazing to me but not surprising because people react in very unique, interesting ways to the experience.

That is specifically the reason why advice on how to handle such a situation is misguided. People usually mean no harm and don’t think they can solve all of someone’s problems when they offer advice. But swinging a baseball bat or playing guitar correctly can be duplicated. Dealing with a traumatic situation is harshly personal.

I am not an expert and I am not pretending to be. But in these types of situations, I’ve noticed that timelines or techniques that worked for another person, unfortunately, probably won’t work for another.

In an article titled “Dealing with Death” on www.thesite.org, the author wrote, “It is vital to let your feelings out as by bottling them up will only lead to emotional problems in the future.” Possibly. But expressing inner emotions in such a situation is not a conscious decision. Sometimes a family member or friend might need you to remain calm for their sake. Then what?

At JamesWatkins.com, Watkins provides an informational and impressive three-stage timeline of the grieving process. Watkins wrote that initially, grievers don’t believe that they’ve actually lost their loved one. “Painful longing” follows that period of shock and within a year, grievers reach the resolution stage, when they return to ordinary life and a sense of normalcy without that person. Is that true for a wife who is forced to sleep alone after losing her husband of 31 years or for someone who loses a life-long best friend and confidant? Maybe but I don’t think so.

No offense, Mr. Watkins but as real as those stages and described feelings are, no timeline gives the grieving process justice. People do not deal with grief in the same way or even in a similar timeline, as Watkins implies.

Traumatic situations make people come together, heal each other and sometimes ignore problems that have existed forever to cope. But while most everyone is willing to do these things for other people, they will all react to the loss in their own, unique, fascinating ways. No advice or three-step process, however good the intention, will change that.

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