“You try to brace yourself because you know it’s inevitable,” states Linda Mantiply, who lost her father after a lengthy illness. “But when the end comes, it’s still painful and numbing.”
Death is a natural part of life. Although experiencing a loss is inevitable, it is how one responds and copes with the situation that is important to his or her well-being. Individuals never experience grief and feel the same as before their loss.
Grieving is difficult because a person is dealing with many feelings at any given moment. A person must believe he or she can make it through grief and take the necessary steps to overcome it.
How can someone heal after experiencing the death of a loved one?
Time is important. A grief-stricken individual must realize healing may not occur in a day, week or month. Everyone is different. Although acceptance of loss varies, a person must take time to grieve.
“I had no down time,” recalls Christine Mosley, when her 67-year-old mother passed away from cancer. “I was back at work and in the same routine within a week. Everyday I would go home and cry.”
It’s only human to cry when grieving. Tears are natural. Crying is a healthy way to release the tensions, anxiety and sadness associated with loss.
Whether it’s anger or sadness, learning to release emotions is essential in the healing process. Death is never fully accepted without releasing them.
“I would go to the graveyard and talk or yell at him for leaving me,” says Shannon Kirby, whose husband, Darryl, was killed in an automobile accident 12 years ago. “It made me feel better to say the things I was feeling.”
Grief diminishes when it is shared with others. Talking with relatives, friends, clergy or a counselor can help resolve some feelings of grief. Others find solace by talking with those who have experienced loss and healed in their own way.
“I received a letter from a lady who had also lost her father,” says Linda Mantiply. “She offered support and reminded me that I needed to take care of myself during that time.”
Most importantly, a grieving individual must remember to take care of himself or herself. Diet, rest and exercise need to be maintained. Meditation, hot baths, massages and reserved quiet times will aide a person in thinking and coping with the situation.
As with any challenge, obstacles can occur and delay an individual’s healing. Knowing these pitfalls and avoiding or overcoming them is important.
Keeping emotions pent-up can be detrimental to a grief-stricken individual. Suppressed feelings do not allow the person to heal and can lead to chronic physical and mental conditions.
“After months of constant stomach pain, a specialist diagnosed me as severely depressed,” says Christine Mosley. “He said I hadn’t dealt with my mom’s death.”
The dependence on alcohol and drugs is a common obstacle in the healing process. Some individuals believe their grief will fade by trading pain for a moment’s relief. This is not the answer.
While trying to cope with grief, some people want everything to be as it was prior to their loved one’s death. This impedes the mental processing and acceptance of loss. Although they will eventually have to come to terms with their grief, for the bereaved, this is one way of blocking the reality of the situation.
“My mother keeps my brothers’ rooms exactly the way they left them,” says Stacey Douglas, whose brothers, 20-year-old, Dean, took his own life and 28-year-old, Randall, was killed several years later in a motorcycle accident. “You get the feeling they just left and will be coming back. It’s sad because you know they’re gone.”
Some individuals believe if they remain occupied, they won’t have to think about or deal with their loss. Not accepting grief delays the healing process.
“After the death of each of my brothers, my mother was constantly on the go,” says Stacey Douglas. “She was always on a trip to Europe or across the country. She felt she had to stay busy. That’s why I believe she’s never accepted their deaths.”
Of all of the obstacles, loneliness is probably the hardest to overcome. Isolation results in loneliness. The bereaved can overcome this by reaching out to others, making new friends or joining a support group.
A person’s life is forever changed after the death of a loved one. The healing process is a difficult journey. Individuals who have enough time to heal can cope with new challenges and resume a new life. Their loss is finally in perspective and there is hope for a brighter tomorrow.