Yesterday I got a phone call to tell me that the mum of a close friend had died suddenly.
It was a shock. She was a wonderful woman and will be missed by many.
Loss of any kind is difficult to deal with but coming to terms with losing a loved one is one of the most difficult things we have to deal with in life.
It doesn’t matter whether it is sudden or expected, the emotions we feel in the aftermath are wide ranging.
The most important thing to know about dealing with loss is that there is no right or wrong way of doing so. Each of us are different and therefore will be affected in different ways, but ultimately grief consists of several key emotions.
Anxiety and helplessness are usually the first emotions to hit us but anger is also very common. We can become angry at the circumstances surrounding the loss, towards people who may have been involved and even towards the departed for ‘leaving us behind’.
This is a natural part of the grieving process, and we shouldn’t feel guilty about feeling that way. It’s important to understand that these emotions are common and that they will pass.
Some people take a lot longer than others to recover while others may need more professional help from a counsellor, therapist, their GP and even religious figures.
The key thing to remember though is that eventually you’ll adjust to your loss, and the intense feelings usually subside.
“Grief always requires a period of adjustment,” says clinical psychologist Linda Blair, “Give yourself time to adjust and recover. Be respectful of yourself and your grief. You might feel hopeless for a while. Be patient with yourself.”
There’s no magic formula or instant fix. Some people find that they are affected every day for about a year to eighteen months after a major loss. They say time is a great healer and after this initial period the grief is less likely to be at the forefront of your mind, but that doesn’t mean you have forgotten your dearly departed.
I’m not a counsellor but I have been through my fair share of dealing with losing loved ones. As community leader I’ve also been in position to support others through difficult times.
Here are some practical things that I have found can be effective in helping people get through a time of crisis or loss:
Talk about it.
Sharing how you feel is often a good way to soothe painful emotions. Talking to a friend, family member, or health professional is a key part of the healing process. One of the worse things you can do is keep your emotions inside as this can have a negative effect on both your mental and physical well being.
Cry if you want to.
We are often told not to cry or bought up to feel that crying is a sign of weakness but that’s not the case. Crying is a healthy part of the grieving process and enables your body to release tension.
Find a routine.
A loss normally means a drastic change in life and as human beings we don’t like change. Some people find that maintaining a schedule or routine such as going to the gym, for a walk or some other activity can help restore some kind of normality.
If you are supporting someone who has suffered a loss there are some things you can do too :-
Be all ears.
You won’t always know what the ‘right’ things to say is to someone going through the pain of loss. The most important thing is to listen. Often people don’t want advice or answers, they just want someone who will listen to them and allow them express themselves without fear of being judged.
Stay in touch.
In the aftermath of a loss we become surrounded by family and friends, often it’s not until they have all gone back to their normal lives that the person dealing with the loss feels the real pain. It’s important to stay on touch with a phone call, text or even email as it can be a lonely time.
Remember the good times but keep looking forwards.
Try to help them remember the good times and keep them focused on the positives they still have within their lives. At the same time be careful not to allow them to get stuck in the past, it’s important that they begin to look ahead.
In the end you have to believe that even though where you are right now maybe encapsulated in darkness, ahead there are brighter days.