Accepting the Loss of a Loved One
Losing a loved one can be a highly charged and traumatic time. Coping with the loss is a deeply personal but there are some universal elements to the bereavement process. Understanding these facets can help you to work through your grief and eventually come to acceptance.
Allow your feelings. The loss of a loved one brings up almost every emotion imaginable. It's important to understand that there is no "right" or "wrong" when it comes to your feelings about the passing of someone you dearly loved. Gently remind yourself that your feelings are yours, and you should feel no shame or guilt for them.
Don’t go it alone. While there may be times when you'll want some alone time as you work through your loss, it's important to have a support group around you for those times when you feel especially sad, lonely, or vulnerable. Friends, family, a clergyperson, and perhaps a counselor, should all be accessed during your grief process. These individuals can be a tremendous source of emotional and physical support during your darkest hours.
Let yourself grieve. Bereavement and grief is a process. Everyone has his or her own way of coping with loss. You cannot put a time limit on your sorrow; you need to allow yourself to experience the stages of grief as they arise. In her famous book, On Death and Dying, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross outlined five stages of grief:
- Denial: At first, you find it impossible to believe the loss of your loved one is real, and you may be numb from the experience.
- Anger: As the truth of the situation begins to take hold, it's normal to feel anger and rage. This anger may be directed at yourself, the loved one for leaving you, doctors for not healing your loved one, or even at God.
- Bargaining: The normal reaction to feelings of helplessness and vulnerability is often a need to regain control, such as, “If only we had sought medical attention sooner…” or “If only I had been better to them…”
- Depression: The overwhelming sadness you feel is normal, and in most cases, will not last forever. It's common to feel as if life will never be the same because it never will be.
- Acceptance: Ultimately, you will come to terms with the finality of your loss and move forward with your life.
Keep in mind that each the stages are not necessarily experienced in order and they may be revisited from time to time. As you process your grief, however, the pain of your loss will become more manageable.
Embrace the memories. It takes a while to adjust to the loss of a major pillar in your life, but in time, you will be able to move forward without your loved one by your side. Keep a special place in your heart so that you can always remember the good times and the love you shared.