For those who have recently lost a loved one, the intensity of your pain may be indescribable, unlike anything you have ever experienced before.
Friends and relatives may try to console you by saying that time will heal this hurt—and for some this may be true. However, when we lose someone we are very close to, many of us carry this heartache to our own graves. Death is inevitable, but knowing this does not make it any easier to endure the loss of a loved one. It is through knowledge of the soul’s journey that we might find comfort and healing.
Western society’s unwillingness to talk about death and lack of knowledge about the soul’s journey from one lifetime to another creates unnecessary fear and often leaves us unprepared for the roller coaster of emotions that accompany the end of life. These emotions are all part of the natural grieving process, but, again, we know very little about that process until we experience it firsthand.
Coping with the Loss of a Parent
As the baby boomer generation ages, many of us are finding that the welfare of our parents has now become our responsibility. Caring for a parent throughout their final years can be an amazing experience and is even considered a privilege by some. But there is no doubt that this role has a somber side and comes with many challenges. Those who are caring for loved ones with chronic conditions like dementia, cancer and heart disease may experience anticipatory grief as they try to prepare mentally and emotionally for the imminent loss of their care recipients.
If your parent is still able to communicate with you, take this time to share family history or to reminisce together. Tell them you love them. Even if you are uncomfortable expressing your emotions verbally, now is the time to try. This may become a treasured moment that can bring both of you great comfort in the future. Those who are facing the end of life need to have the opportunity to express their thoughts as well. This is part of their closure with life and their relationships.
If their life journey is coming to an end, assure them that you and any remaining family will be okay and look after one another. Comfort them and give them permission to go when they feel it is time. Demonstrating your acceptance of the situation can help make this process a little less distressing for both of you.
If your relationship with your parents was perfect, treasure it. All too often our relationships with family members are built upon a mix of good memories, bad memories and every kind in between. Adult children who harbor painful memories and/or unresolved issues may feel a sense of abandonment if a parent dies and healing has not occurred. This may be accompanied by anger that things were not as you desired in your relationship.
Understanding the reasons behind these emotions can assist you in working through them. It’s important to remember that love and forgiveness are the keys to healing. Accept that your parents did the best they could at the time. Find forgiveness for your parent and for yourself for any negativity you contributed to the relationship. Holding on to any negative emotions before, during and after their passing only contributes to the struggles within your own life. This is a time to open your heart, exercise compassion, and begin the healing process by showing love and granting forgiveness.
If your loved one is taken from you suddenly, do not feel that you have lost your opportunity to say goodbye. Many of us talk to God or a higher power even though we cannot see him. Doing so gives us feelings of comfort, messages of joy and signs that he is present within our lives. Your late loved ones do the same thing. Talk to them and allow yourself to feel the love they have for you.
Types of Grief Personalities
We all mourn differently, depending on the nature of a loss and our personality types. Some of us lose a loved one and are able to hold things together. This is typical for individuals with a logical personality type who are in full control of their emotions and choose not to experience them until they are ready. These people tend to be the rock that everyone else relies on during trying times. But even among the most rational people, few are able to completely accept a loss, take inventory of their feelings and seamlessly move on with life. Delaying the grieving process too long, burying emotions or expecting grief to follow a logical course will only cause more pain down the road.
Then there is the emotional personality type. They feel loss with every fiber of their existence and can quickly get carried away on the emotional roller coaster of grief. Their compassion and empathy are beautiful aspects of who they are. However, when these individuals are bereaved, they may need the assistance of others to help them survive the intensity of their pain. Without help, emotions like anger, guilt, despair, relief and denial can begin to sabotage their quality of life.
Mourning and healing do not happen in a linear way or on a definite timeline. But when feelings surrounding a loved one’s passing become overwhelming and interfere with healing and daily routines, complicated grief may be to blame. It’s vital for those who are struggling with bereavement to reach out to their family and friends for support, but a trained mental health professional can assist with processing the loss and the difficult emotions it has generated.
Finding Hope After Loss
The time after a loss can be very painful. Sometimes the pain you are experiencing is simply too intense to allow yourself to heal. Seek the support you need to take care of yourself while grieving. It is likely that there are resources in your community that can offer help. Many turn to their faith and religious leaders for guidance and support during challenging times like these.
If your late loved one received end-of-life care through a hospice organization, contact them to see if they offer bereavement support groups or grief counseling for surviving family members. Those hospice providers that do not a have grief support program can likely recommend other resources for you to try, such as local hospitals, universities and elder care organizations.
Just because your loved one is no longer physically present does not mean that they have abandoned you. The love that you had for each other while you were together in this lifetime still exists and will go on forever. Try to take comfort in the fact that you were blessed with their presence. Although it may not seem likely in the initial stages of grief, the pain of their absence will slowly diminish and gradually be replaced by the memories of a life shared together.
Sources: Complicated Grief (https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/complicated-grief/symptoms-causes/syc-20360374)