I think many of us find that the older we get, the more loss we experience. I have found this to be the case for myself.
I have had the most magical summer out on the water, away from Instagram and Facebook and cell service. I have had time to focus myself, which I had been neglecting to do for so long. But it is during this time of self-discovery and freedom that I have also experienced a heartbreaking loss. Although some more traumatic than others, all resulted in a need for healthy coping skills.
We learn so many things throughout our lifetime, in classrooms, through athletics, from our friends, from our family, but who is responsible for teaching us how to deal with the heartbreak of losing a loved one?
I don’t remember ever receiving a lesson on loss or grief. I would love to hear if readers ever formally learned about grief and loss and healthy coping skills. I look at coping mechanisms like a toolbox to life, different situations require different tools.
This summer not only have I experienced loss, but my friends have as well, and I have not been able to be there to help support them in their grieving. I know how confusing it can all be if you have not experienced something like this before. So I have out together a list of things that may help you through your grief and understand your emotions.
Almost all of us experience shock in some form after a sudden loss. We can think of shock as our body’s way of protecting ourselves for the coming pain. We may feel numb or frozen – try to remember that this is natural but the numbness will slowly go away to allow you to incrementally deal with the pain, I have numbness to come in waves. We can also feel dazed and confused where it can create somewhat of a dreamlike state, where there is no time. You might forget some memories or days may pass like minutes, I have found that journaling through this time helps me to remember what has happened during that lost time.
Because of the loss of concentration, judgment, and memory that can occur, many experts recommend that individuals experiencing a significant loss avoid making major decisions during the first 6 months to a year following the death. You might find it hard to follow conversations with your friends and could find yourself frustrated that the rest of the world doesn’t pause or change when you lose someone. Surround yourself with friends that understand what you’re going through and want to be supportive. Many times friends around us want to be supportive but don’t know how. Be direct in letting friends know what you need, whether it be space, time, someone to cook a dinner, or sit in silence with you. (I always love a good friend that can support me just by being in the room)
You can also experience fear, many fear the idea of losing anyone else, and I experienced a real fear of feeling like I was living in a daze forever. You will not feel like this forever, it is hard to believe, but it will take time to heal but you will eventually begin to start living in what I would call the “new normal”.
Guilt is the one that scares me the most because it is so internal. After a sudden loss I think it’s natural to relive your last moments with that person. When we don’t get a chance to say goodbye or lose the chance to tell our loved one how much they were loved, we may feel guilty like we didn’t appreciate the times we had with that person. Or maybe the last conversation was an argument; we may feel guilt that our last words weren’t our kindest. We can even feel guilty for trying to continue on with life after such a significant loss.
I try to assure myself that wherever my loved one is now, they have a direct connection to my heart, and fully know the love that I had and will always have for them. And that our loved ones would want us to go on living life with purpose.
There is no exact science to grief, and everyone grieves in different ways and for different lengths of time, what I listed above are common symptoms I have experienced during the first three or four months after losing loved ones.
If you are supporting a friend I would recommend familiarizing yourself with grief and polish up your listening skills. A lot of the time those experiencing grief may just want someone to bounce ideas off of, memories, or passing thoughts, or someone to just be with them while they cry. Remember as a friend you cannot fix this, and you are not expected to, but by being present you can play a large role in your friends recovery. Try to avoid encouraging self-medicating behaviors, drugs and alcohol in particular as they can disrupt/delay the healing process.
Much of what I have learned about grief has been through reading books and listening to speakers, one in particular is Doctor Bob Baugher. All of what I have listed can be found in his books and much more. Trust in the power of time.