The only thing we can know with 100% certainty about life on earth is that it is temporary. Each of us will die. Those of us who are Christian believe in eternal life, which is life after death on earth. Somehow, knowing that every person is going to die at some point doesn’t make losing a loved one any less difficult. Grieving the loss of someone we love is never easy. However, we can learn to navigate the process in a healthy and natural manner. If we don’t know how to mourn a loved one in a healthy way, grief can become debilitating. Unprocessed grief can lead to numerous mental, emotional and physical health problems.
When a loved one’s death comes suddenly and unexpectedly, it intensifies our sorrow and grief. That’s not to say that an “expected” death (such as a loved one who has been diagnosed with a terminal illness or condition) is “easy” to process. When we lose a loved one without any warning though, such as in a car accident, it can take a long time to come to terms with the loss.
I am grieving the loss of my own mother
I recently laid my beloved mother to rest after having been her caretaker in hospice during her final days. She was 93 and had lived a full, happy, wonderful life that, of course, included challenges along the way. I considered the loss of my mother rather sudden. Of course, at age 93, her passing could never be entirely unexpected to us. However, the stroke that ultimately led to her death came quite suddenly and unexpectedly. In fact, several of us had just spoken to her hours before and she sounded perfectly fine. Most of what I have learned about grieving the loss of a loved one, I learned from my mother, when she mourned my father’s death 10 years ago.
She taught me many lessons about the grieving process. She navigated her loss and life thereafter with tremendous grace and dignity. It had a life-changing impact on me. Little did I know then that I’d be writing this post now, as I learn to move on in life without the woman who taught me so much about grieving the loss of a loved one.
Keep these helpful ideas in mind when you lose someone you love
We know that death is part of life, but that doesn’t make it any easier to say goodbye (at least, for now) to those we love. My mother imparted several lessons to me when my father died. These lessons helped me then and are helping me to cope now, when her passing is still so fresh in my mind. I hope that the pearls of wisdom contained in the following list will bring comfort to you if you’re grieving the loss of a loved one:
- No two people grieve in exactly the same way. Try to allow your grief and mourning process to unfold naturally. Let it be whatever it is at any given moment.
- Acknowledge, accept and process each emotion as it arises. If you feel happy about something, it’s okay. Perhaps that happiness will suddenly be overshadowed with sadness or even frustration or anger. That’s okay, too. Let yourself feel however you feel. Don’t try to fight it. Give yourself time to FEEL, and let each emotion pass in a natural way.
- Don’t be afraid to mention your loved one and to honor his or her memory. You might even want to create special traditions, such making his or her favorite meal on a day you want to remember.
- You’re not crazy if you talk out loud to a loved one who has passed. You might even feel his or her presence in the room. Grieving the loss will be less stressful if you indulge your desire to “connect” with your loved one. Maybe something funny will happen that reminds you of your family member. You’ll find yourself mentioning it out loud to him or her. It’s okay. Don’t fight it.
- Be honest as you grieve your loss, to yourself and others. Don’t be afraid to reach out for support if you’re struggling. Also, don’t hesitate to decline an invitation or to spend time alone when you feel the need. It’s okay, as long as you don’t become isolated or permanently reclusive. Especially in the beginning, it’s natural to not feel like going out or having company, etc.
No one can tell you how to grieve the loss of someone you love. However, these helpful ideas may bring you comfort and enable you to process your thoughts and emotions. As time passes, you can begin to heal and learn how to live joyfully again. It is not an insult to your loved one’s memory for you to have a joyful life. And, being joyful doesn’t mean you have forgotten the person who has died.
Photos, videos and stories can help you cope
I’ve always been a “picture person.” If you have a box of old photos, I’ll be glad to sit with you for hours to pour over them and listen to any stories you have to tell. Even before my mother died, I have had an old, black-and-white photo of she and my dad as the home screen on my cell phone. It has always made me smile when I turn on my phone.
Now that both of my parents are gone from this life, that photo and many others have such special meaning for me. While it might feel too difficult to do at first, when it feels right to you, looking at pictures or videos can be very helpful. Seeing captured moments in photos brings comfort when you’re grieving the loss of a loved one. Listening to stories that others have to share and telling a few of your own can help process your grief, as well.
God gives us hope for eternal life
What I’m most thankful for, in addition to the years that I was blessed to have my mother, is that, as a Christian, I know I will see her again when I die. God has promised that all who believe in His Son are offered the gift of Salvation. When we die, we will enter into a place prepared especially for us in the kingdom of Heaven.
In my mother’s final hours, I thanked her and I told her how much I was going to miss her. But, I also told her how happy I was for her, knowing that she would soon have no more suffering. I told her I was so glad that she would be reunited with my dad, my brother and our other loved ones in heaven. I also said I would be looking forward to joining her there one day. I truly don’t know how people process grief without God in their lives. And, if you are someone who doesn’t know God or has turned away from Him, I encourage you to reach out, for He loves you and wants to help you through your sorrow.