Notes on Loss of a Loved One

Loss of a loved one is an unpredictable, emotionally bloody, chaotic experience that is shared by all of humanity.  I am describing all kinds of loss: death, divorce, long-term separation or estrangement, mental illness, etc.  Sometimes the loss is quick and complete, other times it is a gradual erosion of connectivity.  The hurt is indescribably complex and our emotional wounds slowly ooze during the grieving process.  A friend once compared losing his mother to losing a lung.  He could breathe and function with 1 lung, albeit in an impaired manner.  But, he would never be the same.  As a person with 1 lung would never likely run again, loss of his mother would permanently alter his quality of life. 

This year, my best friend was taken from me suddenly, inexplicably.  I have talked extensively with others who understand by experience the depth and complexity of losing a loved one.  Sharing is caring, after all. 

Even as I am still journeying through the healing process, I have found the following coping truths to be applicable across the entire spectrum of loss:

  1. Honor your feelings.  Whatever your feelings may be: raw, ugly, sad, angry, shameful, guilty.  When you bury or suppress your feelings, you bury them alive and they don't die.  You cannot heal until you are honest with yourself about what you truly feel.
  2. Don't rush grief.  Every human grieves differently.  Allow your individualistic grief to be free of social constraints and (self)judgment.
  3. Forgive.  Forgiveness is the key to liberation from being a victim.  It doesn’t make the other person right.  It frees you from the imprisonment of pain.  This is a choice.
  4. Remember that there are still pleasures in life.  No loss is absolute.  The roses will open in the Spring.
  5. Look for the hidden possibilities available with the change of circumstances.  What is possible now that wasn't before?
  6. Take care of yourself.  Rest.  Eat.  Exercise.  Drink wine.  Listen to your body.  
  7. Talk to someone who will sincerely listen.  Either a therapist or best friend.  Many times we need to say out loud what we feel in order to acknowledge our true motivations, emotional complexity, judgments and healing. 
  8. Acknowledge your guilt, then release it.  Every loss introduces The Blame Game.  "What could I have done differently?  Why didn't I see that?  What if...?"  Know that you did the best that you could with the information that you had available.  It was enough.  Nothing that you could've done would have changed the outcome.  
  9. Be aware of the human need for spirituality.  We yearn to understand why we live, why we die, why we hurt.  Feed this curiosity.  True, satisfying answers are available and will comfort us in difficult times.  We are not alone in the universe.
April Cunningham