The Journey from Loss to Healing
There is one hard and fast rule when it comes to coping with the death of someone you love: there are no rules!
Every death is different, and every relationship is different, so the way each of us experiences loss and grief will be different. Grief is a journey, and when someone dies, those of us who mourn will take that journey in a unique way. It’s a journey through some of the most emotionally intense and painful passages of life, and sometimes it will seem as if nothing and no one can help. However, there are some common guidelines that can be an anchor to anyone who is suffering through loss.
“Grief will take as long as it takes,” writes Rusty Berkus in To Heal Again: Towards Serenity and the Resolution of Grief. “There is no right way to grieve—there is just your way.” Don’t let anyone tell you how you should be feeling. The journey from loss to healing is a unique and personal journey.
Death: Part of the Fabric of Life
For centuries, death was woven into the fabric of life. People were born at home and died at home, and families and cultures developed rituals to help them deal with the loss. However, in the past century, as death moved into hospitals and mortuaries, people became more removed from death. For many people, this made the process of grieving and healing much more difficult.
But we are coming back around to understanding. Books, grief counselling, the growth of the hospice movement and personal rituals all attest to the ways we are confronting death in new ways.
Guidelines for Grieving
On a personal level, losing someone we love can leave us lost and unsure of what to do next. Grief is love with no place to go. Understanding this gives us a focus. Although there are no rules to the grieving process, there are guidelines that can make the journey easier. I believe grief falls into roughly five stages: shock and numbness; searching and yearning; disorientation and disorganisation, reorganisation and healing. In my personal journey, these stages are much closer to reality than the usual stages of disbelief, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. However, we all suffer differently. During any of these stages:
- Do not expect too much of yourself, at least not for a while.
- Be gentle with yourself and let go of ideas of the “right” thing to do or the “right” way to behave.
- Seek support. Ask friends to help you—with practical details, as well as just by sitting and listening.
- Don’t be afraid to talk about your loss and about the person who has died. This is an important part of the grieving process. When it comes to death, silence is not always golden. If a friend is uncomfortable with your stories, find friends who can be there.
- Don’t be afraid to seek help if your pain or depression becomes more than you can bear. Sometimes our friends can’t give us the help and support we need.
- Remember that a person dies, but a relationship doesn’t. Although the person you loved is gone, he or she lives on in you.
In his book, Awakening from Grief: Finding the Way Back to Joy, John Welshons calls death a great teacher for the living and a gift to help us live deeper lives.
“Nothing inspires us to want to find true happiness more effectively than thinking about mortality, and nothing else can communicate the urgency with which we need to pursue deeper levels of love and the sense of being fully connected with our loved ones. Time is precious and every moment spent with those we love is priceless.”