The hardest part of life is dealing with the loss of a loved one. People struggle enormously because they feel a loss of that person’s love for them, that person’s companionship and that person’s support.
The First Week
During the first week after someone passes away, there is the shock of loss coupled with the need to make arrangements because of the death. Will there be a funeral or memorial service? Burial or a cremation? Who will take care of the funeral, burial, or cremation services? Who needs to be notified of the death? What needs to be done about taking care of immediate family members and the person’s home?
Answering all these questions makes this one of the least painful periods of time because there are so many things distracting one from grief and the shock it creates, at times, a sense of denial, that perhaps there has been a big mistake.
The Following Weeks
After the funeral is over and people take up their normal routines, grief can hit hard. When a person dies, those who remain are reminded of that loss every time they participate in something the person was a part of. This can be true of a co-worker as well as a close family member. This is also when the other stages of grief kick in.
There is no way to bypass the stages of grief. They are just there and they can lead to some surprising thoughts. Grief also becomes overwhelming at odd times of the day, but particularly at bedtime when memories can become a flood.
This is a time for grieving people to be good to themselves. Don’t stifle grief but feel all those feelings. Writing in a journal might help, or writing letters to the lost one. Seeing a counselor can also help. The goal here is not to get back to “normal,” but to be able to cope. This is also a time for others to continue their support. During that first week, friends often bring food by to help. It would be a good idea to keep doing this on occasion.
While the sense of loss never leaves, that loss ceases to completely control mourners’ lives and friends and family develop a “new normal,” a life that acknowledges loss and a life that can be filled with joy and happiness once again. Grief still rises in one’s heart at this point, and it is powerful, but it does not completely take over one’s life as it did in the first weeks. This is a time when it is possible to celebrate the life of the loved one, to look at photographs and talk about great memories.
The Grief Process
The death of a loved one changes people’s lives and places friends and family on a path of dealing with the pain of that loss. There will be lots of bad days and a few good days followed by a reduction, gradually, of the bad days. Grief is survivable and the life that grief constructs can ultimately be a joyful one.