There is no easy way to deal with the loss of a loved one. The best we can hope for, as human beings, is to learn a new way to live around the loss. Anyone who has lost a family member or friend knows that there is no replacing them, there is no “getting over” them, and to think that life will go back to “normal” after a while isn’t a very accurate thought or assumption to make. The absence of that person who made such an impact on your life will forever be felt.
And that’s okay.
It is normal for each of us to deal with the passing of a loved one in our own unique way. Typically, crying is a very common outwardly expression of our loss and grief — but that’s not to say that everyone who has lost someone has to cry. Sometimes, people feel angry, they’re confused about why their loved one passed on, or they often times will just go numb. Feeling like you’re numb on the inside does not mean that you didn’t love or care for the person you lost as much as you “should have.” Not knowing how you feel about things for a while is okay. You’re not going to have everything worked out 100% within a matter of hours, or days, or weeks.
And that’s okay.
Let yourself feel whatever comes to you at any given time. The brain is a marvelous work of genius — it works with your subconscious to protect and heal you. Allow yourself to feel angry, hurt, discouraged, lost, and numb. And allow yourself to feel happy as well. After all, happiness is what your loved one brought into your life, and what better way to remember them than with all of the happy and loving memories they wanted to be sure and leave you with. According to Dr. Alan Wolfelt, “Grief is the counterpart to love,” and the more someone meant to you, the more grief you’re going to feel when they pass on. Just bear in mind that “grief” does not necessarily equate to “sad,” it can be a whole complexity of emotions.
There is no right or wrong emotion when it comes to dealing with the loss of a loved one. Don’t compare yourself to how you saw someone else grieve their loss. Loss is an individual experience and should not be forced into a one-size-fits-all box. Remember that you are having to learn a new way to live without your loved one being present. That takes time and patience. After you allow yourself time to mourn, it’s good to push yourself to start doing things again and to keep a routine, but don’t feel like you have to push yourself to hurry up and be “okay.” Just because you need to get back into some form of daily normalcy doesn’t mean that you’re not still hurting over your loss, nor does it diminish how much you cared about your loved one. Learning to live around your loss can be very difficult, but necessary. Allow yourself to put one foot in front of the other and take things one day at a time. Baby steps forward may be small, but they’re still steps forward.
And that’s okay.
People who have lost someone close to them can attest to the fact that losing someone is the hardest thing you will have to go through in life. They can also attest to the fact that you never stop feeling the loss, it just, over time, becomes a duller pain that is easier to handle. You will come to the point in your healing process where you will be able to laugh more and smile more when you remember your loved one. The good memories you shared with them will be the ones at the forefront of your mind, not the sadder memories of their passing. The sharp, stabbing pain that you can feel will fade to a more tolerable ache, and you will find that having allowed yourself proper time to understand and grieve will, in turn, allow you to move on with those happy memories so you can continue to give life to the love you and your loved one shared.
Losing someone is never easy. How you will deal with that loss is never predictable. Allow yourself to be helped by family and friends during this time, and don’t be afraid to talk to them. They love you and want you to use them in whatever way you need to to help yourself get through this part of your grieving and coping process. They’re there for you to lean on while you’re too tired to walk, so let them help you. You don’t have to be strong right now — and that’s okay, too.
If you would like more information about grief, the grieving process, or how to help a loved one with their grief, please take a look at Dr. Alan Wolfelt’s Center For Loss & Life Transition. He has multiple books about grieving, and also holds seminars and teaching sessions to help people learn how to help others during their times of loss.