This is my personal thoughts on how to deal with loss/grief. I am not a professional. If you are feeling depressed – please seek professional help.
In the last ten years, I lost two very important men in my life – first my Dad from an illness, and a few years later, my brother from a motorcycle accident. That changed me. Losing your loved ones is not easy. You go through so many different emotions – you will heal, with time – but you don’t completely become whole again. There is always a piece of you that is missing, but you learn to live with it.
Denial & Disbelief
When I received a call that my brother passed away in an accident (he was on vacation abroad), I was shocked, and I just didn’t want to believe it. I kept hoping that the call was a mistake – until I saw his face. We managed to get him back in the country in less than three days. I remembered looking at him on the day of the funeral – I remembered one small part of me was saying that maybe it was just someone who looked like him.
My Dad’s passing also took me by surprise. He passed away on the third day after coming home from two months of intensive care in two different hospitals, which is why – it was still a shock to me. I thought we were passed the critical stage. That was a long, painful story. I was happy that he passed away at home though – I know he was happy too because he was smiling almost all the time although he was in pain (he couldn’t speak – again, long story).
There will be those around you who will tell you to accept things etc. etc. They are not wrong – but with so many things going through your head, you may find it difficult to deal with anything and everything. And that is ok. Understand that the feeling will pass, but it may take some time. And it’s fine to feel whatever you feel. Try to find someone you can talk to or if not just reach out to get some professional support. Sometimes it’s easier to talk to people you don’t know.
For those of you who are supporting someone who just experienced a loss – what he/she needs is someone to listen to them and just be there. Just knowing that there is someone who genuinely cares to listen, helps. Plus – be careful with what you and how you say it. I had a close relative who said something that made me feel really awful after my brother’s funeral. It’s been what – six years, and I still remember the words and how those words made me feel that day.
Anger and Acceptance
Death is certain. Regardless of whether you believe in God or not, I believe that everyone agrees that you have a destined beginning and end. Whatever you do, whoever you are, no matter how old you are, or how much money you have, – if it is your time, then it is your time.
When you lose someone you care about deeply, although you understand that death is just part of the life cycle, and although you accept that “yes – it is simply the time for him/her to leave this world”, it is still hard to accept. And sometimes you get angry, and you have this voice in your head that keeps coming out with all sorts of questions – “Why? Why him/her?…
It’s ok to have these feelings. At some point, you will accept that it was just his/her time to go. Death is not personal. You can be the kindest or the most awful person who ever lived – it doesn’t really matter. How you live your life does not change the amount of time you have. It just impacts the quality of your life and those around you.
Some people blame themselves after losing their loved ones. You need to be strong enough to see that through – again, death is not personal. Nothing anyone can do can alter the time a person is supposed to pass. If my brother didn’t have the accident, he would have gone another way. He would still have left us that day.
Also – you know yourself better than anyone else. If the anger or guilt is getting to you – do seek help. Sometimes we do and say things when we are angry or confused – and you simply cannot take it back. If it was a criminal incident that was the cause of death – yes, you have every right to be angry but deal with it in the correct manner by seeking help from professionals. You don’t want to do something that you will regret forever and hurt those who depend on you.
Sadness and Grief
It took me at least a year after my brother’s passing before I could turn on the car radio. And I couldn’t stand to hear any Bon Jovi songs at all in that year. (My brother and I used to sing Bon Jovi in the car all the time).
I am much better today, but it took me a long time to deal with all the different emotions. There is no guide as to how long it should or should not take you to move on. And you never really move on completely – there is always a piece of you that is missing as I mentioned in the beginning. But I value that missing piece – it helps keep my memory of both men – my Dad and my brother. They will always be part of me.
Give Yourself Time
The most important thing is to give yourself time to mourn. I took a week plus off after my brother passed away, and I eased myself back to my daily routine slowly. There were some tasks that I wasn’t able to complete in that first month – I had to decline coordinating a few training sessions as I didn’t think I was able to appear “excited and energetic” in front of a classroom of participants. I had my moments when I break into tears every now and again – months after that. I just missed him. And that is ok.
I think one of the hardest things for those of us “who are left behind” is living with regrets. “Why didn’t I spend more time, why didn’t I tell him I love him, why didn’t I listen more etc.”.
Well – you cannot turn back time. You can only move forward. It’s important to forgive yourself. Instead of looking back and focusing on the “What ifs”, try to focus on the memories that you had. There is no such thing as a perfect relationship. There will always be things that you could have done better. There will always be a list of “What ifs”.
What you can do is appreciate those who are still living. Don’t repeat the same mistakes. Love more, share more. For couples, if you argue, don’t leave the house angry. You don’t know if it’s the last time you will see each other. Appreciate life – don’t spend all your hours working and not enjoying time with your little ones at home. Make memories. Travel, laugh – do stuff with people you love.
When you lose your best friend/companion, especially for older adults – you find yourself suddenly being hit by loneliness. Try reaching out to friends and families, for support.
Get involved in more social connect. Re-focus that gap with something else – like travelling, art, writing.
Help others, get involved in charity. When you feel down about your situation, I find that supporting others in their time of need helps you look at your own issues from a different perspective. As you help others in their life journey, you are helping yourself continue with yours.
Losing a loved one hurts, and it takes time to heal. But you will heal.
“Those we love don’t go away; they walk beside us every day. Unseen, unheard, but always near; still loved, still missed, and very dear.” – Anonymous
If you still find yourself struggling, and you find yourself feeling so depressed that some days it is a struggle to wake up, or if you feel like you don’t want to go on, please seek help. There is nothing wrong with reaching out. Depression is real. And everyone’s journey is different. You may have other stress added – even financial if the one passing is the sole provider for your family in the past. With so many things coming to you at one go – you may find it overwhelming.
Some links that may help you read up more on how to deal with grief and perhaps help you assess your next steps.
- Mayo Clinic – Dealing with Grief
- NHS UK – Dealing with Grief and Loss
- Mental Health America – Coping with Loss
For Malaysians, I don’t see a lot of online support from the Ministry of Health on this type of topics just yet. But, if you are feeling depressed – you can seek help from the government hospitals. I know people who have gone for these, and it is helpful, and you pay a minimal fee.
Or you can, of course, go for counselling services in the private sector.
Final Note - Letting It Out...
I have an old blog that I want to “turn off”. In that blog, during those challenging times that many years ago, when I didn’t know who to turn to, I wrote a poem for my brother. I don’t want to get rid of it, so I’m going to put that poem here so that I can come back to it time and again. It’s not a good one – I am definitely not a poet, but every word means a lot to me, still do. He was just gone too sudden and I just had so much to say…