Death and Loss of a Loved One


Death is an inevitable fact of life, but  we are rarely prepared for it when it happens. We are not taught how to deal with death as we grow up. As a general rule, we are taught to deal with losses in life with these typical responses...

We're told, "Don't cry." (Translation: Don't feel badly.)

When we lose a pet we might be told, "Don't cry, we'll get you new one." (Translation: replace the loss)

We might be told to, "Be strong" or maybe, "Be strong, you don't want to upset_____."

We might be told things like..."If you're going to cry, go to your room." (Translation: Grieve alone)

We might be told..."You'll feel better, just give it time" or we've all heard, "Time heals all wounds." The fact is, it's what you do with that "time" that determines how well you heal.

We are often told "Keep busy, don't think about it."

All these things only help us avoid grief and the healing process. We are taught these things from our parents and they were taught them from their parents.

If we bury our feelings, if we don't deal with the sadness and grief we feel when someone we love dies, it will resurface in other ways. It might affect our health or it might resurface by compounding itself with each new loss we experience. None of us want to feel heartache and sadness, but it is part of being human and we must learn to work through it so that we can function properly.

"Losses threaten our security, our sense of stability and our well-being. Although a gradual loss is still painful, you can prepare for it to some degree. But a sudden, unexpected death may disrupt your ability to activate the emotional resources you need to cope with the loss." From Surviving the Storms of Life by H. Norman Wright

The loss of a loved one is life's most stressful event and can cause a major emotional crisis. After the death of someone you love, you experience bereavement, which literally means "to be deprived by death."

 It takes time to fully absorb the impact of a major loss. You never stop missing your loved one, but the pain eases after time and allows you to go on with your life.  We do not "get over" or "move on" from the loss of a loved one, but we can move forward from the pain.

It is not easy to cope after a loved one dies. You will mourn and grieve. Mourning is the natural process you go through to accept a major loss. Mourning may include religious traditions honoring the dead or gathering with friends and family to share your loss.

Grieving is the outward expression of your loss. Your grief  likely will be expressed physically, emotionally, and mentally. .

The death of a loved one is always difficult. Your reactions are influenced by the circumstances of a death, particularly when it is sudden or accidental. Your reactions are also influenced by your relationship with the person who died. Your grief will be unique, just as your relationship with your loved one was unique. Do not let anyone tell you how you should feel or how you should grieve. 

A child's death arouses an overwhelming sense of injustice - for lost potential, unfulfilled dreams and senseless suffering. Parents may feel responsible for the child's death, no matter how irrational that may seem. Parents may also feel that they have lost a vital part of their own identity. It never seems natural to be preceded in death by a child.

A spouse's death is very traumatic. In addition to the severe emotional shock, the death may cause a potential financial crisis if the spouse was the family's main income source. The death may cause multiple losses,  if the  surviving spouse  is required to parent alone, adjust to single life, return to work, or is forced to relocate.

An elderly person may be especially vulnerable when they lose a spouse because it means losing a lifetime of shared experiences. Perhaps they have not lived alone since they were very young. If an elderly person has lost many friends to death in the recent past, the sense of loneliness and grief will be compounded.

Losing a loved one due to suicide can be among the most difficult losses to bear. Survivors often face a tremendous sense of guilt, anger and shame. The bereaved may even feel responsible for the death. Seeking counseling during the first weeks after a suicide is usually very helpful.