Can people really get over the loss of someone they loved? What “getting over” really means? Not crying as much? Doing the routine every day and not thinking how much that person would have enjoyed this or that? Or not getting over: constantly thinking about them, feeling sorry that they’re not here, lamenting how much they are missing out. I often wonder how is it that one person’s grieving is so different from the other. Within the same family, each person is grieving differently, some more intense, some are acting out, and others are discreet and peaceful and others so overwhelmed that they can’t function. Do they miss the person more? Did they love them more? Did they had a better relationship, a better connection / communication with them? Maybe, and maybe not. People may mourn someone strongly even if they were not really close to them or even if they never truly got along. And sometimes although the person really hurt them at one point and never loved them as much (an abusive parent for instance), the pain is as deep as anyone else because they grieve the relationship they didn’t have. And never will. Some people can’t cope knowing there’s no do over. Some people are impaired after a loss and others are more motivated and successful than ever.
I believe the answer may lie in two elements, simple but yet complex issues: Perception and Guilt.
How we perceive death is very important. I am not talking about ruminating about how they had so much more to live, and how they did not accomplish the things they wanted, or if it was an accidental death, how it could have been prevent it if and only if…well we could go on and on. That’s okay at first, that’s part of the stages of grief (remember Elisabeth Kubler Ross and her Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance stages). I am talking about understanding both emotionally and intellectually what is death. Death is transformation. Death is change. Death is inevitable. We know this. That people have to die. Perhaps you’ll say it’s too simplified as an answer but I’d argue I have a valid point.
Discerning that death will never be the right time for those of us left behind can help, but when we are sad and desolate, thinking that death is normal and people die, may not really help you. You can try to think logically, but it may not bring the comfort you seek in this process. Understanding death as normal transformation is part of the coping process. And the answer is to refocus. Shift your thoughts, your point of view. How about these cases: one person’s intense feelings over the death of their 92 year old mother? Do they want her to be 100? 150? Is that realistic? And of course the death of a child can never be truly understood. But a certain type of parent can make sense of it while others couldn’t.
Accepting death as normal is one thing, then accepting that dying is not the worst thing is another step. Refocus. Why dying is bad? I mean seriously. Does spiritual or religious beliefs tap into this? Do we believe they go to heaven or go with the angels? Or perhaps that they will return and be happier in another life. Do we believe there’s nothing more after dying? Dogmas, ideologies, and other theories can help us grieve differently. Finding one that will carry us to acceptance is usually the challenge. Learn, research, grow your knowledge.
Then there’s the second important issue I was mentioning before: Guilt. How guilty one feels over what was never done or said while the loved one was alive. Guilty because they are still here and can enjoy everything the deceased won’t. Guilty because they never forgave themselves, never said they loved them or spent enough time with them, perhaps never helped them; the list can go on and on. Yes everyone feels guilty at times. No relationship is perfect. No relationship is without flaws. People torment themselves with these doubts. Insecurities and lack of support is significant for someone who is depressed and anxious. Lamenting on disappointments can only cause more pain, it will linger there. We know, don’t we? Learn to forgive yourself. Say it: I forgive myself, I am only human.
Keep in mind that other factors can play an important role in how one can cope e.g. genetics, resiliency, life experience, family history, and education, as well as mental and physical health, managing skills and coping abilities are among these factors.
Shifting perspective and forgiving oneself, will support and help someone find happiness again. Nevertheless if it was so easy, wouldn’t everyone do it? I wouldn’t have a job if it was that easy, that’s for sure. What else can we do to start this adjustment? Step 1: Talk about it. You need to talk about it. Do not keep it inside or it will eat you. Talk about it with others, family, friends, and professionals. Seek help. Go to a grief support group, go to therapy, write about it, and let it out somehow. Now, really listen to your words. Be realistic. Do they make sense? If so, how? Challenge your own negative self-talk. That will lead you to changing your perspective. Shift your harmful thoughts. It will take time so be patient with yourself and do not think you have a deadline. There’s no cutoff date. Just move as your own pace but move. Breathe!
Do things even if you truthfully don’t want to, that means engage socially and be physically active. Do not isolate. Do not be quiet. Never stop looking for answers, shifting your thoughts by learning and improving. Be kind to yourself. That is the key. Be forgiving. You will conquer your pain and be comfortable again. Death will always be one of those life predicaments we must face and heartache is something that we all share sooner or later….Do know that Death is one of life’s dilemma that we may never completely understand and that’s okay too.