What Now? (Getting Through the Loss of a Loved One)
These last months have proven to be the most traumatic time ever known. This kind of pain, with all of its twists and turns is so unique in nature. It comes with a feeling of hopelessness and helplessness that can and will threaten your very sanity. The strong person that once was is now a prisoner to a life that has been thrust into chaos without a word of warning. What was one day a happy and secure life has, in an instant, been turned upside down and inside out. No matter how hard you try, no sense can be made of any of it. You suddenly feel like only half a person because the other half is no longer there. It seems as though you have lost your identity because for so long there was a whole other person that has been intertwined with your heart over the years loving, caring, sharing, supporting and being a part of you. The future now seems not so bright, not so welcome, not so wanted. All of your dreams have been blown out like a candle. With one swift breath your world is changed forever, never to be the same again.
This is what many describe as grief but to the one who is left behind it feels more like a slow and agonizing death. That grief is saying that we miss that person in a way that is not easily accepted or able to be dealt with in a rational way. It also means that we’re struggling to adjust to a brand new life without that special relationship. That grief is telling you, in all its many stages, how very much we CARED! Grief is like a huge wound that needs lots of time and attention to heal. It is very much a broken heart which will not heal as easily as a cut or a scrape.
When the loss of this special someone is anticipated or expected, it is difficult enough. Whenever it is sudden or unexpected, with no time to prepare for it, the grieving process will most likely take even longer and be harder to get through. In the beginning, when the loss first occurs, friends and family are there in any capacity needed to help ease the pain, to support and to love, to help in any and all ways possible. Stepping into this new life without their precious loved one begins with shock, moves on to numbness and finally transcends into a sadness and loneliness that is unlike anything they have been faced with before. As the days and the weeks go by and «life goes on» for everyone else the grieving party tries to keep up but is weighted down and left behind with the struggle of «how do I go on?» or «where do I fit in now?» The answers aren’t simple and it becomes so much of an ordeal just to make it through each day and sometimes just to put one foot in front of the other. The «fog» hasn’t lifted or even burned off enough to think clearly yet. The memories still cloud their existence and the heartache is still as big as the first day that they lost their loved one. It is a very slow process to get through and almost seems neverending. They know in their mind that it will eventually get better but in their heart they know it will take many days and nights and effort on their part to get to that point. Grieving is hard work, at best.
What happens when you no longer know what to say? What happens when you no longer know what to do? The answer to this one is simple — you just keep on doing what you’ve been doing all along. Please don’t forget them. Please don’t give up on them. What you may not realize is that there are many ups and downs to grief, a few steps forward and many steps backwards before things may stabilize. Just because your friend becomes quieter does not mean that they are on «the road to recovery». It simply means that they have reached a point in their grief when they think they may have now become a burden to their family and friends. They may start to imagine that friends and family may be getting tired of hanging out with them and trying to console them and trying to fix things for them. When the truth of the matter is that they still need you and want you around as much as before. But as life goes back to normal for you they no longer want to impose themselves on you or «disrupt» your life in any way. They then retreat and allow you your space and begin the unfortunate stage of trying to handle the grief on their own. This is not the best solution, but they feel they have «worn out their welcome», of sorts and no longer want to «take advantage» of you and your support any longer. But at the same time they are screaming on the inside — «I’m all alone with what I’m still going through and though you can’t read my mind or see the hurt that is bleeding from my heart, it is still there!»
When the phone rings, they jump to get it like they can’t wait to hear another human voice — but you never know this because they act so nonchalantly when they answer. When you show up at their doorstep for a surprise visit you never know the rush of joy that fills the moment at the sight of another human being to sit and talk with. And don’t fear that they just want to discuss the loss of the one they loved, they enjoy hearing just about anything you have to say because anything is better than the «sounds of silence» that they have now become accustomed to. You have now done a good deed greater than anything you’ll ever know just because you showed up at just the right time. They will be forever grateful for you having shared yourself with them, even for just a few moments.
What you should know is that the simple act of being there is a tremendous comfort to those that are grieving. You don’t need to say anything magical, just being there is all that is needed. For those who understand any of these things and take the time to do what they can can during this very difficult time for others, you have been used by God to help with the healing process and you have been a blessing in your own unique way. You have given a gift that will always be remembered, long after the person who is grieving now finally reaches the end of this long and sometimes seemingly forever journey. That gift will never be forgotten.