I spoke with her on Thursday evening after work. I had been calling her every day to check on her. She told me I didn’t have to do that but deep in my soul I knew I did. She passed on Friday morning.
My Mother had been sick for about a month; in and out of the hospital struggling to breathe. Barring the miracle I had been praying for, I knew our time together was coming to an end. Knowing it certainly didn’t make it easier to accept when it happened. Nor did it ease the overwhelming grief I felt when it happened.
I never knew my heart could hurt like it did when I lost my Mom. Not figuratively speaking, but literally. It was a pain I was unfamiliar with. I’ve lost family members and friends before losing my Mom, yet I never felt THAT kind of pain!
There are different ways we feel the sting of losing a loved one and there are just as many different ways of going through the grief process. We are unique beings by God’s great design so it would make sense that we process the emotions of life and death in various ways. For example, it is more common for women than men to show their emotions. However, that surely does not mean men are unaffected.
Since her passing, the hardest thing for me has been finding my new normal. Not talking to her every day during lunch or on my drive home still feels strange. Frankly, there are times I still reach for the phone with the intent to call her only to realize I cannot.
So when tomorrow comes and they are no longer here, what do we do? How do we handle the grief of the loss? How do we find the new normal without them in our life?
Here are five suggestions based on my personal experience:
Be careful not to spend too much time alone. We will want to be alone to deal with the sadness but it can potentially turn into depression. It’s important to keep some level of normalcy in your daily life while working through the loss of a loved one so you are not isolated from everything and everyone.
Spend time with people who genuinely care for you and understand what you’re working through. These are the people you trust; the ones you can be completely yourself with. These are the ones who will support you and not think it strange if you need to express a moment of sadness while out at dinner with them.
Understand that there is no right or wrong way, nor a time limit on going through the grief process. As long as you are dealing with the loss in a healthy manner, it does not matter if you are doing it the same way as someone else. However, if the loss of your loved one has become debilitating for an extended period of time, you may want to consider counseling.
Allow yourself to feel. Whether it be joy, sadness, anger, or any other emotion that arises during this time – deal with it! You have to feel it in order to process it and work through it. Suppressing emotions may work on a temporary basis but they will resurface at some point.
Find ways to honor their memory as often as you would like. Celebrate their birthday or a special occasion the two of you shared together (college reunion). Be comfortable acknowledging the them as often as you have a desire to do so. For example, it has become very important to me that my Mother’s name not be forgotten. Her name was Valerie. The license plate on my car now says “VALS KID”.
If you are part of a support network for someone grieving a loss, here are a few things you can do to help them:
Calling vs. Texting: If you’ve been calling and the person does not seem receptive to talking, do not take it personally. It can be very difficult to talk while grieving. Offer encouraging messages through voicemail or text. Simply knowing people care helps.
Long Term: Understand that the grief process extends way beyond the formal good-byes said at the service. Touch base periodically and specifically ask “how are you doing now that he/she is gone?” This helps the grieving person know that neither they, nor their loved one has been forgotten.
Stories: If you were fortunate to know the person as well, offer fond memories you may have. It has blessed me immensely to hear the wonderful things people have shared with me about my Mother that I never knew.
Whether you are grieving or supporting someone through a loss, patience is paramount. Be patient with yourself. Losing someone we love is traumatic and our bodies feel every ounce of the trauma (physically, emotionally, and psychologically). It takes time to heal. Love yourself enough to take the time you need!