Someone I loved, someone who had been a part of my life since the day I was born, died suddenly, and quickly, one weekend many years ago. I spent many hours in a state of shock, wondering how it happened, why it happened, did they know? Not only that, I’ve gone over the events of that weekend a million times, willing the ending to be different. Friends and family were supportive, but there was only so many times I could hear that ‘time is a healer’, or that ‘it wasn’t a bad way to go, at least there was no suffering’. So, I would hide my sadness, I would pretend I was OK. And this worked, I managed, I still functioned, but I was lonely. I would avoid talking about my loss, and I would mask my sadness. I now know I was in denial.
Grief is a difficult, painful experience, but it is also normal. It gives us time to process our loss, and find other ways of living. The initial denial, the numbness and shock, can lead to bargaining – the ‘if only…’ or ‘what if…’ in the vain hope the outcome could have been different. With this can often be anger, anger at the world, at life. The anger not often talked about is the anger with the person who died. They left us, how dare they leave us?
The underlying emotion can be sadness – and I know I tried to ignore this, it felt like too much. But you never stay in one state forever – if you don’t fight it, there can be acceptance. I know there is an urge to resist this, but acceptance does not mean you forget. It means you build a life around your loss – it’s still there, you still remember, but you also get to experience other emotions.
A loss or bereavement can make you question your identity, who are you now? Or you purpose, what is it that makes you happy? I know I felt this. It was a challenge to accept I might continue to be happy even though I had lost someone I loved.
Everyone’s grief is unique – however, there are similarities. For me, like others, the challenge was the loneliness and isolation I felt. What I now know is this, the grieving community is enormous. Even if speaking to family or friends seems too much, there is so much support out there for anyone experiencing any type of loss. Online, counselling, support groups etc. My advice would be to seek support, help, a listening ear, when you are sad. I still miss them, but I smile when I think of them, and if I don’t, I know there is always someone I could talk to. Grief is a challenge, but what I have learned is that I don’t have to grieve alone.
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