It’s not easy for me to talk about coping with Grief and Loss because I lost my father to Brain cancer very recently and the pain is still fresh.
But I need to do this.
Even though Papa was diagnosed with a rare and fatal cancer, we were not prepared to see him suffer so much. His last days were filled with excruciating pain and he lost his ability to walk and talk. He would often suffer falls, hurting himself badly.
Whenever I saw him suffer, my helplessness and guilt were overpowering. Throughout his life, he had been a great Father, a caring Husband, and a dutiful Son. He loved reading and traveling, clicking pictures of nature, and learning about new gadgets and technology. To see him reduced to a stage where the smallest task was beyond him, was tough. Only his eyes conveyed his love and pain. And yet till his last breath, he kept assuring us that he was ok, communicating through his eyes.
For the past few years, our lives were centered around him, his appointments, his investigations, keeping track of his medicines, reading up about drugs, interventions, taking second opinions etc. My Mom insisted on being his sole care giver and we often worried about her too because this was a very consuming task. Once, he was gone, there was a big void in our lives. While he was around, we were glad for his presence, even if it was quickly being reduced to just a physical presence. His kind eyes would talk to us even when he could not.
Shock, Anger, Denial, Sadness … myriad emotions seized me when Dad passed away. I felt immense guilt. I started questioning my decisions , I asked myself whether I, with my medical background, did my best, or could I have done anything better to make him live longer or reduce his agony.
Coping with Grief and Loss
There is no right way to cope with grief and it can be difficult to know how to begin the healing process.
Here are some ways of coping with the grief of losing a loved one :
1. Acknowledging your Grief
Grief is a normal and natural response to loss. The first step in coping with grief is acknowledging the loss, which can be difficult to do when it happened suddenly and unexpectedly. However, knowing the signs of grief allows you to take action if necessary before the feelings become overwhelming.
Being the eldest child, I kept a strong façade , going on automatically with the rituals and meeting people , sending messages , accepting condolences. I did not acknowledge my loss , I did not let it sink in.
After about a week , I was home alone, taking a break from work and just happened to look at some old pictures of Him with us in happier times and it was then that the pain hit me hard like a blow to the chest.
I tried to stifle my sobs but I couldn’t. Suddenly I lost control and there was deluge of tears and pent up grief. I was rocking and howling in pain for hours. Cursing myself for not having cared enough. I beat myself up for not having done enough, for being alive and healthy when he died moaning in pain and anguish for no fault of his. It was my best friend who helped me at that point. She held me tight while I kept blabbering and crying, till I was tired and exhausted. Miraculously, the next day I woke feeling calmer. The pain was still there but I could bear it now.
2. Talking about Loss
We often don’t speak about Grief or the Loss of a loved one. People expect us to accept the loss and move on , but it can be very tough or even impossible without help. I did not talk about my loss in front of my Mother and younger siblings as I wanted to be their support and did not wish to look broken myself. Crying at home could upset my children. Moreover, I had to resume work sooner than I wished to and so there was no opportunity to talk about it grieve about my loss.
It may seem that talking about your loss makes you vulnerable but when you talk to someone who you trust and who cares about you, it can really help you heal.
3. Understanding Grief
There are many stages of grief and individuals will go through them at different paces. Grief is a natural reaction to a loss. One needs to experience and understand Grief to cope with grief and loss. Depression, anxiety, fear, sadness and anger are all normal reactions after you lose someone who was important to you.
Grief is often experienced in stages. Sometimes it affects you right away but at other times grief can also be gradual. You may not even know that it is grief that you are experiencing. With emotions running high, it’s easy to withdraw from the world around you – which is why understanding how to cope with grief can be so important.
As a medical professional, I know that the best way to cope with grief is to understand it. Sometimes knowing what you are feeling can help you to move forward with your life. It helps to ask yourself how and what you are feeling. Writing it down can give you a better understanding of your emotions.
Reflecting can also help you understand your emotional triggers leading to an outburst and how to better cope with it.
4.Focusing on Immediate problems
Sometimes the grief is compounded when the person who is no more with you was also helping you cope with daily living. In such cases, you not only need to cope with grief and loss but also with the problems arising from their absence. The problems could be financial or related to daily work – picking up kids, helping with house work etc. Seek help from friends and colleagues to help sort these out.
5. Self-care to Cope with Grief and loss
The grieving process can be long, slow and painful. But if you don’t find a healthy way to cope with grief and loss, it can be impossible to move on with your life. You may find yourself going through times of regret, sadness and helplessness. It’s important that you take care of yourself so you don’t feel overwhelmed and lose hope in the future.
For me, it just did not feel right to be able to sleep, eat and have a normal life. How could my life be normal when I had lost one of most precious persons in life. Life just did not seem worthy of living. I just did not feel worthy of being happy anymore.
Even if you don’t feel like it, involve yourselves in activities that you normally enjoy – a walk , listen to soothing music, go out for a cup of coffee. Grieving cannot bring them back and the living have to take care of the legacy of the departed. They loved you and taking care of yourself is something they would have wanted you to do. Grief can drain you, so take as much rest as your body needs.
Be kind to yourself when you are coping with Grief and loss. Do not berate yourself, guilt could consume you and affect the way you perceive reality.
Set small goals , taking one day at a time and find your purpose in life. That is the best way to cope with grief and loss of your loved one.
It is my sincere hope that this post helps you to deal with loss and helps you find peace and strength.