The death of a loved one is perhaps the most challenging thing life throws at us. Everyone will face it at some point in his or her life, and everyone deals with it differently. Some are unable to express what they're going through, and they just close the rest of the world off. Others bury themselves in work or service while pretending the grief isn't really there. Yet, the reality is that the death of that loved one does affect us emotionally, spiritually, financially, and physically. The most significant dilemma a person will face is how or when to move on after the death of a loved one.
There is no right or wrong answer for how to move on or when is the “right” time, but here are a few things to consider once this thought has crossed your mind:
Approach! You won't be ready immediately, but eventually, you should open up about your feelings instead of bottling them up. It’s a good idea to approach a friend, family member, sibling, parent, or professional therapist. Sometimes it is painless and therapeutic to confide in a complete stranger. Discuss your fears, your insecurities, your frustrations, or just your overwhelming grief. Reminisce about the good times and relive happy memories. It will be tough to talk about the person initially, but in the long run, it will make you stronger.
Avoid! Don't give in to a temporary solution such as drowning your sorrows in drugs, sex, or alcohol – or anything else that numbs your mind like slot machines, video games, horse racing, or even bird watching. While any of these will temporarily mask the pain of your loss, and provide an exciting muse for your mind, each will ultimately will lead to more problems than you can even anticipate. By numbing the pain in this way, you are only delaying the grieving process. The only way to honestly deal with grief is to face it boldly, knowing that it's okay to be vulnerable and it's okay to feel out of your depth in the current situation.
Ask! Don't hesitate to ask for help after the death of a loved one. It's okay to not cope with everything. Allow your friends and family to be there for you. If you're feeling overwhelmed by settling the deceased person's final affairs, pick up the phone and call for help. If you're feeling financially insecure, seek professional guidance. Every state has different rules about death benefits for family members. Find out if dependents are entitled to wage loss benefits. This is especially true in the case of accidental deaths, which on account of their suddenness are particularly devastating for the surviving family.
Accept! It takes time, but know this - the sting of the loss will eventually fade slowly. The terrible sorrow and overwhelming grief will give way feelings of love and gratitude for the life that was. You will love again, laugh again, and learn to live a second time, without your loved one. Don't feel guilty about beginning to enjoy life. Celebrate the life that was, and remember, the best tribute you can pay to your loved one is to be the best version of you after the loss.
John T. Catrett, III serves as a Chaplain with ONHL Hospice. ONHL Hospice currently provides services to the majority of Northeastern Oklahoma but is available to accept patients statewide. Learn more at http://onhlhospice.com.