There comes a time in our lives, often unexpectedly, where you or someone you know loses a loved one. Whether it’s your nan or grandad or even one of your parents, the truth is nothing can really prepare you for what happens next. Grieving isn’t just feeling sad and realising how much you’re going to miss that person. It opens up a whole load of thoughts and feelings that need dealing with. And here’s the thing, everyone deals differently. Yes you may have heard the old ‘7 stages of grief’ thing.. denial followed by acceptance yada yada yada, but really grieving has no process, you simply have a process of your own. Here’s a heads up on what you might go through and in no particular order:
This may be the first feeling or may come in to play later. Either way you’re confused. On hearing the news you’re either thinking ‘how did this happen and why?!’, or moreover, something like’shit this has happened.. how am i meant to feel?!’ Some people might say you’re in shock. That you’re numbed. Truth is, you have no idea how your feel. You might have an idea on how you should be feeling but this only adds to the confusion. You have no choice but to accept the fact this is a confusing time and accept the fact this is not going to be an easy ride. And know that, whatever you think you might be feeling, is perfectly okay.
Okay so you might say this is an actual stage of grief. At some point, whether is straight away as soon as the person on the phone has told you the news, or days or weeks later, you’ve accepted the fact that they’re gone. Although this might make people sad, for me, it enabled me to keep going. Sometimes it’s a good thing for you to think ‘Right, this is the situation. I can’t change it, what do I need to do now?’. Although it may put you in productive mode, it gives you something to focus on, which distracts your brain from feeling any horrendous feelings, which can only be a good thing. Which brings us to:
The sorting shit out part
So you may or may not be the next of kin, but if you are, you are suddenly the lead person in this whole ordeal. And who knew that there were so many things you actually need to deal with. Suddenly you’re hearing terms like ‘coroner’s report’ and ‘probate’ and you’re finding yourself needing an Oxford dictionary of death. Luckily for me I had the help and support of people around me and all I can say is take every bit of help offered. You may think you can handle it all, but hey, you’re only human and people will only be happy to help.
With all the phone calls to coroners, funeral directors and family members, banks and housing associations, to name a few, switching from feeling mode to productive mode, can leave you feeling overwhelmed. And it’s not surprising. It’s okay to feel this way though. Just hang in there, accept whatever you’re feeling and only do what you can manage. You’re not alone.
The reflecting part
With all this going on, you may find yourself thinking of memories (good and bad) of you and said person, and overthinking the effect these may have had on your life. Healthy reflection is good, dwelling on things that can’t be changed is not. You may find yourself suddenly thinking of memories at random times. Hold on to these, and share them with people around you. Honestly it helps. And might even make you smile. (Even if it is over drunk conversation with you cousin).
Putting on a brave face
Suddenly faced with all this responsibility, you might feel that you just want to curl up in a ball and pretend it’s not happening. You might be able to get away with this for one morning, but hey, the world is still spinning and life is still going on. Even if you think the whole world is against you, you’ll find yourself putting on a brave face and simply getting on with what you’re meant to do, before this all happened. And although this is hard, keep going. In the words of ‘The Weepies’ (an actual band I promise) “the world spins madly on”.
So you’ve held the funeral, had countless goodwill messages from friends, even from people you wouldn’t expect, and chatted about said person at the wake. Although you may feel a bit of closure, nothing prepares you for what you do now. Now, after everything, you have no choice but to step back into your life. Except everything has changed now. Your world has been tinted. You might think you’re fine, then BAM it hits you. You don’t know quite what exactly, just a paralysis of the mind and before you know it you’re calling in sick to work, thinking how can you possibly function. You’re on an escalator on the tube and smell stale cigarettes and suddenly it hits you that they’re not here anymore. A harsh reminder.
And here’s the thing. People have said all they can say and done all they can do to help you and then before you know it you’re just living your life again. The dust has settled, no one is talking about it anymore. But you’re still coming to terms with it. Feeling any emotion under the sun, from anger to anxiety to guilt to feeling absolutely fine. At any moment of the day. Yes people die all the time, but now it’s happened to you. You’re the one thats lost a parent and nothing prepares you for living your life with this change in circumstance. But you have no choice, this is your life now. No one tells you of the reminders and feelings you get weeks, months, years after losing someone. And I guess you just have to accept that. Because YOU’RE still living. And living is exactly what you have to do. And no matter how different your world feels now, you can do it. This living business. If you’ve survived a loss, which you will, you can survive anything. Trust me.