What to Do after the Loss of a Loved One
By Tanisha D. Mackin
note to reader: the following monthy column is for those who have lost a loved one and are looking for ways to heal. Feel free to share with someone you know who has lost a beloved family member as well, or email the author at your own convenience.
This five letter word causes such heartache, pain, and sorrow. When we lose a loved one to death, it is by far the hardest thing we will ever have to deal with. The first thing we mourn is no longer being able to see our loved ones in the physical form, hear their voice, or just have a conversation with them. This can be the hardest thing to deal with: grief. Grief is a natural response to loss. The more significant the loss, the more intense the grief. To deal with grief, you must understand that there are 5 stages of grief, which are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. People may not grieve in this particular order but they will go through these stages. Everyone is different in grief as well. Here are the five main stages:
1. Denial (shock) is the first reaction you have when you first learn of a loved one’s passing. It is hard to believe or accept that a person is gone. My first reaction to my husbands passing was a numb feeling. I thought I was in a dream and that I would awaken soon. I did not cry, scream, yell or etc. My body and mind felt as if I was coherent. I simply would not believe it.
2. Anger is normally the second stage of grief. This stage is when you realize that your loved one will not be returning, and you become extremely angry. The realization has sat in and it hurts. You may become angry with yourself, family members, friends, God, and even the deceased. I remember looking at my husband’s picture and asking “why you leave me?”
3. Bargaining is when you feel helpless, and question yourself a lot. You bargain with yourself, thinking of ways that your loved ones death could have been prevented…if only you did this, or only if you did that. You start to question if you did everything right for your loved one, did you take them to the doctor enough, or only if you were there. In my case, I questioned if we should have gone to that particular night club, or after he was shot, should I’ve put him in the car, and drove him to the hospital myself. Would this have prevented his death? NO!!! I had to realize that when we are created, we are created with a birth date and a death date, so regardless of the circumstances, it was his time and no one could do anything about that. I had to stop beating myself up.
4. Depression can be defined as a feeling of hopelessness, a condition of mental disturbance, difficulty in maintaining concentration or interest in life. Depending on how close you were to the decease, depression can be depressing, sad and an emotion that may take some counseling or medicine to get out of. At one point, I wanted to give up on life after my husband passed away. I was sad, scared, and lonely and I had no hope. Depression settled in my mind and body.
5. Acceptance is the final stage of grief. This stage is when you finally accept the fact that your loved one is no longer here. Most people do not get to this stage, so this stage is a blessing in some ways. Sometimes it takes many years to get past stages one and two (denial and anger). Personally, I am still wrestling with acceptance. I have accepted my spouse’s death, but I feel that the situation is unacceptable.
Now that we discussed the five stages of grief, how do we cope with grief? There is no right or wrong way to grieve. People grieve differently. Some people may express their grief more than others, others may want to be alone all the time. There is no specific time limit on grief, as long as the grieving process is healthy, in due time, you will feel renew and permit you to move on. Grieving is very normal, and there are many ways to deal with grief:
1. Pray. Ask God for help, strength and to relieve you from the pain. Continue to keep your faith and go to church. All things can be done through Christ who strengthens you.
2. Turn to your family and friends for emotional support. Others may not understand what you are going through, but it helps to have a listening ear, a hug or just someone to sit in silence with you.
3. Consult a bereavement coach, grief counselor or therapist. Sometimes you need help from a professional to get an understanding on what you are going through. Friends and family may not understand and may not be able to help. If your grief is too much for you to bear, consult a professional that can help you work through intense emotions.
4. Join a support group. Support groups are helpful. Grief can feel very lonely and it helps to be with others that are going through what you are.
5. Express your feelings in a creative way. Some people write books, scrapbook, write poems, paint pictures, exercise and etc., to express their hurt and pain. This is a healthy way to channel your pain and sorrow.
6. Do not let anyone tell you how to feel. People sometimes say the wrong things. They may think they are helping, but in reality they are not. Your grief is your own, no one can tell you how to feel. Things like “move on” “get over it” or “they are in a better place”, can be very upsetting to a grieving person.
7. Visit a doctor. Losing a loved one can add extra stress to your everyday life. Get a check up with your doctor to make sure that you are healthy and you are grieving in a healthy way. Your health is very important.
If you have lost a loved one, you may go through any stages or all stages, in any particular order. Just realize that it is all perfectly natural, and part of the healing process.
Tanisha D. Mackin
Tanisha D. Mackin, Author, Bereavement Coach and Founder of the Mackin Project. A project that she created after she lost her husband to violence in August 2010. She is the author of Still Standing, a story of strength and perseverance and just released her second book, Still Standing II, A Widow’s Journey. Tanisha received her MBA in healthcare management but has focused more on her foundation which assists families who lost a spouse, child or parent to violence. She plans to start a foundation for cancer patients as well. Tanisha is a colon cancer survivor. Tanisha now resides in Georgia with her two beautiful children. Tanisha’s first book is a story of one women’s strength and courage as she deals with becoming a widow at a young age, being a single mother, dealing with cancer, and suffering multiple losses including the murder of her husband. Tanisha continues to share her testimony with others.