2020 has been an interesting year. I remember at the beginning the expectation that it came with. It is a year that held and still holds so much promises.
For many though, it is a year that has changed the course of their lives forever. Almost daily, I read stories of people who have lost a loved one to the COVID-19 pandemic, one of the many unexpected packages that the year has delivered.
An online article I read prompted this post. The front page showed a picture of two young boys, I would assume to be less than the age of 10, both smiling with no care in the world, while their parents flanked them on either side.
I could feel the happiness radiating from the picture, and I spent a minute just looking at their faces. I can also safely assume that the family must have had many happy moments. One moment of it, captured and frozen in time and now looking back at me from the cover of an article.
Unfortunately, the boys lost both parents to the pandemic. The mum first and later on the dad. I couldn’t help thinking then of how whatever plans the parents had for those kids may have died with them, and what will become of the boys. Neither of them probably thought they would be leaving the boys anytime soon.
I also wondered how fully the boys understand what has just happened to them and the pain they might be feeling right now.
This is just one family. A lot of others have lost loved ones.
As someone who knows the pain that comes with losing a loved one, especially when it is least expected, the grief can be overwhelming.
Grief is a natural reaction to any form of loss. But how do you deal with it?
It is important to note that there is no right or wrong way to deal with grief. Everybody handles grief in their own way. It would be putting so much pressure on someone who is already in pain albeit emotional, if they are expected to react in a specific way.
It is also worthy to note that death is not the only cause of grief. Loss can come in different forms. Losing a job is a loss. A breakup, a miscarriage, a dream dashed, loss of a home, loss of a beloved pet, etc, are all losses.
There is no time limit for when a person is expected to stop grieving. It is disheartening to see people who are clearly grieving being told to get over it. For some it may take days, some months, some years and for some still a lifetime.
We are all different. Our personalities, coping style, experience, beliefs, lifestyle are not the same, and these are some factors that affect the way we grief.
As time goes on the intensity with which we feel the pain of loss lessens and we find ways to adjust to living life without what we have lost.
There are a variety of emotions we feel when we lose something or someone dear to us.
#Shock and denial
This is when you feel that what has happened is all a bad dream. This happens immediately after the loss.
It is a common emotion and you should not feel bad for getting angry. You may feel anger at the person for leaving you, or your anger may be directed to an institution such the heath care system for not stopping the loss, or if you believe in the supernatural, at God for not intervening.
Many people naturally feel they should have done things differently after the loss of a loved one. It comes with a sense of helplessness.
I can remember wishing that I had shared a bottle of soft drinks with a loved one after they passed, because they had asked and I had objected.
“Maybe I should have spent more time with them”, Or “I wish I didn’t speak to them the way I did the last time”, are some of the feelings of guilt you may experience.
Guilt over what you should have said or not said, things you should have done better. You may feel that just maybe what you did or did not do may have affected the outcome.
You may also feel guilty because you are relived they are gone, especially if they were sick for a very long time or were in severe pain.
You feel like you have lost a part of you. You may feel like you have a literal hole in your chest. Life may seem like it has lost all meaning to you.
Emptiness leaves people feeling emotionally numb, despondent, isolated and anxious.
This is when you come to terms with your new reality. It does not mean that you feel alright about the loss, neither does it mean that you just pretend like nothing has changed, it just means that you have accepted that it has really happened and life will not remain the same.
Healthy ways to cope with grief
There are several mechanisms people adopt to cope when grieving. Few of the ones deemed healthy are highlighted here
* Allow yourself to grief. Don’t allow yourself to absorb any pressure from people who think you should get over it.
Acknowledge the pain you feel, because the more you try to hide it or ignore it, the more the pain last. If you feel sad, express it. if you feel lonely, express it. If you need to cry, cry. Crying does not make you weak. Also if you can’t cry, don’t feel like you have to. As much as crying is a normal response to sadness, it is not the only way to express sadness.
Unresolved grief can lead to other complications such as depression, anxiety, substance abuse and other health problems.
* Talking with others. You can talk about the loss and sadness you feel with someone, such as a friend, family member, counselor, etc.
* Find other means of expression. You may find other creative outlets to express yourself. This could be through journalling, music, drawing, etc. You may also try taking up a new hobby, or other activities that you may find emotionally fulfilling.
* Get back into routine as soon as you can. There is comfort in a having a routine and doing some of those things you have always loved doing.
* Take care of yourself physically. When the body is healthy, the mind will be healthy. Sleep well, eat well, and exercise regularly. If you find it hard falling asleep, there are some tips online that may help you.
Recommended: Tips to help you sleep better
From time to time, you may feel waves of sadness come over you. As time goes on the intensity with which you may feel sad reduces. But if it keeps getting worse such as feeling like life is not worth living anymore, feeling numb, unable to perform your normal duties, then, it is best to seek help as it may have developed into something more complicated like depression.
When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it. – Henry Ford