A tragic loss can be a completely unsettling event that leaves our heads spinning. Losing a spouse, child, parent, sibling, close relative or friend can be extremely difficult and leave us wondering how we will put their pieces of our heart back together again. The overwhelming emotions often feel suffocating and stifling, prohibiting us from imaging the reality of a world without our loved one living in it. The good news is that you can turn this around and get back to living a happy life after a tragedy. It might not be easy, but it is possible.
Remember That Grief Has No Timeline
Perhaps the most difficult thing for us to understand is that grief is not predictable or timely. There are five stages of grief and everyone moves through them in a different order and at different speeds. It could be weeks, months or years after tragically losing someone that you finally turn your life around. This might be devastating news, but in order for us to tackle our grief, we need to be honest and realistic.
There is no time limit on grief and you cannot compare your grief to someone else. Your friend may have lost her mother and appeared to accept the loss relatively quickly. Even if she was up and about and moving on with life a month after the loss, it doesn’t mean that you will respond the same to the loss of your mother. Everyone is different and the sooner you accept that grief is a process, the closer you will get towards acceptance.
Denial Does You No Good
Denial is one of the stages of grief and it’s common to experience after a tragic loss. Yes, it’s okay to be in denial—for a short while. Being stuck in denial is a problem. That’s because, in order to process grief, you need to be aware of and acknowledge your feelings. You can’t work through your grief and emotions if you are in denial that the tragic death even occurred. Loss happens. It’s a part of life and it’s important that we accept the loss and acknowledge it because denying it will do us no good. In fact, when we are in denial and grief is not expressed it is unhealthy.
So, what do we do after a loss? How do we start working towards turning life back around? In theory, it’s simple—we need to acknowledge the loss. Instead of pretending our loved one is “on a trip” and refusing to accept sympathy gifts for women, embrace them. Talk about the death, speak of the deceased loved one by name and in the past tense. These are essential for getting our lives back in order after a tragic loss.
It’s Okay to Rely on Friends and Family
If you want to right the ship after a tragic loss it is important to rely on friends and family for support. No one can do it alone and you shouldn’t try to. In fact, expressing your emotions is critical for processing grief. When we keep things contained and do not share or express our emotions, we aren’t making progress. This type of reclusiveness can hinder our grieving process.
If your family or friends are offering comfort and support, take it. Discuss what you’re feeling and allow them to be there for you. This is not a time for our pride to get in the way and this is true for those offering physical assistance while we grieve as well. Is a neighbor offering to take your trash out for you or mow the lawn? Do you have a friend that wants to cook meals for you and your immediate family? Is a family member asking if you need someone to watch the house or your pets while you travel for a funeral service? Did someone send you grieving woman gifts or grieving many gifts to comfort you? If so, don’t be afraid to accept their help. They will appreciate feeling useful and you will appreciate the extra hand. Remember that withholding your emotions doesn’t make you tough, it only delays your progress.
Don’t Be Afraid to Seek Professional Help
Unfortunately, sometimes even the support and comfort of family and friends is not enough to help us process grief. Especially when a tragic loss occurs the onslaught of emotions can be entirely overwhelming and almost impossible to process on our own. In cases like this, the professional help of a bereavement counselor might be needed to help get us back on track. These counselors help by listening and helping us sort out our emotions and feelings. If there are unresolved issues with the deceased, they can also help us work through guilt and other complicated emotions. Additionally, bereavement counselors will provide tools and advice that help us make sense of loss and process grief. If you need professional help, that’s okay! It’s admirable that you are taking the steps necessary to turn your life around and you shouldn’t let anyone make you feel differently.
Accept That It’s Okay to Move Forward
Perhaps the hardest part of recovering from a tragic loss is accepting that it’s okay to keep living life. We struggle to imagine a world without our loved one, but that holds up back from moving forward. This issue often arises during holidays where we refuse to carry on certain traditions or refuse to let someone else sit in “their” chair. In reality, our loved one would want us to be happy and live a fulfilling life. They would want us to pass the turkey carving torch or have the next generation start adorning the Christmas tree with the star. As you work through your grief after a tragic loss, just remember that they would want you to be happy and use that as your guiding light through the darkness.