The death of a loved one

Today it’s been 11 years since we (my family and I) lost my eldest sister. Her battle with cancer was short but it was lethal. Within being diagnosed a month later she was gone. 

Each year I find the anniversary of her death difficult. Anyone who has ever lost a loved one will agree that the loss, the pain and the hole within your life never goes away.

I write this article as a way to celebrate her life, acknowledge the pain and also with a hope that by writing and sharing with you my experience, you will allow yourself the ability to feel how ever you want to, without any apology. 

“Bereavement is the action or condition of being bereaved. Bereaved is being deprived of a close relation or friend through their death.”

Deprived we are. I felt deprived of the ability to talk to her, feel her presence or even talk about her because I never felt I could. I felt if I talked about her I would be upsetting someone and hurting them further. 

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There were a lot of reasons why her death was difficult some being that we never got a chance to save her and the decision was taken out of hands. I also I felt a lot of anger towards her. I felt abandoned and betrayed by her because she had always been my protector.

“Why didn’t she take better care of herself?!” “Why didn’t she fight harder?” “Why hadn’t the doctors caught it sooner?!”. I recognise now that I was suffering from grief.

At that moment I felt I had to finally grow up. I felt insecure all of a sudden, I felt like If I fell no-one would catch me. Like she used to.

Grief does weird things to our minds. It can distort our reality in such a way that we don’t know what or why we are doing it. The pressure we put on ourselves to be okay, to get over things quickly can cause us to suffer later down the line. 

I felt like I was drowning and no matter how much I tried to swim I was failing. I couldn’t be there for others who relied on me. I withdrew and tried to act like I was fine. Everyone had their own way of dealing with the loss within my family. My focus went on my parents and their wellbeing.

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I only felt like talking about her to the people that knew her, straight away I was closing the door on seeking comfort from people who were close to me. I had learnt to compartmentalise a lot earlier in my life so this was easy for me to do or so I thought.

But there was an anger brewing deep inside of me that I kept squashing deeper and deeper.

Years later I realised that it wasn’t the best way to deal with her loss.

I found solace in sitting with my parents and talking about her, which was something we did often. Sometimes we would laugh, sometimes cry but we would talk. Talking about her at times is bittersweet. 

Regardless of what your faith may be, death does not discriminate, it is inevitable who ever is born will experience death and whoever is left behind the loss.

But now by acknowledging such pain, loss and sadness I find that I’m being more true to myself. This has helped recently with the sudden death of my mother. Where I am allowing myself to feel the loss. I am not forcing myself to be okay.

I think of my sister and mother with love and sadness but also the knowledge that a part of them both will always be with me. The years I spent with them, the love I experienced and the memories will always be something that I carry with me. 

Dealing with bereavement can be lonely. You will feel like you don’t have anyone to share your pain with. You feel like you are alone in the darkness that you feel and no-one can understand. By talking to someone, anyone who will listen and be there for you, can help. 

By seeking support you are recognising what you need, you are being true to yourself. Each experience is different, just like all relationships are different. But what brings us together as humans is the ability to be resilient.

Loss – “Pull yourself together!”

Today I want to talk about loss of relationships, whether it’s as lovers, friendship, or even family members such as sibling or parent and the individual is still very much alive and well.

How do you deal with such a loss? Does the process of grief still apply?

When someone is taken away from us, suddenly or through illness we have to at some point accept that death is final. Regardless of what your beliefs may be, the connection, the face to face contact, the ability to be present physically by the other is no longer possible.

But when someone who you have formed a relationship with, an attachment to, decides to leave your life. Then why are we expected to continue like nothing has happened?

It is my personal opinion that the grief cycle still applies which isn’t a linear process, in fact you may move from one stage to the next, to the fifth and then back to the first. Let me explain what I mean.

In the grief cycle we have: Denial, Anger, bargaining, depression and then acceptance. 

Denial: we cannot believe that the person is gone, our reality has shifted and as we try to process the loss, we are trying to process the emotional pain. 

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If someone has made a conscious decision to leave your life or even you have had to decide to leave, you can still experience denial. You don’t want to accept that the person you know doesn’t want to be in your life or you no longer want to see them, you will experience emotional pain and maybe some form of rejection if you don’t have a choice in the matter.

“How can he/she do this to me?”

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Anger: Feeling anger is a natural response when you are feeling emotional discomfort. Trying to adjust with this new reality can be difficult. Feeling anger towards the individual, at yourself, your emotions, is normal because you feel alone in your pain.

“He/She promised they would never leave!”

Bargaining: In an attempt to alleviate your pain. In the grief cycle we tend to bargain with a higher power. But what can happen in a loss of a relationship is that we can start bargaining with the individual.

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“What did I do wrong?” Blaming yourself, “Tell me what can I do to keep you in my life?” Any form of contact is better than none, and we start bargaining.”Can we still be friends?” The slither of hope that any contact is better than none and you are trying to stop the pain you are going through.

“Can we stay in touch?”

Depression: Reality sinks in. Bargaining is not an option anymore and we have to face what is happening. As sadness grows we can end up retreating into ourselves. Not wanting to be sociable, not reaching out to anyone.

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We isolate ourselves because no one else will understand the pain we are experiencing. Friends and family may advise you to move on. But how easy is it? Should you not be allowed to feel the way you are? why is there an expectation that you should stop feeling how you are and “pull yourself together!”?

“Get over it!”

Acceptance: Here you are accepting your new reality. Sadness and regret may still be present but now you accept the pain you are feeling. Acceptance that the relationship has ended can be difficult. You may have put your heart and soul in that relationship and you are now accepting the loss but you also are now attempting to heal.

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“I need to find the new me.”

You are not attempting to make it into something different or change the out come any longer. 

The complication with someone still being alive is that at times of vulnerability, we might end up revisiting the different stages of grief. We might go back to bargaining or anger because well we can. The person is still alive and can still respond. Maybe we still feel the attachment to that individual and we still want to be a part of their lives and are seeking old comfort. This can just lead to more hurt and pain. Constantly feeling rejected can damage your self confidence and self esteem.

The loss of a relationship is different and I am not comparing it to bereavement because I have felt both and I feel each has their own pain and sorrow to bear. But it also has me wondering about the differences in the way people can respond to such loss.

I also feel and this is my personal opinion that loss of a relationship doesn’t get enough support, as it requires a process of healing that we should be able to go through without judgement, remarks and intolerance by others.

Does ego play a part with how we respond? I still find myself bargaining at times hoping for a different outcome. What about you?