Nothing can prepare you to cope with the death of loved ones. There are no words that anyone can say that can take the pain away, and there is nothing anyone can do to fill the void. There’s now a huge gap in your life and you will never be the same again. And that’s OK.
I’ve been to more funerals than weddings in my lifetime. My parents, grandparents, and half-sister have all passed away so I know grief well. There is never anything that anyone around you can do or say to you other than be there for you – so let them.
Through my grief of losing my loved ones, I have learned a few things along the way that may help you.
My Personal Experience Of Losing My Mum
It’s been 9 years and 6 months since my mum died. It happened so suddenly. To this day, I still get fleeting memories from time to time of that fateful day. After doctor home visits, an ambulance late at night, trips to A&E, and doctor appts she was finally admitted to the hospital. She was ill, and though I lived with her I had no idea how sick she was until the ambulance came that night. The guilt of not realizing just how bad things were will never completely go away.
She passed away the next day. She had been doing really well, but she had an undetected blood clot that traveled to her heart and caused a heart attack. I arrived as they were trying to save her.
For me, the enormity of my grief put me on autopilot, and it affected my mental state for a while. I coped as best I could but I was not myself. I was just functioning and surviving, and just trying to be strong and hold it all together. My life was forever changed.
3 months later my dad died, and then my grandfather 5 months after that. Huge patches of that period are a blur but I learnt a few things along the way that have helped me deal with loss that I wanted to share.
Give Yourself Grace Each And Every Day
Be kind to yourself. Truly commit to kindness towards yourself. I had days where I didn’t want to get out of bed, or I just dreaded going to the supermarket where just the thought of seeing people I knew made me feel sick because they’d inevitably ask ‘How are you doing’ or ‘Are you ok’ or they’d say ‘I’m sorry for your loss’. On other day’s I could go out and be social.
And it’s OK. Tomorrow is another day. You will have good days and bad days, and over time you will start to have more good days than bad days. Also do things that make you feel you alive, and bring you joy. Don’t feel guilty for having moments or doing things that your special someone can no longer enjoy. Remember that they wouldn’t be happy to see you stuck in a dark sad memory lane state.
Set Small Personal Goals For Yourself
Life is hard especially when you lose loved ones. So, hand in hand with being kind to yourself is setting small, achievable personal goals. On super bad days it was sometimes as basic as today my goals are to shower, dress, and cook a meal. On better days it was things like grocery shopping, having a decent day at work today, and seeing a friend.
Animales Can Help You Cope With Death Of Loved Ones
One of the best, most positive, and impactful things that I did was get my fur baby Lily and her brother Tigger (sadly no longer with us). Having two fur babies to love and care for who completely rely on me as their ‘mom’ was the smartest decision that I made during my toughest time. Why? Because I can say with absolute certainty that there have been times when my cat Lily saved my life.
Lily, and Tigger, when he was here, needed me to get up out of bed, to earn money to feed them and take them to the vets. During my toughest times, I fed those babies before I fed myself and it gave me something to focus on, and to care about when I felt empty.
From Lily, I got unconditional love and affection and that’s pretty priceless. Countless studies will tell you the positive impact of animals on mental health and well-being and it’s something I wholeheartedly recommend if it’s something you are considering.
Time Doesn’t Heal Us
We heal ourselves over time. I still have days where I miss my loved ones, especially my mum and I’ve been known to talk out loud to no one wondering if they are there watching over me. But over time it does get easier, and you will learn to live on and thrive in their absence.
Know That Everyone Responds To Death Differently
There is no ‘right way’ to grieve. Some people will cry constantly, some will go on autopilot, some turn to vices like alcohol or drugs to cope, some will want to talk about it and others won’t. We all have our own ways of responding to the loss of a loved one and no one is right or wrong. I realized this because I responded to every single death of a family member differently. Take the pressure off yourself and grieve in your way. It’s ok.
I also realized over time that the people around us all respond to our news and our grief differently too. Some loved ones will be right there providing cups of tea and a shoulder to cry on while others may distance themselves because they just have no idea what to say or do, and for their reasons just cannot handle death. Losing loved ones is a black cloud over our heads and a hole in our hearts that impacts those around us too – but we are not a burden in our hardest times, and I wish I had reached out more often when I was struggling. Let your loved ones be there for you.
Learn To Forgive, Let Go & Don’t Harbour Feelings Of Guilt
Finding forgiveness and living with guilt will eat you up inside. Trust me, I know. So find the strength to forgive them for leaving, and forgive yourself for carrying on with your life and learning to live without them. It’s ok to let them go. They will live on in your memories and your heart forever.
How do I cope with the overwhelming emotions after losing a loved one?
What are some healthy ways to grieve and honour the memory of the departed?
How can I support others who are also mourning the loss?
What should I do if I am overseas when a loved one dies?
Are there ways to honour my loved one if I’m far away from home?
Also connect with friends and family virtually to share stories and commemorate their life. Distance doesn’t diminish your ability to cherish their memory and pay tribute to their legacy. If it is a close family member you may also be able to get a discounted flight back home if you wish to return for the funeral.
Is it normal to experience different stages of grief?
How can I take care of myself and prioritize self-care while grieving?
What can I do to preserve the legacy and keep the memories of my loved one alive?
How do I handle significant dates, anniversaries, and holidays after the loss?
What are some signs that I may need more help or support in my grieving process?
Gemma Lawrence is the creator of This Brits Life. Born and raised in England, she has been living in British Columbia, Canada as a permanent resident since 2016. A solo traveler for the past 9 years, she hopes to inspire and help others to enjoy solo adventures too. As someone who has always struggled with her self-confidence and mental health, she also shares tips and inspirational stories relating to self-love, self-care, and mental health.