“It is dying that finishes us, that ends our story. So we should live the fleeting day with passion and, when the night comes, depart from it with grace.”
Richard Holloway from his book, Looking in the Distance
We learn separation and loss from infancy and may encounter it in many forms during life. It doesn’t make death easier.
Loss of health, youth, physical or mental abilities, children leaving the nest, a relationship end, friends moving away, loss of status, redundancy, retirement. That we are practised in managing loss doesn’t make bereavement easy. After a death, we may be left wobbling where we used to be steady. There may be a dent, a hole, a chasm, an overwhelming emptiness. That life goes on may seem unthinkable.
When Josh was killed in an accident aged only 22, his family created a website Beyond Goodbye to support themselves and others in moving on, and to pay tribute to and remember Josh. To mark the 2nd anniversary of his death, the family set up the Josh Edmonds Memorial Scheme to provide internships for young people at the local Ministry of Sound. In 2013, the family is on a pilgrimage to Vietnam, where Josh died. Follow their Vietnam diaries.
This excellent blog talks about the importance of connecting with the body as part of letting go.
A death can be jangly or gigantic in its impact – and it can bounce between those states over time. It may feel like an emotional wrecking ball, ravaging, creating rage, pain, torment. There can be a strange jumble to manage: personal emotions, unusually intense family relationships, paperwork. In among Life’s Big Questions – finding meaning and purpose – may lie tedious, treacly and titanic tasks.
After the biz and buzz of making arrangements, when the funeral is over, many find that’s when reality kicks in. Getting back to ‘normal life’ can be a challenge when you can’t see the point and don’t want to eat, can’t concentrate, can’t sleep. You may find people want to do things for you but you feel you need to take control. You might be getting advice you don’t welcome. You may have visitors when you want peace – or you’re desperate for company and alone. You may feel a deep and painful emotional loneliness that you think noone else undertands.
For all the comfort it is, this is normal. The knot in the gut, the feeling of being weighed down, the dark hole of grief. Take your time. Ask for help. Be kind to yourself. Look after yourself physically – it will help emotionally and mentally.
After a while, you might feel like joining in with the world again and the clouds will clear a bit. It can come and go, so just take it easy.
Help and support
Try a relaxation CD to manage stress and grief. Hear sample soundbites or order the CD Quiet Mind here.
Cruse Bereavement Care: 0870 167 1677 or Cruse in Scotland 0845 600 22 27
Breathing Space (Scotland) 0800 83 85 87 for help low mood or depression
Samaritans 08457 90 90 90
See contacts for professional counselling or coaching support.
These excellent websites provide resources and some share others’ real experiences of dying and bereavement in short films that cover families’ experiences of suicide, sudden death, living with illness, the impact of death on a family:
NHS Inform: Bereavement Zone
Health Talk OnlineNatural Death Centre
The Compassionate Friends
Scottish Grief & Bereavement Hub
In this short Guardian article, Meghan O’Rourke – author of The Long Goodbye: A Memoir of Grief – questions why we are often left to shoulder grief alone.
This book by Claire Maitland: The Swallow, the Owl and the Sandpiper promises wisdom, courage and spirit – thoughtful and comforting words and verse.
If you’re supporting someone else at a time of grief, just being there, attending is the most powerful thing you can do. Give them the chance to talk about their loss. Take round soup. Continue to socialise as you would before – or at least make the offer. One to ones are more helpful for a while. Ask what’s needed.