Loss - Part II
Updated: Oct 8, 2019
CW: death, grief, mourning.
I awoke this morning feeling as though the weight I've been carrying for the past month or so has lightened. The experience of sharing the first installment of this series has without a doubt influenced this. As I mentioned in the last post, grief and mourning can be very a personal process, and as we all navigate it in different ways it can be really isolating. To have so much interaction stem from this has been unquestionably positive, and has anecdotally reinforced the key message I'm trying to amplify here: normalizing the fact that we all grieve in our own way enables us to understand when others live it differently, and ultimately provides us with the best insight as to how we can efficiently support our loved ones when the waves of grief knock them down.
I'm not a psychologist, and by no means am I an expert in offering advice when it comes to managing mental health. I am however a human, with a network of beautiful people in my life who I love, and my own lived experiences with loss.
If someone you love is going through a hard time it can be tricky to determine what the best thing you can do is. It's hard to see people we love hurting, but it's important to acknowledge that the pain and sadness they may be experiencing is a vital component in recovering from loss.
The best thing you can do for your loved one is to behave in a way that allows them the opportunity to feel as though they're being heard, even if they're not saying anything. When considering the perspective of the person treading through grief it becomes evident that they don't always know what they need you to do. Grief, in it's most intense form, is not an every day experience for the most part, so it's not intrinsically a part of ourselves we understand. Rather than offering "please let me know if there's anything I can do to help", refer back to the oxygen mask - put it on for them.
What I mean by this is utilize your own inhibitions, rather than expect direction. When I felt as though the world kept moving on without me, the last thing I felt like doing was the monotonous tasks of daily life. In fact, I didn't want to do anything. It didn't matter if the house wasn't clean, but if we've learnt anything from the Marie Kondo craze it's that mess has a really negative influence on our mental well being, and can as a result contribute to feeling as though day to day life is just too difficult when there's underlying stress present. Put their oxygen mask on here by helping them clean their home, and cleanse their environment so that it can enable recovery.
Comfort eating is potentially one of life's great contradictions - it tastes so good, but it's mostly not that great for you. Through the cycles of grief comfort food, as it's name suggests, cushions the ride. Put the oxygen mask on here by cooking or providing a healthy, nourishing meal - check in first to make sure they actually like lasagna though before you show up on their doorstep with yet another tray full. For the record, you can always bring me lasagna. Good nutrition provides us with the energy required to maintain good mental and physical health,and may just be what's required to help get your loved one back into the rhythm of the world.
Aside to this, and probably most importantly, just be present. For me as little as a text message presented as a kind reminder that people care, all while the world seemed to go on without consideration to the fact that I was hardly keeping my head above water.
Funerals aren't for everyone, but if you think attending is something you can do without applying too much strain on your own mental health, going is one of the best ways to show your support. It also allows you insight into what your loved one may be going through if you didn't have a relationship with the person who has died, and often times, a smile and a hug from someone that's not in the thick of it may be just what they need.
Lastly, and probably most importantly, look out for signs that things might not actually be going okay. Coping with loss is bloody hard, but if it's really taking it's toll step in to help. Suggesting professional assistance isn't always easy, despite how necessary it may be. Talk with your own mutual support network to collaboratively define the best way to approach the situation.
At the end of the day its also important to remember that grief doesn't just stop. Continue to check in, continue to talk about it if they want to.
Thank you for supporting this platform and this series of articles, that really have been a part of my own healing process. There will be more to come but as I learnt this week, writing about death and grief is really hard, so no more time constraints.