Recently, my dear friend died in a sudden and unexpected way. Interestingly, at the time I was researching grief and loss for an article. This topic became very personal as I began to experience the stages of grief following the loss of a loved one and looking for a way to honor her.
There are many kinds of loss due to death. There is the loss of elderly beloved family members who die naturally as expected. Then there is the sudden unexpected loss that takes our breath away. People experience death and honor it differently all over the world.
We will all become acquainted with death during our lives. Benjamin Franklin said it best when he said, "Certainty? There is nothing certain in this life but death and taxes." Both are inevitable and often painful.
The inability or choice not to accept what has happened or will happen.
This can be with ourselves, or with someone else. Sometimes with the one we have lost. It can manifest itself in a variety of ways.
This often comes into play with the terminally ill. It can be with whatever God in whom we believe. We try to make a deal. For example, "If I never do anything bad again, let her live."
An acceptance with the individual still having grieving behaviors, like crying, sadness, regret, fear and other feelings associated with loss.
This varies by person. Essentially, we begin to be able to talk about it, or deal with the loss with some objectivity and without being overwhelmed.
However, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross also said:
"The stages are not linear. People do not necessarily go through all of them ......They were based on interviews with the dying...."
We may go through the stages, or we may have our own journey. For me, the stages of grief following the death of my friend have been more like the tides of the ocean. Initially, I was drowning in it. Her death washed in high and heavy like a winter ocean. It was cold; chilling me to the bone, knocking me off my feet, and dragging me like driftwood out to sea. I wondered why and how this could happen.
I watched as I and my friend's family went through the stages of grief. I believe we still continue to wash in and out of the stages. Initially, we were all in denial. I heard people say they couldn't believe it was real.
Then the anger comes. Anger at the loved one, others involved, the cost and challenges left behind. There are many ways all over the world that people deal with the death of loved ones. In Germany, families rent a burial plot. They may have several family members buried in the same space. For our local family, it was a very expensive experience, with the cost being heaped on the challenge of loss and grief. I was sure I would never be angry. Then, there it was. Surprising me.
Only a short time has passed. I already see some of us move in and out of other stages, including depression and acceptance as family and friends handle the hard work of moving on and filling the space left behind.
I would like to share with you some things I have done in the past to help me move through the stages of grief, from depression and anger to acceptance. I have chosen to honor loved ones in the following ways:
Create something meaningful to honor a loved one
This can be as simple as meeting together and sharing a meal of his favorite foods on his birthday or, like the Lively family, making a beautiful war memorial with a bench to remember the fallen soldiers in their family.
Create a scholarship or foundation
Choose a cause that was meaningful to your loved one. Create a scholarship or fund in her name. At our local high school, there is a track scholarship created by a family in honor of their deceased daughter.
Make a family history album or film
My home is filled with special things for the many family members I have lost. I have a photo album my aunts put together with journals and photos of our very beloved grandmother and her sisters. It documents their extraordinary history. In this way, I can teach my children the great lessons my amazing family and friends taught me.
Learn the stages of grief. Learn of ways to offer support family and friends. Take time to make a place in your heart, home or community to honor someone you've loved and lost.
"If there ever comes a day when we can't be together, keep me in your heart, I'll stay there forever." - Winnie the Pooh