At HATW we’ve experienced the loss of a friend recently who helped us out a lot- so we wanted to write some suggestions down for dealing with losing someone, based on our own experiences from the past. Losing a family member or friend can be incredibly hard. It can be the hardest thing you’ll ever have to deal with and to be quite frank it absolutely sucks. It can take a really long time to come to terms with, and it can have a serious impact on you forever. I’m unfortunate enough to have lost quite a few family members and friends over the last 10 years, and these are the things I have picked up along the way that I try and remember now, as our community deals with losing our friend Alex.
-First and foremost, let yourself be sad, and let yourself be angry. Yes, you may have to put on a brave face for others and be strong for your friends and family’s sake- but it’s also vital to let yourself deal with your grief. Bottling things up will just mean that you’re putting off accepting the loss and may cause more harm further down the road. Being sad or having a cry can sometimes really help with letting go of your emotional pain, and releasing your frustrations. If you’re angry, try and release that in a way that doesn’t harm yourself or anyone else. Take out your pain on a punch bag or a pillow, rip up paper or scream as loud as you can.
-Take time to reflect. Think about the person who has passed away and remember the good times you had. Think of the funny stories and in-jokes and laugh about them. It’s a good comfort and just as important as crying is. You can reflect in any way that feels right to you. Write down your happy memories or things you loved about them, make a scrapbook with photos, words, mementos and stories in, or print and frame photos of good times. However you want to express yourself and your life with the person, there are no rules for reflecting and remembering.
-Accepting help from others is crucial when you’re grieving. If you’re anything like me when someone passes away I fluctuate between feeling really numb and pushing people away, to feeling very upset and needing to talk to people, being really needy and not wanting to be left on my own. When I’m in the headspace of not wanting help from anyone, it’s hard to see how comfort from anyone else will make a difference. But sometimes without even knowing it, a chat with a friend, a phone call to a family member or the small kindnesses that people offer when someone dies can really mean a lot and remind you there are people that care and are willing to listen and support you.
-Speaking to the person that has passed away can help you come to terms with your loss too. This can look like a verbal conversation to yourself, a text or Facebook message, writing letters to them (which you can destroy or even send out to sea in a bottle or tie to a helium balloon and let go afterwards if that feels right to you.) You can communicate to them through whatever way you used to get in touch, or through what feels good to you at this time. When my brother died I used to ring his phone and leave answer phone messages, and then later used to write letters to put on his grave. I used to like telling him important things that were going on with me, and say how much I missed him. It didn’t change anything obviously, but it made me feel a little better and like there was still a dialogue between us. It helped me transition with my life from being completely distraught to accepting he was gone but would always be a part of me.
-Remember to eat and to drink lot’s of water. Rest and sleep as much as you need to and give yourself a break from partying if that’s the way you’re dealing right now. When you’re dealing with loss it can be so overwhelming emotionally that sometimes you forget what basic necessities your body needs to function. Making sure your health is good will mean that mentally you are able to process and deal with what’s going on. If you’re in shock, eating can be the last thing on your mind- but try and have something to keep your physical strength up. Having a few drinks, or having a bit of a blowout and a party is totally understandable, but make sure it doesn’t become a regular thing, and that you take a night off when you can to let yourself recover.
Resting and letting yourself sleep when you need to is so important. Dealing with heavy emotions can be massively draining so don’t feel guilty if you want to sleep more, or if you feel exhausted. These can be busy as well as emotionally draining times so make sure you’re not taking it out too much on your body by listening to it and stopping every now and again.
-Don’t disengage with the World around you. I know when I’ve dealt with death before I often just block everything out and fall into really negative patterns of not looking after myself. I’ve learnt that it’s good to still work, go to uni or school and do chores when you can. When you’re able to try and stick with your routine and see friends as much as possible. Having aspects of normality still around will ground you and stop you from blocking everything out and being consumed by your grief.
-When you want to and when the time is right, honour the person you’ve lost in your own way that is meaningful to you. This can be really personal and only for you- but will always be a strong reminder of the impact they had on your life as you move forward. We’ve written a couple of suggestions down based on things we’ve done in the past or that friends have done:
But really- it’s up to you. However you want to express yourself and your relationship.
-Finally, don’t be hard on yourself. Everyone deals with bereavement differently and for different lengths of time. Don’t feel bad for feeling upset, don’t force yourself to be ok if you’re not, don’t be angry for still feeling upset if other people have moved on or if you feel like you can’t deal with it at all. Don’t feel guilty that you’re alive,or feel that you are to blame, this just spreads negative emotions and causes you more pain and doesn’t help.
These are all really common feelings, amongst thousand of others you’ll go through when dealing with someone passing away. They are natural and normal, even when you feel really weirded out, they will pass.How you deal with things is intensely personal to you. It doesn’t make you a bad person to be feeling these things and you are definitely not alone.
Speak to your friends and family about what you’re going through. Get some bereavement counselling if you feel it might help. Get people together affected by the death and talk about the person and how you’re all coping, write how you’re feeling down, meditate and take time every day to build your emotional resilience. Get upset. Laugh. Remember them. Live for them because they don’t have that honour anymore. But take it easy on yourself. No one is perfect, and losing someone is incredibly hard.
These are all just suggestions and things we think are useful. We understand there is no set way to deal with bereavement, but these things are a bit of common sense and we hope you’ll find them helpful. In time you will get some perspective and acceptance. You will begin to heal and build a life without this person, but a life that always carries them with you and is for them. We know what you’re going through and we want to tell you that you’re strong for even reading this. Breathe and keep going.