Experiencing the loss of a loved one can be very painful and difficult, but in my recent experience I found so much gratitude in the process, by being reminded of many important life-lessons. I hope that perhaps you might be able to relate to these experiences and that they help to provide comfort by offering a broader perspective.
Just over a week ago, my grandmother passed away. She was very dear to me. Gratefully, it had been awhile since I had to confront those kinds of feelings of loss – however, I had never before experienced grief for someone to whom I felt so close. It’s amazing how painful it is; both physically and emotionally. My general approach to coping with these things has always been to gain peace through an understanding of how I feel, how I am processing the experience, and then examine the bigger picture. In a particular moment of pain and helplessness I even Googled “coping with loss of a loved one”, or something of that nature, hoping to find some inspiration. It’s amazing what we rely on Google for! I was surprised to not find very much of use to me. So in response, I wanted share what I’ve learned going through this experience in the hope that it may provide some support or perspective for any of you out there who are coping with these inevitable passages in life.
The brighter side of experiencing the loss of a loved one:
1) It tears you open — in a good way:
When you experience such intense vulnerability and chaos, there is no room for airs, postures and other forms of insincerity. There is a genuineness that comes out, forcing us to interact with one another from the heart and perhaps giving us a window into the humanity that we share not just with our immediate family, but with every other human being on the planet. It may be a time when it’s easier to connect with family members and feel a sense of togetherness or belonging. I have found myself more patient and compassionate towards others, in general.
2) It reminds you of the preciousness of life:
Seeing people disappear never to return again reminds us of how lucky we are to be alive, and to have the opportunity to enjoy every moment. It also reminds us of the fact that everything is changing. There is nothing that we can hold onto, whether it’s an object, like a piece of furniture, or a person. Any grasping or clinging is all for nothing because it will all go away eventually. A piece of furniture will become worn down, stained, perhaps broken over time. A person also wears out or has a time to leave; has an expiry date.
3) Embracing the present moment:
Every memory we have is all in the past; it’s just a dream. The only reality is what is happening right now, in the present moment. So while we need to keep the memories alive, we also need to cherish the present moment; filled with so many opportunities. Realizing that the only existence IS this present moment, we can see what a wonderful opportunity it is; to serve, to love, to grow. There is no point wasting time complaining, being angry, resentful, critical….which brings me to the next point….
4) Reframing what’s really important:
The most precious memories I have with my grandmother are the ones when she expressed her love to me, and when I expressed my love for her. Whether it was through a home-cooked meal, a moment of time, patience or concern, what just seemed like “happenings” in the moment reveal themselves now to be so much more about “expressions of love”. A lesson we can all learn to apply in our lives: don’t ever hesitate to show someone you care about that you love them! Even if there was only a single moment that this person showed you that they cared about you; that is enough. Cherish it. We will always wish that there were MORE occasions. The most important thing is that we had them at all. If we didn’t have such a moment, perhaps there were stresses that got in the way on our part or theirs, preventing us or them from showing that care. Even if it wasn’t shown, that doesn’t mean that you or they didn’t care.
Your turn: What have you learned though your own experiences of loss? Can you relate to my insights? Do you have something to add?
Whatever your grief or loss, I wish you peace and love, and to come out of it stronger and better than you were before.