Grief is the price we pay for love.—Queen Elizabeth II
You get a phone call or open an email and you finally get the news you’ve been dreading.
Someone you love has passed away.
There are few things in life that are as profoundly sad or difficult as losing a loved one, be it a friend or family member. Whether it was after a lengthy illness or completely unexpected, it can be enough to knock the wind out of you. You can literally feel your heart break. You wonder whether you’ll ever be happy again.
Facing grief is difficult even if you have people to lean on. But living alone, single women have a difficult time of it. Here are some things to remember when facing the death of a loved one. They won’t make the heartache go away, but they will help anchor your emotions and permit you to grieve at your own pace:
- Allow yourself to lean in to your emotions. You might be like me and cry at the drop of the hat. Or you may be stoic when you first hear the news. Whatever you are feeling, the most important thing to remember is that you are entitled to your emotions.
- Don’t let anyone tell you how to feel. Western culture has a warped, awkward view of death. We think people should “snap out of it” after a week or two and then carry on with a stiff upper lip. That is quite possibly the worst advice you can give anyone who’s mourning. Tune out all that noise.
- Be gentle with yourself. As I mentioned, I’ve been known to cry anywhere and everywhere. Bus stops, grocery shopping, at my desk, coffee shops—I can’t help it. That’s how I deal with it. And that’s OK. Anger, depression, tears…don’t apologize for how you feel and don’t beat yourself up for having those feelings. It shows you are vibrant, caring, and human because you can express what that person meant to you. Even if it means slobbery, messy tears and tons of wadded-up tissues.
- Remember grief has no timetable. Every person is irreplaceable and there will never be anyone like the one you lost. You may not feel your loss until days, weeks, or even months after the funeral. And that’s fine. There is no schedule to grieving, and that should never be forgotten.
- Reach out to your support network—even if they don’t know who passed away. People who truly love you will let you cry on the phone, over Skype, or in person. Be it your mom, your best friend, your counselor, or a pastor—let yourself be vulnerable and talk about your grief.
- Find solace in nature. I am about as far from an outdoorsy person as you can get. But going for walks or even sitting on the porch, watching a sunset help me center me and allow my thoughts to wander. I can pause and remember the beauty in the world, even if it’s just for a couple minutes.
- Be there for others who mourn the loss. I absolutely hate wakes and funerals. There, I said it. But I know it’s not all about me. I draw a lot of comfort in seeing friends and family at these services. It is also a sign of respect to the person’s family that you are enough to come. Don’t run away from wakes/funerals, even if you hate them as much as I do.
- Think about what your loved one wants for you. The timing of this is probably more after the funeral. But if you have a special connection with the deceased, you know they want you to be happy. Remember this when you reach for your eighth box of tissue or feel like you will never smile again. They would want you to smile. And eventually laugh. It may take time, but you know they want the very best for you.
- Do something to honor your loved one’s memory. Develop a good habit or ditch an old one. Do something you’ve always wanted to but never had the courage to. Just do something different to remember. And honor your loved one when you actually do it.
- Remember the ties that bind. I see lots of Facebook messages of “Praying for you…let us know if you need anything,” after someone passes away. Follow through when you say those words, and not just with a casserole or a card. If you are in a position to do so, call, visit, or email the family of the person who died. They will be in great need of comfort in the weeks, months, and years afterwards. Loneliness is a crippling emotion, and if you can do something to alleviate it, you are honoring the departed.
Death is never easy to talk about. But by allowing yourself the time and space to grieve, honoring your loved one’s memory, and by being there for others, you are giving yourself the tools you need to cope with your grief. And in your sadness and heartache, you will find comfort and strength in yourself and in others.
What has brought you the most comfort when you’ve grieved? Comment below!