While grief is different for everyone, it’s often hard not to feel as though part of you has died when someone you love has died.
Everything you were, felt and shared with them has gone in that instance and you wonder how to move forward from that.
I certainly did, when I lost my Dad.
After my Dad was diagnosed, I gave up essentially every social activity to spend as much time as possible with my family. It was the best decision for me as I have wonderful memories from those ten months together we spent together while he was living with cancer.
But when he passed away I struggled to go back to old hobbies or things that I used to enjoy as I couldn’t quite enjoy them in the same way anymore.
It’s that disconcerting feeling of doing something that feels the same, but knowing that nothing is actually the same.
There’s no answer or right or wrong way to move forward or overcome the pain of losing them and feeling as though part of you has died with them, but I wanted to share some of what I’ve learnt over the past seven years (read more about my experience here).
How do you live again when someone you love has died?
Remember that your grief and your loved one will always be a part of your life
No matter what you’re told, the person you’ve lost is always with you. They will guide and shape your life in ways you can’t imagine yet. You’ll never hear their advice or perhaps even see their guidance, but that connection you had with them never leaves you.
You will never be able to remove that from you, you’ve changed from their life and death and you need to accept and embrace that.
Take comfort in the fact that your grief and loved one will accompany you through life. They’re one sizeable chunk of the gigantic painting of your life. That person and those memories are still there, just over time it isn’t the main focus of the picture as you add more to the canvas.
You can never ignore or suppress it and it will never go away. Try to make your peace with it, or at least try not to resist the grief.
You decide how your relationship is with them when they’re gone
People will offer you advice in abundance on how you should or could deal with the loss of your friend, colleague or family member as time passes. Everyone has an opinion and everyone has a different technique that works for them.
One of my friends told me that they light a birthday cake for their Dad on his birthday, still years after his death. We visit his grave and lay flowers, but I also don’t feel obliged to do that. Whereas I know people that will religiously go to the grave on anniversaries, but I go as and when I need too. I went through a phase where I would go there on my lunch breaks once or twice a week as I felt lonely or lost. For other people, that might be too upsetting.
In the same way I know that some people will discuss grief (as I do) while other people won’t.
I’m someone who talks about my Dad a fair amount considering he isn’t here and hasn’t been for seven years. For me, that’s helpful. He’s alive in my memory and was a big part of my life (and still is) so it seems natural to mention him. It also helped with hearing the word and listening to other people talk about their father’s or father’s day.
It’s about figuring out what you’re comfortable with and then also respecting what other people are comfortable with.
Pick up a new hobby
A new hobby normally works better than returning to an old one, but you could perhaps return to an old one in a fresh environment.
Finding something new to learn or do can keep your mind active and creative. It could be knitting, drawing, dancing, pilates, boxing, you might even have to try out a few different hobbies to find something that you enjoy. But the process of learning something new will feel rewarding and give you some energy and a distraction.
Do something constructive
I don’t know why this helps, but it does. Similar to picking up a new hobby, doing something constructive such as baking a cake, tidying, painting your house, renovating your room, will keep you busy and your mind focused on something other than grief.
Growing up if I was having a bad day I would bake after school, sometimes for hours. I found it really therapeutic as it was a constructive way to work through how I was feeling.
Don’t actively try to move forward or feel better
Forcing yourself to move forward or feel better won’t help you process your emotions. It will probably make you feel worse as you might not be able to feel better as quickly as you expected or hoped.
Life will drag you along with it, if you let it. You don’t need to push yourself to move forward, it will just happen. Change is an inevitable part of life. If you make an effort with a hobby or group that will help, but if you aren’t in the headspace for that yet, that’s ok as something about your life will change by itself.
Trying to actively move forward or “feel better” is as useless as trying to ignore your grief, it simply doesn’t work. You have to ride out your emotions and just hang in there.
Find reminders that you’re alive
A very real reminder of your life on earth is talking to other people. You’re alive because you’re interacting, laughing, crying or relating to another person. In the same way, talking about grief is sometimes helpful as it’s a reminder of our common human experience. You are never as lonely as you might feel.
It could be going for a daily walk or taking five minutes to meditate or focusing on your breathing, all of those practices are bringing you into the present moment.
Also, this can be quite extreme for some people. It could be going to a concert of a lifetime or bungy jumping maybe even sky diving? Whatever gives you an adrenaline rush or makes you feel something over than loss and grief is reminding you that you’re alive and here on earth.
Give yourself permission to live again after a death
Give yourself permission to smile and dance and explore after someone has died as you know that it’s what they would have wanted. No one who loved you would ever wish for you to live a miserable half-existence always yearning for something that isn’t there.
In the same way that you need to give yourself permission to feel bad and have bad days, you need to give yourself permission to have good ones. You can read more about that here.
Embrace life and the lesson you’ve learnt from losing them – life is short and you should always try to make the most of it. I know that’s how my Dad lived and in his memory, I try to do the same.
Do you have any advice on how to live when someone you love has died?