Dealing with Grief, Years after a Loved One Passes Away
Guest Blogger: Chi
Seven years ago, my grandfather passed away in his sleep. Despite having trouble with his heart in the years preceding his death, the end was still unexpected. The retirement center, where he lived, was cognizant of his condition, thanks to his medical alert system. The blessing was that he didn’t suffer; he simply slipped away during a pre-dinner nap. The curse is that no one in our family got the chance to say goodbye. Aside from his passing, what bothers me most is that I have little closure all these years later. Grief rises and there is little I can do, except ride the wave when it comes. Hopefully, these tips will help you in the aftermath of a loved one’s death, no matter how long it’s been since they passed away.
1. Go with the flow
Accept grief when it comes to you. Stopping yourself from crying or feeling sad or thinking you should just ‘get over’ someone’s death isn’t fair to your healing process. It’s no one’s business how long it takes you to accept the passing of someone you loved. Frustration with bereavement is likely inevitable—being reminded of the death and the resulting sadness can be emotionally exhausting—but understanding grief’s place in your life can help acceptance come that much quicker.
2. Retrain your brain
It may take considerable effort, but remember the good times you had with your loved one. It took a long time for me to remember the way my grandfather’s whiskers bristle-brushed my cheek when we hugged ‘hello’ during family functions. I was stuck on how he had looked in his coffin, which did little to help me move past his death. As time went on, I was able to revert to memories of summertime visits and the look of joy on his face when I saw him after he had knee surgery. Keeping handy photographs of his smiling face helps me remember how strong and kind he was. Some days, I can’t look at them without immediately getting sad, but that’s okay. I accept the grief instead of blocking it out.
3. Share your pain
There’s no sense in suffering alone. No matter how you proactively deal with pain—including making art, talking to a friend, or engaging the help of a professional—find an outlet for your feelings. I spent plenty of time in front of the television, essentially feeling sorry for myself, and that wasn’t useful to my healing. Journaling through my feelings in words and pictures would have been better, but I also accept that I did at the time what made the most sense. You can’t force yourself to accept a loved one’s passing any more than you can force yourself to start grieving ‘properly’ already.
4. You can do this
Remember that life isn’t a sitcom—nothing is magically solved in 30 minutes. Love fiercely, remember kindly, and channel your grief into something that will help your heart heal. Take all the time you need; there’s no statute of limitations on grief.
About the Author
Chi is a writer and visual artist who enjoys poetry, abstract expressionism, memoirs, and photography.