“None of us can hold someone we love in our arms forever but the one thing we can do is hold them in our hearts.”
Last week, I was asked to help a woman who just recently lost her son. Admittedly, requests like these are the hardest part about what I do. The truth is while I strive to help the bereaved find comfort in the knowledge that love truly doesn’t die, I can’t bring their loved ones back physically.
People ask me all the time if dealing with the loss of a loved one is easier for me now that I know there is life after death. It’s definitely easier but it’s in no way easy. When I lose a loved one I find comfort in knowing that life does go on and that I will see my loved ones again but at the same time I miss the physical contact.
The other day I came across a quote that has really stayed with me, “It hurts when you love someone in your heart but can’t have them in your arms.” I got to thinking this may be true but isn’t the heart the safest place to be? None of us can hold someone we love in our arms forever but the one thing we can do is hold them in our hearts.
No matter what happens, death cannot take that love away. No one can. That love is always there. It transcends death.
That being said nothing can prepare us for the death of a loved one. Grief is very personal and individual. In other ways, it’s our own. There’s no right or wrong way. There are no right words. There are no proven healing methods. We all grieve in our own way. What works for some does not work for others.
The word bereaved literally means to be torn apart. So the way we eventually put the pieces together is our choice. The one thing that does make a difference is time. Not to say that the pain is not still there but it certainly helps to have time to reflect and get passed all those “firsts.” For example, the first birthday without them, the first Christmas, etc.
On Grief and Grieving, a book by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross and David Kessler, describes the five stages of grief. They are: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and finally acceptance. It’s important to note, however, that not everyone goes through all of them, nor do they necessarily occur in this order. As I said, grief is a deeply personal and singular experience.
No one can tell you how you should feel, how to get over it or how long it should take. The only person who can understand and deal with the emotions you are going through is you.
According to Alan D. Wolfelt, PhD, grief is the internal expression of loss whereas mourning is external. In other words, grief is how you deal with it on your own while mourning is what you do in public.
There are no easy steps in dealing with grief; no magic tips. But I would like to mention two things. First, don’t hold in the grief; let it out. Be honest with yourself about what you are feeling and find ways to express them. For example, talk to a family member or friend. Or if you don’t want to talk about it publically, write how you are feeling in a journal.
I once wrote back to one of my readers suggesting that she write a letter to her deceased husband. She did and wrote me sometime later explaining how therapeutic it actually was for her. Many of the bereaved feel like they never got to say goodbye or say one last I love you. Well, you still can. Write a letter. Talk to your loved one. I know I have said this a zillion times in this blog and elsewhere but our loved ones are very much aware of what is going on in our lives and they can still hear us. They are still there spiritually.
Second, find ways to keep their memory alive. My friend Nancy bought herself yellow roses on her wedding anniversary, for example, because this was something her deceased husband always did. When you do little things to keep their memory alive, you will be forever reminded that their love has never left you.
Getting back to the quote I mentioned earlier, “It hurts when you love someone in your heart but can’t have them in your arms.” Yes, it certainly does but when they are in your heart, no one can ever take them away from you. No matter where you go and no matter what happens in life, in your heart they will remain.