Tuesday, September 27, 2011

How Do You Handle Death?

One of the most awful experiences is watching your loved one slowly transition on to death. Some may say that it gives one time to adjust to the reality that death is on the way as you will no longer be able to share your lives together. However, for some it really doesn't matter whether you have time to adjust or whether you get the news that your loved one has just died suddenly - without any warning. The pain of losing a loved one cannot be measured by the time you have or have not had to prepare for this loss.

I know how it is to lose a loved one with time to say good bye, make amends, adjust, etc. and I also know what it's like to get the phone call that your loved one has just died suddenly when all seemed perfectly normal and neither forewarning or sudden death feels different to me. It all hurts! It really feels like the world has a lot of nerve moving forward while your world has just suffered a severe blow.

The next step is to digest the reality that it will never be the same and although you hear some people say that they know that their loved one is with them, it's still not the same. Holidays, birthdays, family reunions, weddings, graduations, births, etc. will serve as a reminder that your loved one is gone forever.

Then comes the awkward period, the time when you hear from those who want to express their condolences. Be prepared to hear some thoughtful, encouraging, well meaning sentiments and also some outrageous comments. Yes, somehow some people who really mean well will say some things that can be quite insensitive.

Here are some words that are quite inconsiderate:

* Well, he/she lived a long life (and who are you? the timekeeper? Living a long life does not mean much when you are mourning the loss of someone you've shared your life with)

* Oh, you're still young you can have another baby? (why would anyone say this??!! - Please keep this one to yourself)

* Thank goodness you still have the other children (that's just outright ridiculous! A loss of a child with siblings is a huge loss, a void which will impact the family unit)

* Don't cry, he/she would want you to be happy (crying is fine how can you be happy at a time like this?)

* God knows how much you can bare and he knows best (at that moment, that's good for God but right now, I cannot bare this loss and I don't want to hear it)

* Well, he/she is not suffering anymore and they are now at peace (you may have a point, but that point needs not to be made during the mourning process. Let the mourner come to terms with that on their own time)

A loss of a loved one is an emotional time even for the mother whose child was a menace to society. The best advice that I can suggest is to give your condolences by simply saying - "I'm sorry for your loss."

Here are a few suggestions to consider:

* Stop by and drop off something nice - a pie, a cake, flowers, cupcakes, fruit basket, something nice.

* Don't linger on too long, make it a quick visit. If your friend is lonely, you may want to stay close by just in case they need you. However, give them space even if you are staying with him/her.

* Let your knowledge of your relationship be your guide - a friend knows when to hug, not hug, say something, not say anything but just be there when needed.

* Allow the mourner to cry, do not try to stop them from crying. You're not helping, you are being annoying. If you are uncomfortable and unsure of what you should do, simply remain calm and quiet.

* Family members are usually tolerated for their behaviors, you know they are usually well known for their antics. Death usually brings out the worst in those who are nasty and mean spirited. The drunk family member will be sure to act out. The greed and discussions of who gets what can be an issue even before the funeral arrangements have been made. Fighting on the arrangements, how it should be done and all of the other details can also be an issue of contention.

Overall, death is such an incredible part of life. We are all affected by death and while everyone has his or her own way of dealing with a loss, think of how you would want to be treated - keep in mind it's an incredibly difficult form of saying goodbye.

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