By Selene Negrette
When someone experiences the loss of a loved one, that experience may very well mark the beginning of other losses as well. In my own experience of loss, the loss of my young son to cancer, I felt a desolation in my heart, because almost every relationship I had at that point in my life was rocked or changed in some way as a result of my loss.
From friends who avoided me and who, unwittingly, made me feel that the tragedy of my loss might be contagious; to family members who expected from me behaviors that I was not able to provide; to my marital relationship —which had been shaky before— becoming severely and impossibly damaged. Has this been your experience as well? And did you feel abandoned at a time when you most needed the support and understanding of others?
When this happens, it feels as if our hearts cannot hold so much hurt, so much loss. It does not feel fair… In the end what happened to me was that I received help from the most unexpected source –my little son. He, at the tender age of eight-years-old, opened my eyes to several sudden realizations:
1) The quality of the love he gave me was different. It was unconditional; it felt freely given and he easily forgave my shortcomings. His love ended up being the light that illumined the way for me to continue to function while he was dying and to continue to live after his death.
The message: Strive to offer unconditional love to yourself and others as much as you can. Unconditional love is when we have healed all the wounds we have been carrying since childhood and can offer ourselves so much love that the self-love we feel overflows and radiates outwards towards every person we come in contact with, and towards every area of our life.
2) He focused on living as fully as possible for the time he had left. He did not waste any time worrying about what others thought or said. He simply lived fully in the present.
The message: Live today fully; tomorrow is not guaranteed.
3) It was not anything personal. Those around me loved me in their own way but I could not expect them to understand what I was going through. It was too scary for them to even try to put themselves in my shoes.
The message: Letting go of fears frees you to truly live and enjoy your life. The fears other people are experiencing are the reasons why they aren’t able to be there for you.
4) When you lose someone you love, you find out who is here with you to stay and who is not. Spend time with those who can support and accept you and let the others go.
The message: Take charge of your life. We can choose to dwell on the love we shared, the moments that are unforgettable and the lessons we’ve gathered, instead of dwelling on the disappointments and in that way, we not only help ourselves, but we can also help those we love.
5) Children are more capable of understanding death than adults. They protect us, so it’s important that we show them that it is okay to be sad, to cry and to talk about their feelings.
The message: Let the child’s behavior guide you as to what they need, and don’t shy away from showing how you feel or from talking with them about it.
If you are feeling burdened by your grief because of disappointments in your relationships, you can help yourself by keeping the following in mind:
1) Adjust your expectations as to how much understanding can be offered to you by others — a romantic partner or spouse, family, and friends.
2) Your romantic partner is also grieving and needs his or her own space to figure out how to go on. If you are unable to comfort each other, find a friend or counselor to offer emotional support to you at this time.
3) Keep the company of those who offer a listening ear, assistance, and comfort, and do not feel obligated to give of your energy and/or time to others.
4) Remind yourself that this is an emotionally difficult time and that you need to be kind to yourself first and foremost.
5) IF you have children to take care of while grieving, talk with them often about the one you lost; that frees them to do the same with you. Do not be afraid to cry in their presence because that gives them permission to show their sadness to you.