Blog 108. Death and Bereavement: Losing A Partner.
“Until you’ve lost a loved one, until it happens to you, you will never truly understand.”
I’m sure you will have heard this statement many times before. And it’s true. Until you’ve experienced a massive loss, grasping the enormity of what losing a wife, a husband or a partner actually means, is nigh impossible. No matter how many funerals you may have attended, it is still nothing like the loss you may one day have to face or endure yourself.
And sadly, the death of a partner can result in many long night and days of grief, as you come to terms not only with the loss, but also as you learn to find yourself, either again or for the first time.
Mitch Albom in “Tuesday’s with Morrie” once said that, “Death ends a life, not a relationship.” The relationship you had with someone will always remain as such. This you will not have lost. But what any death does, is that it finalises what you had and herein could lie a further grief – if what you had was a disappointment or not quite what you had expected.
Grief however, forces you to endure without that person. And it forces you to find yourself ‘separate’ from the relationship. And in this, there is a choice with regards how you choose to continue.
But before you can continue, you may have to face the following:
– No one ever tells you that when you lose someone, someone you’ve spent so many many years with, that you will also lose part of yourself – a part that only a partner will ever have known. As a result, you’ll probably lose part of your story. Consequently, your grief will have to include not only coming to terms with the loss of your partner, but also an aspect of yourself, an aspect that may be gone forever too.
– You will have to grieve your partner, but also how they did or would’ve reminded you of past memories, that you may actually have forgotten, and that only they knew about.
– And you will grieve what they may have cherished – that certain aspect about you which they loved or admired, that will be lost forever.
– And when you share your life with someone and they die, they aren’t just missing from your life, they’re gone from that which is yet to come. Grasping this stark reality can drop anyone to their knees – as this truth can be so absolutely acute and painful.
– But also what can be so painful and as Bob Dietes once wrote, “Going home to an empty house can be terrifying. Or waiting for a loved one to return home and suddenly remembering that they’ll never be coming home – now or ever”.
– And HOW this loss happens can be devastating: The death of one’s partner can come as an enormous shock as a result of an accident or heart attack and so on, or it can come as news of a pending death say via illness or cancer, that you might be able to prepare for. Either way when the moment comes – it usually remains a painful and a dreadful shock. This is why Woody Allen’s quote is so apt. He said, “I’m not afraid of death; I just don’t want to be there when it happens.”
– Death is never easy and being told that either you, or your partner, (or your child or someone you are close to) is dying, is never easy. Discussing or dealing with death and the dying, is something we are never really taught.
Few understand exactly how we die or the stages that occur as we die, as we slowly let go or what happens to the body as we prepare for death. Consequently many fear death, not understanding that it is an extraordinary experience that the living can learn from.
But sadly, many find it too emotionally difficult and this is perfectly understandable, especially if they’re losing someone extremely close, to even begin to contemplate the remarkable moments humans can experience before we die.
But because modern society has less to do with the dying, when it happens, we don’t understand the process and as a result, words often fail us and we don’t really know what to say. And what we do say, usually never feels right.
– Death is made to be just one of those experiences that many try hard not to think about. It brings up too many questions about their own lives that it is often better to just ignore the realities of death. This is why often funerals may come and go, but even then, death is what happens to everyone else, until of course – it happens to you.
The 5 Stages of Grief:
But as already stated, death can come as a dreadful shock and how we deal with death emotionally is explained and identified by Elizabeth Kübler-Ross, in her book, “On Death And Dying”.
The five stages, denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance are a part of the framework that makes up our learning that helps us deal and live with loss. They are tools to help us frame and identify what we may be feeling. But they are not stops on some linear timeline. In other words, we can feel any of these five stages all at once or in a different order to what is presented and so on.
The stages of grief and mourning are also universal and are experienced by people from all walks of life, across many cultures.
It is therefore certainly worth reading this book if you are experiencing grief or have in the past, as it offers an excellent explanation of the grieving process.
But most importantly, it is important to know that grief has no time limit. Grief has a mind of it’s own. It can take months, years or it can even last a lifetime. The reasons for this are as follows:
- Losing a partner may trigger memories of childhood losses.
- Some people grieve longer than others – especially if a previous grief has not been worked though sufficiently. Then a current grief can press earlier grief buttons, so that the past and the current grief may be felt as one – and therefore experienced far longer than might be expected.
- And in some cases, if there is no emotional support, no close friendships or family able to help, then the grief can be very hard to get through.
- Or losing a partner may cut very deep, especially if a partner was thought of as a soul mate.
It is therefore important to realise that the grieving and bereavement process may take longer than expected or it may be more traumatic requiring that you find support. Friends and family may try to assist, but they may be grieving too. It is therefore often helpful to find a support group, bereavement counselling or therapy. You may want to speak to your doctor who may also assist you in finding the right methods for you. It is also worth knowing that grieving is not a weakness. It is a natural process and it needs to be undertaken in whatever manner that is best suited or appropriate for you.
-Experiencing a death and a loss can be so very hard and you may feel like the world has ended, for months on end. And just when you think it’s all over, you may find tears rolling down your cheeks as a memory pops up and you feel like a dark cloud has just dropped onto your shoulders. Let it happen. Don’t ever feel that you need to excuse your pain. When you suppress grief it’ll only pop up some other time. Know that it is a process.
-Know too that you will always retain your partner’s memory. If you feel you will forget certain aspects then write them down and put your memories or anything you may wanted to or didn’t say in a memory jar. Then you will always be able to refer back to them whenever necessary.
-Sometimes people die and we haven’t created proper closure or we may have argued or said something nasty just before hand. This can happen. Try not to beat yourself up or dwell on this too long. But talking to someone about this often helps you work through any guilt you may be holding on to.
-Most importantly, it is advised not to throw away a partner’s possessions for at least a year. This is good advice. You may throw something away and regret it. And if you can, don’t move away from your home for at least a year. Staying close to the memories helps the grieving process.
-Then too, the harsh reality of grief is that when the funeral is over, people will move on with their lives, leaving you alone with the pain. This can be very difficult and it can lead to extreme loneliness. This is why it is important to find a support network so as to connect with others who are in the same position as you.
And no matter what happened or how it happened, try to be kind to yourself.
And know this: “Grief is the last act of love we have to give to those we loved. Where there is deep grief, there was great love.” Anonymous.
© 2019 Deidré Wallace All rights reserved.
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