We feel grief from losing something that is important to us; it can be a job, a friend, a marriage, a family member or an animal. Watching someone we love die, person or animal, is obscenely cruel, yet somehow miraculous, simultaneously. The pain we feel is intense but the power of grief may be more moving to us than any other experiences in our lifetime. Loss becomes an opportunity to experience our world in a new way; to feel more and appreciate the sanctity of breathing and the relationships with those around us that we love. Life, itself, becomes clear to us: fragile, beautiful, delicate and brief, like the beauty of a flower that we watch lose its petals.
The process of recovery requires some isolation and time, equal to the intensity of relationship we no longer possess. Those people or animals that we entwined in our day to day existence now must become a sweet and peaceful memory. The metamorphosis we go through to reach this stillness is anything but kind. Although, watching our loved one pass seems so cruel to the life we love, this experience is much more difficult and painful on those left behind to recover.
There are many theories on the stages of grief. To anyone who has experienced the loss of someone or something important or dear, it is intense but a somewhat simple process. I prefer the four stages of grief by Bowlby and Parkes.
Shock and Numbness – At this stage, time freezes. “I can’t believe this just happened.” “What just happened?!!!” “How is this possible?” There is intense pain with a deep numbness.
Yearning and Searching – In the second stage, the emptiness of the loss sets in. “I have nothing now.” “I am all alone.” The void of the loss is ever present and understood. There is an intense need to surround ourselves with items that remind us of the person; familiar sounds, a familiar smell, something cherished by the lost person, and we seek any and all memories we had with them. During this phase, we seek to continue their existence in any way we can.
Despair and Disorganization – Suddenly a horrible acceptance of the loss settles in along with intense hopelessness. “What will I do without him or her?” We question what has happened, what we could have done better, we search for what could have saved them and believe that this pain without them will last forever. There are moments of sadness and anger that they left us and that it’s possible for such good lives to fade away so quickly.
Re-organization and Recovery – Finally we reach a clarity and see the pieces of us scattered around. We find our way to pick each piece up and put ourselves back together. We are not the same person as before. We have a focus on what is important as we look for a way to reenter the world. There can be fear of reinsertion; “I don’t want the questions.” Yet, there is a desire to further the memory of the loved one through reorganizing your own life and telling the story. A new fire is within us to experience life and not take it for granted. Herein lies the opportunity and miraculousness of loss; recovery with the understanding of what is most precious – those we love.
During this time of healing we need to be still, without change, and take extra special care of our bodies. We need to eat healthy foods, stay hydrated with water, sleep for eight hours or more a night, surround ourselves with peace and memories of the special person or animal we love. If you use essential oils, Geranium and Lime can help applied directly to the heart (chest) and Sage to the upper stomach. Supplements are good, such as Vitamin C to maintain our immune system, B50 to give us energy and strength, Omega 3 to stabilize our mood even as we grieve and to protect our broken heart. Other supplements like Sam-E can help to reduce feelings of being overwhelmed with and day to day anxiety as we recover and ensure that our neurotransmitter balance stays intact. [If you take medications, please ensure Sam-E can be taken with those medications.]
Please accept this time for yourself as a moment to reassess what we value, what we love, what we want to spend our time doing and with whom. Life is so terribly short and precious and we do not know when ours or our dear loved one will be stripped from our company. Let’s embrace our moments with family, eat dinners together, enjoy the small moments in nature, make time for friends and let the joy of children and animals guide you.
I was reminded of what small children can teach us during a walk through the woods recently with neighbors. They have two small girls. I lingered with the mother and her daughter at the creek. The little girl took a leaf and placed it in the current of the water and watched it move between the rocks until it went out of sight. I felt truly blessed to have remembered this little life thrill.
Loss is not about death but about having lived. We heal with a focus on pleasant memories and the beauty of having lived. The spirit of each lost loved one is alive in us.