An Open Letter to Anyone Who Has Recently Experienced a Loss

Dear Friend,

I’m sorry you’re having to go through this, and more than anything, I hate that this is now a part of your life. While I don’t have magical words to make this better, here’s what I want you to know.

Maybe there’s a reason this happened. Maybe there isn’t. One day you’ll hopefully see good in the person you become or the life you live because of your loss. But today does not have to be that day. Because this sucks. It’s unfair. It’s hard. And it’s exhausting. Don’t diminish that.

Cry. Or don’t cry. Just don’t let those around you make you feel as if you’re supposed to be acting a certain way. There’s no recipe for grieving (but how great would it be if you could simply measure out a cup of tears, a spoonful of anger and a pinch of numbness to feel better?). Also, don’t worry about progressing through some framework or set of stages. Everyone is different.  Just do what feels natural for you. Respond how you need to respond. Give yourself permission to grieve.

Ignore the stay strong’s. You are strong. You’re living through an unfathomable amount of pain. You’re reading this, which means you woke up this morning (yup, it’s important to celebrate the small victories right now). Being strong doesn’t mean that you keep it together. It doesn’t mean you have to hold back the tears or censor your reactions. It doesn’t mean that you have to give a tight-lipped smile and pledge to people that you’re OK. In fact, letting the tears out is one of the strongest things you can do. Grieving tip #87? Composure is overrated.

Know that there will be people around you who don’t get it. They can’t. In the same way that it is nearly impossible to adequately describe the pain you’re feeling, it’s difficult to relate to this unless you’ve been through something similar. So when someone says the absolute wrong thing, try to remember that he or she is inherently limited in his or her ability to relate. If you’re able, assume best intentions, because some of these people will be your closest friends. Remember, this is your experience and your reality. People tell you to “stay strong” because they want to believe that if this happened to them, they’d be OK. Likewise, when they tell you to “move on” or “get over it,” it’s because they want to believe that they’d be able to get over it if this were to happen to them – that it’d be like any other bothersome thing that fades.

From experience, I know that this next bit of advice can be hard to swallow, but it’s probably the best I have. Write down your memories. No really. Do it. A bullet list of thoughts will suffice. I know you think there’s no way you could forget a person you knew so well. But details fade. And maybe, at first, it will only be the small details – the ones you think may not be missed if they’re forgotten. But collectively, they add up. Ask friends and family to write down their memories too. You’ll be grateful for the collection of stories and remembered moments later.

I’m not going to lie to you and say you’ll eventually get over this. “Getting over it” is one of the greatest grief myths I’ve uncovered. The pain will never fully cease. It will, however, change and become less consuming. Years later, you’ll still have hard days, but overall it really does get easier. Remember, this is one of the hardest things you will ever live through. Emphasis on the live through, because you will get through this even though it doesn’t always feel that way.

So, find the things that make you feel even the tiniest bit better. Write. Listen to music. Talk. Run. Take a shower in the dark and cry.  Scream into a pillow. Read. Or, create. Most importantly, let yourself sit in your emotions. Feelings are OK. They’re good. Whether you’re angry, sad, confused, relieved or even happy, it’s OK. These emotions you’re feeling? They mean you had something worth missing. It means the person you lost continues to hold your love. Celebrate that.

Oh and please don’t feel guilty when you have a day when you’re not consumed by thoughts about your loss or loved one. It doesn’t mean you love them any less. It doesn’t mean you miss them any less. It simply means that you’re starting to adjust to your new normal. So let yourself smile. Let yourself laugh. And, most importantly, let yourself live.

Lastly, even though it may feel like it sometimes, you are not alone. You probably won’t believe me until you find others who you feel can relate, but I hope you commit yourself (even if it takes a search party and smoke signal) to finding them. Until then, check out Hello Grief’s online community or do a quick Google or Twitter search for others. It’s worth it.

Sending you more good vibes than you can imagine,

Someone who’s been there

P.S. You’re going to be happy again. Promise.

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7 comments

  1. I thank you for this. It’s only been a month for me but my dad was such an integral part of my life that I don’t know if I can go on. The only thing that keeps me trying is knowing that I have to take care of my mother. I really do hope that in the months and years to come, I can stop crying while at work and live some semblance of a normal life.

    P.S. I feel like I’ll be a regular reader.

    Like

  2. Beautiful and insightful words of healing and hope. Grief is a process very personal to each of us but with a common thread of sorts: It’s painful and enduring but finding our way through it with supportive people, like you, eases the burden and reminds us we are not alone. I just published an article about grief stages (that I experienced), which I hope is helpful to readers experiencing the pain of loss.
    http://hushhushheart.com/7-stages-of-grief-and-loss

    Like

  3. As we enjoy the holidays it’s important to remember those that are struggling and in need.
    Yes I’m talking about the starving children in Africa and the helpless abandoned dogs that we see in the sad commercials with the slow sad Christmas songs playing in the back ground and the pretty sad woman’s voice saying “and for just 50 cents a month…” I’m also talking about the children with out parents and the children with out a sibling or the children who only have one parent or the children that a having a hard time with grief.
    Although it seems like such a small issue of concern when paired with the starving African children, it’s an increasingly large issue.
    Childhoodbereavement.org has statistics showing 1 in 7 children ages 5-16 will lose a parent. And about 1 parent dies every 22 minutes.
    Now let’s think about the single parents for a second. Most of them who lose a spouse haven’t even lost their parents yet, they can’t compare losing a spouse to losing a parent. This can separate a child and a parent because they are both trying to cope and learn how to change with the tide and help the other.
    For example, I’m 17 years old as of December 12th. My father died on April 12th 2009, I was 9 years old at the time. It was Easter Sunday. When my father past it left me, my sister, who was just 6 at the time, and my mom alone. My mom hadn’t lost her parents she couldn’t help us understand what was going on or how we were supposed to feel or cope. My sister and I separated relationship wise for while my mom and I separated relationship wise for awhile I know my mom and sister separated relationship wise for while. Everyone felt like they were on their own even though we weren’t. My mom found comfort zone camp, a camp for kids who have lost a parent or sibling. This camp is free for all the campers and the people who assist throughout the weekend or week are all volunteers. The camp is completely non-profit and uses donations to send kids to camp.
    My sister and I went to the camp for the first time in 2009, up in Virginia before the camp moved to our home state in North Carolina. We have been every year since. When I turned 15 I became a junior councilor. Meaning I helped with crafts, watching kids, dancing, holding hands, giving hugs, providing tissues, and all sorts of other fun necessary attributes to the camp experience. Each camper is considered a “little buddy” or “little”, each adult that spends the entire week with the little buddy is called a big buddy. Big buddies help with everything from getting kids up and ready in the morning to helping them find the bathroom. Durning camp your fed all 3 meals breakfast lunch dinner oh and their is an amazing snack time with dancing and music and crafts for the kids while the big buddies get an hour to themselves to debrief from the emotional day. Each day is filled with games and team building challenges, with a group of people that are all a part of what is called a healing circle. These healing circles have certified therapists and child phycologists who lead the healing circle. In healing circle you learn healthy ways to cope with grief, you learn your not alone and other kids have had loss like your or share a loss like yours or feel just as broken as you feel. Then on the last night before camp ends, my favorite part of camp begins. Once it gets dark, a huge bonfire is lit. All the healing circles gather around and are together in nature and everything is beautiful and peaceful even when eating s’mores and singing funny campfire songs. Then after everyone has used up all their energy in sing after me campfire songs the mood slows down and the airs gets a bit heavy with emotion and the sky’s open up. Each healing circle is called up by their leader and they circle the fire real close. Each big buddy and camper is asked to write a note to their loved one. At this point in time it is thrown into the fire to be sent to that loved one. It is asked that as they go one by one throwing their letter into the fire that they say in memory of… Or to… The ceremony brings tears to everyone’s eyes and the song of comfort zone is sung. The song speaks of the purpose of comfort zone camp. Click the link to hear the song: http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=zLwYyfpwfHU
    The song talks about comparing feelings to those of a rainbow and how it’s okay to feel the feelings you feel. It’s okay to open up and tell someone how you feel because you aren’t alone. This is part of life and it’s okay to feel the way you feel.
    This camp is and always will be my safe place. I will continue to attend, as soon as I’m 18 I will volunteer to be a big buddy. Comfort zone is hard at work to get a location in every state, so if you know a child who has lost a parent or would like to volunteer to help or even to donate your welcome to check your state to see if you have a comfort zone near you or you can donate at comfortzonecamp.org
    Please remember this holiday season that some kids are alone, or feel alone, and that it’s important to get these kids the support they need and deserve.
    Thank you for your time.

    Liked by 2 people

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