We spend a lot of effort in this life avoiding the common reality of our lives. We all will die. And when someone around us dies, our denial is temporarily shattered. Death feels close. It is scary. When someone we love dies, the pain is so much more acute. We feel that a part of our heart, our life, has gone. How we deal with the departed will influence us for the balance of our lives.
Did you have unfinished business with that person? Were you able to say what you needed to say? Were you able to make peace with that person? Some dying people have no interest in reconciliation, some living people can’t or won’t either. Once a person dies, all possibilities die. There are no more chances.
After someone dies, the pain of those left behind is because there is no hope left for things to get better, for the departed to finally step up and be the person those left behind had hoped for, and no more chances to make up for what was done to each other during life. It is over.
The lessons of death are many. One is this: stay current with those you love. Don’t put off saying what you need to say or doing what you need to do. It is usually easier to work things out with a living person than to live with the regret not having tried. Then if you try and it does not work out, you have the peace of knowing you tried.
When someone is dying, try to focus on what they need, not on what you need to give them. It is a subtle but profound difference. You want to be of service to the person who is in transition. It’s about them, not about you. You also need to deal with your own feelings, but don’t expect the dying person to do that with you. They are focused on their own death. Find a support group, talk with the people in your own circle of friends and family, and make sure you take time for yourself so that you can be present for the loved one who is dying.
Finally, it takes a minimum of 3 months for humans to absorb a change, longer if the change is traumatic. Do not expect to bounce back quickly. Grief takes as long as it takes. There are no rules, no timetables. It can take a year, two years, who knows? If the grief is beginning to prevent you from moving forward, you might seek help from a counselor who is skilled in bereavement and prolonged grief.