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Healthy grief Death isn't the end of everything

Be grateful for the gifts given by the person we miss

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Stock photo

Stock photo

The good weather has been welcome and has given us a much needed lift. Yet for many families it has brought sorrow and sadness. Road accidents and drownings have taken many lives suddenly and without warning.

How can we cope with grief when the rest of the world is celebrating? Is enough attention given to the deaths Covid brought and to the pathetic funerals so many loved ones got?

The way we grieve is changing and not necessarily for the better. There is an attempt to sanitise death; people now "pass" instead of dying. Nice words cannot take the sting out of death. Death is part of the cycle of life.

Worse still, some ill-informed church people are 'tidying up' funerals. It's becoming a one size fits all service. It suits the minister/priest; they give the same sermon, the same music and the same rituals. In other words it makes life easier for themselves and death more difficult for the bereaved.

Everyone has a right and a need to grieve. Healthy grief, good grief is an individual journey. We grieve differently; each member of the same family will journey at their own pace. Husbands and wives will cope with the loss of a child in different ways.

It is said that when we lose a friend, someone we have loved deeply, we are left with a grief that can paralyse us emotionally for a long time.

People we love become part of us. Our thinking, feeling and acting are co-determined by them: Our fathers, our mothers, our husbands, our wives, our lovers, our children, our friends … they are all living in our hearts.

The result is that when they die a part of us has to die too. That is what grief is about: it is that slow and painful departure of someone who has become an intimate part of us. When Christmas, the New Year, a birthday or anniversary comes, we feel deeply the absence of our beloved companion.

I've said before that we sometimes have to live a whole year before our hearts have fully said good-bye and the pain of our grief recedes. But as we let go of them they become part of who we are; they become our guides on our journey.

I believe we never 'get over' the loss of a close family member or loved one.

We learn to live differently; we accept that life goes on but that life is never the same again. Once, it was put well to me this way: We can learn to walk well with a limp. We reluctantly learn to live our way into a new way of being.

The best way we can help is to allow people to grieve in their own way. We don't need to have answers to 'take away' the grief they are going through or to feel uncomfortable in their presence.

We don't have to cure them or heal them. Healing will come in time from within.

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It is best to accompany them on their journey of discovery.

It is vital to recognise that different deaths bring different forms of grief. The death of an elderly person after a long illness is not the same as the death of a young person in a road accident.

Suicide is different again. You probably have a shorter journey coming to terms with the death of a team-mate than you do with a partner or a child.

Death needs to be acknowledged; no one lives forever; death is a gate-way to a new life. For believers death is not the end of everything. It is just the end of life as we know it. It is the beginning of a life of happiness that we can't even imagine.

Finally, it is vital to be grateful. I can complain about the loss of a loved one - and I should do that - but I should be grateful for the many gifts that person brought me.

In short, acknowledge their passing, be grateful for the relationship we shared and begin to live again without guilt.

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