Death affects us all differently. It not only depends on who we are, but who they were to us. Having a child die, I believe, is quite different than having a grandparent die. Having a spouse or close sibling die is different than a parent, but it all depends on our personal relationships.
My brother died a few years ago, and when he died, a little piece of me died with him. I have never felt loss on that level before in my life. I've never known heartache on that level before that moment. To say the least, I was not prepared in any way for that moment and the moments that followed his death. If you have ever had anyone truly close to you die than you understand that death is not something you can ever truly prepare for, no matter how much of a warning you were ever given.
A week before my brother died he came to my office to have lunch with me, and I exhaustedly agreed to it. I was busy and I rushed through the lunch! For the life of me I cannot remember what I was so busy doing that day.
I was haunted by this decision for years afterwards. The unforgiving reality that I rushed through the last moments I would ever have with my brother has caused me more overwhelming grief than I could ever explain to you.
I didn't talk about his death for the longest time because I was absolutely certain that talking about it would belittle my actual feelings, there were no words to explain the depths of my brokenness and heartbreak. I was just...lost.
And in my loss and grief, people would say the most awful things to me. They would say things they thought were "helpful”, but to me it all just added to the pain I was feeling. I realized instantly that most people do not know how to deal with death, from the perspective of helping someone through it OR going through it personally.
I have written several blogs about how his death became the ultimate catalyst in my life for change. But instead I would like to share with you now
The Top 5 Rules to Helping Those Who Are Grieving.
1. The best words of advice I received was from a client of mine who lost his brother 30 years ago and he said "don't try to get over the sadness, just be sad, as long as you need to be sad. You'll never "get over" the loss, you'll just eventually learn to cope with it".
Those words were so comforting to me. They were so REAL to me. In a whirlwind of sadness and anger and loss, it made sense. Finally!
So I would say the same thing to you. Just let yourself feel what you need to feel. And know that you will NEVER "get over it". You'll just eventually learn to cope with and live with it. The loss gets integrated in with your life and eventually you move on to have better days. However throughout your years you'll always be sporadically taken back to these moments. And that's okay!
2. When comforting someone that's dealing with the loss of someone, you need to understand that there are no "words" that will "fix it". Many of us have "fix it" attitudes, out of love, we want desperately to fix the broken spirits around us...but this is not possible when dealing with grief. There is nothing "TO FIX".
You can't change what's happened. You can't make it all better. So stop trying! The only thing you can do is be a shoulder to cry on, and an understanding ear that listens.
Don't try and fix it. Just BE there!
3. When dealing with the loss, realize that it's going to take a lifetime. There's no reason to rush through the pain. Don't make yourself hurry through the process. Just let it happen...as it needs to naturally happen within you.
I still have days where I feel so sad that I feel a little debilitated by the loss still. And I just let those moments happen, when they happen. Know that it's okay, and they'll continue to happen for the rest of your life; when you see a picture or hear a song, you'll feel it all over again! Let the moments come and go.
4. When I gave birth to my son Connor I remember saying over and over in my head 7lbs, 19 inches...7lbs, 19 inches...over and over I said it because I didn't want to forget that moment. I look back and laugh at that now. I was so young and naive. As if I could ever forget the moment my son was born....
Little did I know then that YOU DON'T FORGET certain moments in your life. When my brother died I looked at the clock and did the same thing, April 3, 2011 at 4:03am...over and over.
I don't know what you were doing on April 3, 2011...but I will NEVER forget what I was doing. You should understand that your loved ones that are coping with loss and grief feel the same way. These dates are extremely important. Let them know you understand that. Do NOT dismiss these dates, they will always mean something! Memorialize the dates and let them keep their meaning to you.
5. MOST IMPORTANT LESSON TO LEARN: the number one way that I coped with my brother's death was to be happy for his life. I imagined what life would have been like without him at all, because that's the only way I wouldn't have had to handle his death. And the truth is that I'd choose the life I had with him over and over and over, even if it meant I had to relive that horrible day on April 3, 2011.
Think about the fact that you know you would choose the life over and over, even if it meant you had to relive the death. Think about what their life meant to you, what they gave to you, how they changed you, helped you, made you...
This wasn't just "Scott's journey". This was OUR journey together. I just have more to learn...and he was ready to move on...
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This was a video of me and my brother, Scott, 6 months before he died.