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When you’ve lost someone

What do you say to someone who has lost someone dear to them? I have no ‘right’ answer to this. But I know from experience that the loss of a loved one is 1) really bloody hard 2) really bloody exhausting 3) grief is unpredictable and takes a lot of energy, and can come and go at will and in unpredictable ways for a very very long time.

Also, if you’re related to the loved one who has died, you may be facing a mountain of ‘death admin’ just at the time when you’re in shock, feeling wobbly and could really frankly do without it.

Then there might be a ton of other people you need to take into account/contact/comfort/keep informed. Yeah, it’s far from ideal. There are cultures that have fixed grieving rituals. But we don’t really have that do we? We have to find our own way through this mess.

The truth is, in order to get through the period after a loved one has died, you do have to find a way to get into a frame of mind that allows you wind your way through an awful lot of complexity, bureaucracy and decision making. Far from ideal timing for this, quite honestly.

Draw on every offer of practical help from a sane person that you can. It’s easy to get cross with grief for ‘making’ you feel tired, drained, making it feel hard to concentrate and so on. But the truth is, grief needs time, space and kindness and the demands of death admin offer none of this.

If you have a supportive partner/siblings/friends/community – good. That’s all going to help. But the time after the death of someone you loved can feel very lonely, even if you are surrounded by people who love you and want to help.

And it’s not remotely unusual for feelings towards the person who has died to be complicated. Relationships are often messy. Death doesn’t magically resolve things.

Sometimes the person who was usually the wing man or woman in your life is the very person who has died. Sometimes it’s because the person who has died ‘ought’ to have been a supportive person in your life, but for whatever reason (dementia/illness/something else) they haven’t been able to. But for whatever the reason – that absence – that lack – that loss is really acute and it hurts a lot. You muster the strength to keep battling on and sorting out the admin, but you’re left depleted and it’s just really tough.

If this applies to you – you have my sympathy. Of course time usually helps, but that’s hardly comforting now is it? You are, I’m sure, loved. But right now, you may feel overwhelmed and as if adulting is really overrated. I urge you to drop whatever you possibly can in terms of things you ‘need’ to do, and just do that which you have to. Then find ways to rest and recuperate and support yourself in whatever way works for you. Grief isn’t a fixed pathway. It will do that which it needs to do. Where you can, allow space and time for it.

There are all kinds of support groups and ways of getting professional help, but for now – breath and rest and be as compassionate towards yourself as you possibly can be.

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