Each of us has a different and unexpected reaction to the death of a loved one, either person or animal. You can happen to smile, or to cry in a desperate and incessant way, or even to remain impassive.
Each time, the pain takes possession of us and wraps us up in a different way. At first, it leaves us bewildered, stunned, and dejected. Then, we feel abandoned and forgotten. Then, regrets assail us for a further gesture of affection, which we would have wanted to make. Then, the anger and a sense of injustice assail us. Then, we want to vent somehow.
There are various things that we can do to deal with such a painful loss. To let the pain go out without harming ourselves and without throwing it on other people, animals or places. To take, both chronological and emotional, time to work out a death. To surround ourselves with people, who love us and understand us. To remove, even if only temporarily, those who can not understand us. To walk. To be in the sun. To cook something good for us. To take a break. To go for a walk alone, without a destination and without a commitment, with calm and serenity, letting us be guided by our intuition. To give us a gift. To cuddle ourselves. To take the “rescue remedy” of the Bach flowers. To write down thoughts and emotions. To put aside the everyday and personal belongings of the dear one, who left us. To keep photos and other objects linked to the most beautiful memories. To keep alive the memory of that person, or of that animal, with the people who loved him or her, sweetly and serenely. To create and to share new happy memories with those who have remained to be part of our life.
The death of a loved one can find us unprepared, arriving suddenly, or it can smolder during a long illness, or it may arrive at the end of a long life. In whatever way it happens, we are not prepared to face it. It is a profound shock, and an immense separation. It is a part of us, which we feel is going away. It is a moment of abandonment, that we can not manage. Nevertheless, it is our only certainty in this life and, instead of ignoring it, we should talk more about it and accept it.
The death of the most important person in my life found me completely unprepared. I have always thought that she had abandoned me, that I had been left alone, and I drowned in my pain. I just could not accept it. For years, for too many years. When I finally realized that she continues to be with me every day, although in a different form, I felt much, really much better. Several messages had arrived to me, but I had not understood them. Then, something enlightening happened. I went to visit some dear friends on the occasion of their wedding. A few days later, they organized a pleasant trip to a national park, just in an area that I did not know. While we were in the car, joking and laughing together, I felt choked by a desperate cry. I looked at the friends and saw that the conversation continued serenely. I put the attention to my body, thinking that it was an illness, but instead I was very well. I looked out of the car window, thinking that something serious had happened outside. Everything was normal: avenues, trees, walls, road, and sky. Then we arrived to a square and I recognized the place.
It was the pine forest near the lake where every Thursday morning there was the market. And we used to go there together, when we were there on vacation in the summer. Something of my loved one had remained in that place, where she had been happy. Where we had been happy together. I stopped crying suddenly. The very strong, also physical and widespread, pain vanished and an immense joy enveloped me. I think that my friends in the car have not noticed anything. Even today, in the summer, sometimes I like to wear that white “vintage” shirt that we bought together in that market. Just during these days, thirty-two years have elapsed since the most important person in my life died and I feel her closer than ever. I know that she did not abandon me and that she never thought of doing it, not even when she died.
So, if you want to meet your loved ones who died, look for them within yourselves and in the places where you have been happy together. They do not abandon us, and now they are and they will be part of us forever and will accompany us on our journey. They belong to our words, to our actions, to our thoughts, to what we eat, and to our gestures.
Several times in my life I faced up to the death, for instance in a plane accident, for an emergency surgery, during a panic attack, and during a heart attack. Rationally, I always thank the professionalism of the personnel of Alitalia and of the Police Station of the Palermo Punta Raisi airport. Or the competence and the empathetic support of my very good surgeon friend. From the emotional point of view, in those moments I always thought of one thing, and always of the same thing. I saw again the people and the animals, whom I loved and with whom I shared my life at that time, and the places that were dear to me. I never worried about myself: my thought always went to my dear creatures and to the places of my heart. When the dangerous situation was resolved, I could not wait to hug my loved ones again or to go back to a place that I loved.
Something of us forever remains with the people with whom we have been happy and in the places where we have been happy. So, there is a single answer to the question: “How to deal with a mourning sustainably?”.
Be happy! 🙂
Paola Morgese, PMP
Civil Hydraulic Engineer
M.S. Sanitary and Environmental Engineering
Translation of the Italian blog post: Paola Morgese, Come affrontare un lutto in maniera sostenibile