“The death of a beloved person is a scenario we all dread, and rightly so. It is one of the most devastating experiences one can endure. In the initial period of time after it occurs, most people wonder whether they’ll survive. So if it happens to you, what can you expect and how do you cope?”
Those gripping lines come from this article we just came across on the retirement website Next Avenue. It was written by author and grief expert Amy Florian who herself had to learn to cope with grief – and eventually to move beyond it – at the unexpected death of her husband in an auto accident. No matter who we are or what our stage of life, some form of grieving over the loss of a loved one is a virtual inevitability, and the Next Avenue article is helpful in letting us know what to expect when grief hits home – and how to face that grief head on in order to learn the lessons only loss can teach us.
Here at AgingOptions we have another reason for sharing this timely article: in our decades of legal experience the pain of grief is compounded exponentially when (in the most common scenario) a husband dies without having made any plans or provision for the future of his wife. When this all too common tragedy takes place, the surviving spouse is left not only with the pain of loss but also with the deep anxiety caused by the need to face an uncertain and potentially bleak future. Our message to you is that it does not have to be this way! In just a moment we’ll explain how a LifePlan from AgingOptions can help people move on past grief into a more secure future.
The Amy Florian article on the Next Avenue website begins by explaining some of what a person can expect when faced with grief over the loss of a loved one. The initial response, she says, is bound to be a sense of shock and numbness. Actually, in Florian’s view, that emotional numbness is a blessing in disguise: “The numbness,” she writes, “allows you to compartmentalize as needed, so you can focus on essential decisions and actions.” Only later will the emotional impact of true grieving set in.
A second expectation you should prepare yourself for when grief becomes your companion is that you’re bound to be surrounded by unhelpful friends and family members. “Despite their best intentions, most people don’t know what to say or do after the death of a loved one because they’ve never been taught,” says Florian. “Many don’t want to say the wrong thing so they say nothing, skillfully avoiding you or talking about anything except what happened. Others do try, yet they repeat what everyone else always does, so their attempts are often neutral or even pain-inducing.” This is where you may want another friend or family member you can trust to act as your buffer and keep the well-meaning-but-inept “helpers” at bay.
Finally, Amy Florian says you’ll be hit with a wide range of emotions. Florian calls this “the spiral of grief.” She says, “You may be angry, sad, relieved, guilty, confused, vulnerable, afraid, searching, despairing or hopeful. You sometimes experience several emotions at once; other times, you cycle through them at a dizzying pace. You are simultaneously genuinely grateful for some things but desperately sad about others. The unpredictable volatility may cause you to feel you’re going crazy. You’re not. It’s all normal for a grieving person.”
She ends her article with four specific suggestions – and we have one more to add. After the death of a loved one, Amy Florian says, do these four things:
- Face the grief – accept your emotions without apology, allow others to help you, and do what makes you feel best at the time.
- Be patient with yourself – give yourself permission to mourn and resist the voices (your own and those of other people) telling you to “get over it.”
- Build memories to carry with you – think about your loved one, talk about him or her with others, and “create memories and stories that you take with you for the rest of your life.”
- Choose to heal – or as Florian puts it, “Do you choose to live in pain and grief or do you choose to heal? Make the choice, every day, every hour, sometimes every minute. As unbelievable as it seems at first, healing and joy are possible. Your future may be very different from the one you had planned, but it can still be a good one, holding promise, happiness and hope. Choose life.”
If you’re facing grief, your friends at AgingOptions have this invitation for you. When you’re ready to heal and look ahead at the rest of your life, we urge you to come to one of our LifePlanning Seminars. Bring a friend or one of your adult kids. We can guarantee you that this will be one of the most encouraging and uplifting things you can do, because a LifePlanning Seminar will give you a clearer sense than you’ve ever had of what a secure future can look like, with your aging questions answered. Instead of wondering what the future might hold, you’ll discover – maybe for the first time – that in many ways you hold the key to your own future. Let us show you what that can look like.
Take the simple next step and click here for online registration for the LifePlanning Seminar of your choice – or if you prefer we invite you to contact us during the week for assistance by phone. As the words of a popular song remind us, “There may be pain in the night, but joy comes in the morning.” It will be a pleasure to meet you at a future LifePlanning Seminar and to help you rediscover the joy that comes from planning well for a secure future.
(originally reported at www.nextavenue.org)