Do you remember your first encounter with loss? I do…Tic and Tac were my pet goldfish, they’d grown to the size of small koi and I loved them. When Tac died I was devastated – what would Tic do? Where did he go? Was he OK? Do fish go to heaven?
I buried Tac in the garden with a bag full of water and some fish food just in case. My cat – let’s call her ‘the grave digger opportunist’ must have been watching my every move. After coming home from school she was looking very suspicious with dirt on her face unable to look me in the eye, Tac’s grave was open and he was gone…
I don’t think there’s a soul who doesn’t encounter the inevitable loss of a person, animal or goldfish they love. The sadness of one of our friends in pain from loss is difficult. How do you comfort someone when they feel their life has changed forever and sometimes can’t see the way forward or understand what happened?
‘Death’ is never easy and as prepared as you might think you are – the loss is always there. We’re spiritual beings in human bodies having a very earthy experience and touch plays a big part. Stroking your dog or cat or giving your partner or friend a hug then not being able to do this anymore – even ‘knowing’ they are with us in spirit takes adjusting and time to heal.
I do know how this feels having lost many close to me – my best friend/partner and my very special dog. I’ve dealt with friends and family passing without warning – it’s sad and can be difficult to understand.
There are no set rules to bereavement or recovery – it’s never a black and white situation – I’d say a few shades of grey. Through my experience people will either sidestep the subject in fear of upsetting you or simply not know what to say… Others will let you know they are there to talk to day or night with a comforting shoulder to cry on.
People can react in different ways from loss. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder can be hard to spot as it can arrive months, even years later (particularly if holding in grief). PTSD can come about as anger, depression, binge drinking, risk taking behaviour and irrational actions. If a friend acts in a way that surprises or shocks you and you know they’ve had a big loss then encourage them to seek counselling. Let them know you’re there but they need to seek help.
Let your friend dealing with loss know you’re around and you understand their situation without pushing them into any kind of thoughts or behaviour they may not be ready to accept (unless they are acting in risk taking or irrational behaviour).
True friendship is unconditional – it’s based on understanding and caring, and at sensitive times, true friends will be what they are meant to be, someone who doesn’t judge, doesn’t force – who simply understands, listens and helps pick up the pieces.
Although the process of grieving is as individual as we are, most people follow some of the below stages (in no particular order) and mostly at different times. This is important with any kind of assistance you want to offer as there are no set rules and perhaps the first important factor to bear in mind.
1. Ride the roller coaster with them
When someone is initially faced with a loss, a transition of emotions is taking place. They are caught up with feelings, which come and go with roller coaster speed and can range from shock, disbelief, fear, and sadness.
Understanding this whirlwind of feelings is important and initially a sign you care by dropping by or with a phone call is a good way to allow your friend to know you’re there. This gives your friend a feeling they have a bigger circle than the one they are standing in and can step out of it when or if they feel like it.
2. Understand where they are
Don’t be surprised by any reactions your friend shows, they will be upside down emotionally and the thoughts of the right and wrong way to do things will be further from their mind. They won’t not mean to snap, or burst into tears at the slightest thing – your friend still values you but will be in a world where they hurt which can be difficult to just carry on and treat those close to them normally.
Some people go into complete shut down mode and don’t wish to speak or contact anyone. Just let them know you’re there to talk if and when they feel like it.
Try to encourage a “talking phase” – some people will really want to not do this, but others will be desperate to just go over the things they feel and have done with the person they have lost.
Understand that by your friend talking about their loss, they feel they are connecting; they are reminded of memories and times shared, which will also help ease raw in their emotions. Encourage them to write down their feelings if it helps, if they feel they can open up they will not withdraw into themselves so much and feel supported by your friendship.
Your friend may have been the life and soul of the party before their loss, and may struggle to go back into ‘good times’ mode. Respect their feelings and help them to go out for a walk, or to spend some time doing something, which will help them smile at life.
They need to feel their own lives are still important and to carry on. Each day is another move forward and if your friend can feel it’s worth it life will become easier.
5. Keep them going
Don’t expect too much, give them time, be there for the tears, give your friend little gifts (which can be a flower from a garden) – show them how they are moving forward. Your rewards will come as they slowly begin to smile more and remember you were there for them when it mattered.
6. Time to heal
Encourage counselling and a retreat or workshop to get to help the healing process. Being around people who understand and can help on a holistic level in a safe environment will help take the pain away and make healing time so much easier.
Books like ‘Your Souls Plan’ by Robert Schwartz (read excerpt) can help you and your friend understand pre-birth planning lessons (the lessons we chose before we came to earth). Everything really does happen for a reason.
Life is eternal – all we can expect from life is change and ultimately growth.
“Eventually you will come to understand that love heals everything, and love is all there is.” ~ Gary Zukav (American best selling author)
“They say that time heals all wounds, unfortunately it’s not just time. It’s what you do during the time that will allow wounds to heal. Time by itself is not enough…Treat yourself like you would your career, invest in you and the reward is priceless.” ~ Billy Lewis
Time is part of the healing process when someone is grieving. It will never change the loss, nor will anyone forget however it will become easier to accept, and this is when your true friendship can be rewarded for being there when you’re most needed. Maybe in the simplest form this is what true friendship is all about.
Do you have an experience that helped you or a friend overcome loss?