There have never been truer words spoken than the well-known saying, “You never know what it’s like until it happens to you.”
Before my husband Brian became terminally ill with mesothelioma, I assumed grief was a period of sadness following the death of a loved one.
I soon discovered there is a lot more to grief than sadness, and the grieving process can begin long before a loved one actually dies.
Grief, otherwise known as bereavement or mourning, is the process of accepting and coming to terms with loss. It is particularly relevant to the emotions we experience because of death, but anticipatory grief occurs when we live with the expectation of a loss.
It is important to understand the stages of the grieving process and that no two people will experience grief in the exact same way.
Learning to Live with Grief
Anyone who has lost a loved one will tell you there is no “getting over” grief.
How could there be? Death does not put an end to the love you have for someone or the number of times you will miss their presence. But life must go on, and in our own way and in our own time, we learn to live with our grief.
Below are some of the things that helped me on my grieving journey.
Acknowledging My Emotions
One of the things I found most helpful during my grieving journey was writing my feelings down into a daily journal.
Acknowledging my fear, anger, helplessness and despair in this way brought me such relief. I came to think of my journal as my own personal counselor, available to me whenever I needed it.
Affirmations are simple, powerful sentences you can put together to help control your thoughts and focus on things you have done — or wish to do — in a positive way.
The four affirmations I made and repeated to myself each day were:
- I will make each day as peaceful and happy as I can.
- I will take care of my body and mind and believe I have plenty of reasons for living.
- I will survive and carry on.
- I will embrace life and live it to the fullest for the remainder of my days.
Giving Myself Permission to Heal
For days, weeks and months after Brian died, I would deliberately evoke memories of him by pouring over old photos and videos of us, knowing they would make me cry.
One day I came to realize I was causing myself unnecessary pain.
Instinctively I knew memories — some happy, some sad — would come to mind often and that many would bring me to tears.
By letting them come naturally, I would find some relief. Giving myself permission to heal in this way greatly improved my quality of my life.
Living in Brian’s Memory
It’s been 17 years since Brian died. I’m now remarried to a wonderful man who also lost his spouse to cancer.
I am happy and at peace with my life. Regardless, there is a part of me that still longs for Brian and the life we shared.
After 37 years by his side, he shaped me into the person I am today. I continue to do and say many of the things we did together, in his memory.
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