On Those We Have Lost but Who Remain in Our Hearts
If there is something for which life does not prepare us, it is death. Our hearts are used to breathing in gusts of energy, of vitality, of happy memories, and sometimes disappointment.
So, how can we accept the emptiness, the absence, the lack of company of those who no longer remain in our lives but are still so significant to us? It is something no one ever teaches us, something that almost nobody accepts as an inevitability.
Death is a void in the heart, an open wound in day to day life. It bursts in unexpectedly and without time for good-byes. In reality, it should be like a peaceful parting on a train platform. It should allow one last conversation, and one last comforting embrace.
We are sure that as we discuss this, there will be more than one absence on your mind. There is more than one space of emptiness in your soul that you long to fill every day. Is there one “right” way to accept the loss of a loved one?
The answer is no. Each one of us, within our own distinctive characteristics, benefits from certain strategies that would not be useful for others. Nevertheless, there are a few essential guidelines that we invite you to consider with us.
We only hope that they serve to help you, because remember: when someone leaves us, they never do completely. They remain alive in our memories and in our hearts.
Ways to say goodbye in your heart, ways to accept the absence
There are various types of loss. For example, when a loved one dies after a long illness, in a certain way it allows us to prepare for the goodbye. Unfortunately, there are unpredictable losses, too. These are cruel and incomprehensible and much more difficult to accept.
You left without saying good-bye, without giving me the opportunity for closure, without telling you all the things I never said out loud. But still, your memory is an inextinguishable flame that will never go out. It lights my present, and accompanies me, and envelops me…
Few experiences are like losing a loved one. It awakens within us so much emotional suffering. We feel so overwhelmed that the most common reaction is to feel paralyzed. The world insists on carrying on when, for us, everything has come to a screeching halt.
You will probably not be surprised to know that in moments of loss every dimension of our being, not only the emotional, are affected. There is physical suffering, cognitive disorientation, and even a crisis of values, especially if you follow some kind of philosophy or religion.
Death has entered our lives and, as such, we have had to accept it, and in a certain way “rebuild ourselves.” This process, as we already know, brings with it grief, that in general will last for a few months. Experiencing it and living with it is necessary. We will never forget our loved one, but we will learn to live with their absence.
Let’s take a look at the most common phases of grief:
- Denial: We cannot accept what has happened. We struggle against reality and we deny it.
- Anger: It is very common to feel mad at everyone and everything. We search for a “why,” a reason why we have lost this person. This is a normal progression of emotion, and can last a few days or weeks.
- Bargaining: This phase is essential in overcoming loss. Through the failure to grasp and understand comes a small step towards reality. We now accept talking to other people, and to ourselves. We are able to see everything a little more calmly.
- Emotional pain: Going through this phase is indispensable, cathartic, and vital. Each person will go through it in their own way. Some people will find relief in tears, others will seek out solitude to start taking steps forward, little by little… It is necessary.
- Acceptance: Through rage, through that first glimpse of reality, and through the previous emotional solace, acceptance will come, slowly and calmly.
Living through this grief and mourning is necessary to help us get through loss. He who does not accept it, he who does not learn to let go of a person and set them free, will remain paralyzed and possessed by a pain that will not let him move on with his life.
Accepting that there is no permanence, learning to let go
We could talk to you about the need to be prepared to face adversity, but in reality, it is something much simpler: accepting that our lives are not eternal, and life is full of moments that must be lived with passion. No one can live forever.
Accepting loss is not forgetting. Laughing and feeling happy does not mean we love the departed any less. It means we have made them part of our hearts, in harmony, and in peace. They form part of who we are, and are one with our thoughts and our actions.
We also know that for many people, some of these words will serve for nothing. There are unnatural losses. For example, a parent should never have to bury their child, and it is always painful to lose a significant other, a life partner that is part of our heart and that gives us life, strength, and courage.
It is not easy. Nobody warned us that life would bring these moments of pain. However, we must carry on, because this world is unrelenting. It flows on, rushing, almost without air, and requires us to keep breathing, and our hearts to keep beating.
Don’t doubt that you must carry on. For those who no longer remain with you, and for yourself. To live is to honor the person you loved, carrying them with you everyday, smiling for them, walking for them. Open your heart and allow yourself to move on, to shine for the one you lost but still love.
Images Courtesy of Catrin Welz-Stein