Strategies For Coping With Bereavement On Special Occasions [blog post]
On the second anniversary that my nan passed away I share personal strategies for coping with bereavement. Share memories about when they were alive, cry when you need to, talk to people, celebrate loved ones in your own way, and don’t let anyone tell you how to feel.
Like many West Indians, my nan moved to England in the Windrush era, in the 1950s for a better life. She worked in a factory, then as a nurse, and a foster carer. In 2012 she survived a heart attack, and she lived life, she studied I.T, went to painting class, and every church event going.
10 October 2017 marks two years since my nan passed away. I called my nan whilst she was in the hospital, she updated me on church, her visitors that day, and how she was feeling. Before ending the call, I told her I loved her. She replied “I know you do my granddaughter, and I love you.” I received a phone call, three hours later, to say she was gone. I’m still heartbroken.
When you love someone, there is never a good time to say goodbye
After my nan died, I lost my friend and three other family members the following year. People often ask how I cope with so many bereavements in such a short space of time. At times I didn’t think I was coping but for the most part, there were people relying on me to show up. It took a while but my mindset had to change to a growth mindset. Too often my mindset was fixed on the limitations of what I thought I could not do, on my loss and my constant unhappiness, instead of what I need to do to get to achieve my goals. So here are some strategies for coping with bereavement.
Share memories about when they were alive
On one of my many leaving London lunches this year, I was sharing a memory with my friend and cousin about my nan. This was the first time, that I didn’t focus on the fact that she was not coming back. I shared my story because the context was relevant. I didn’t feel overwhelmed or need to run off and cry, I just enjoyed reminiscing. It is nice to focus on what you had with the person you’ve lost.
My nan has the most contagious belly laugh. She also loved the soaps. If I dared to call her outside of the advert breaks, I wouldn’t get her full attention. During our phone calls I would get the low down on all of soaps, she would predict the story lines and tell me that she should direct them.
When I would take selfies with my nan, she’d say “me no wan go pon no “Whats-dat” or no “book-Face” (translation: I don’t want to go on WhatsApp or Facebook). She never mentioned a blog though 🙂
Remember your loved ones and pass on the memories. In Steve Harvey’s book Jump, he said he wants to leave a legacy so that his great-grandchildren know his name. I choose to live my life with purpose so that my great-grandchildren will know mine, as I did my elders who I never got to meet.
Let emotions out when you need to
My mom decided on the entrance song to my other nan’s funeral, the most beautiful song, fit for the queen of my heart. I couldn’t listen to it again after that day.
One day, whilst cooking, the song came on my iTunes. I forgot I even had it on my laptop. I froze, my mind wanted to skip the track but my feet wouldn’t move. When the song started to play, I felt like the ground erupted. I was back to the 28 April 2016, the day my family and I laid her to rest. The tears consumed all of the energy in me, but I needed the release. Once it was out, I was good again. From then, I never ignored my feelings. When you need to, let it out, don’t hold onto the pain because it’s momentary. It’s okay to be sad, it’s okay to think about them, and it’s okay to be emotional.
Talk to people
When you lose someone, relationships are important. Whether you talk about your loved one, how you are feeling, or just talk about something that isn’t related to your loss. Talk to people. One of my friend’s who helped in my heeling process, didn’t know what I was going through at the time, however she’d say “if you ever want to go for a Prosecco, let me know.” The distraction, is often what I needed.
I also decided to talk to a number of professionals because they helped me to find the answers to my heeling. I saw a therapist which I accessed via work, and she really helped me to internalise my emotions. Most employers have an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP), which allows staff to access resources including counselling, normally free of charge. I also used my local Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT), a self refer counselling service run by the NHS in England.
Celebrate them in your own way
Anniversaries are extremely hard. In my previous post Happy Birthday in Heaven, I wrote about grieving the loss of my nan on her birthday and reminiscing of the good times. When you love someone, there is never a good time to say goodbye. This year, as I am in Nevis, I can’t go to the cemetery with my family and sit on my nan’s bench because she is buried in England. Instead, I will take the time out to reflect on how much of a loud, colourful and beautiful soul she was.
Don’t let anyone tell you how to feel
Lastly, there is no ‘bereavement handbook’. Your feelings and emotions will change all of the time, and you will go through many waves of emotions (read this article: When Asked for Advice on How to Deal with Grief, This Old Man Gave the Most Incredible Reply). It doesn’t get easier by a certain point, over time you simply learn to manage your pain. I know my loved ones were proud of what I achieved whilst they were here. I continue to live with purpose, so that I make them proud, as their spirit lives on within me.
Don’t allow anyone to tell you how to feel about losing someone. My advice for coping is to share memories about when they were alive and not focus on their death. Cry when you need to let it out, rather than bottling it in, you need a release sometimes. Talk to people when you feel low, even if it is not about how you are feeling. Sometimes you need a distraction. Celebrate loved ones in your own special way. Do something that means something to you are your connection with the person you have lost. Finally, don’t let anyone tell you how to feel about your grief. It is your emotions, you own them.
I have a task for you. Write a list of all of the things your loved ones were proud of, when they were alive. If you want to share them, email me on email@example.com.
Related: Happy Birthday in Heaven
Bloggers who discuss bereavement:
Tez in her blog Noted for Her writes about losing a parent at a young age and promotes self-love, motivation and lifestyle. AKIRA-KAY who is a fashionista, who has experience with young people and children in foster care, also writes about the impact of losing another mother and how she grew as a woman, as a result.
The following support I have used:
- Talking to people – this person doesn’t need to experience what you are going through.
- Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) – most employers have a programme for staff to access assistance including counselling.
- Cruse Bereavement Care – a national charity for bereaved people in the U.K.
- IAPT – most local authorities in the U.K. have an Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) service which allow residents to self refer online or via telephone. Google IAPT and name of your local authority.
Do you have any tips for coping or organisations that support with bereavement, please leave a comment below?
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