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How to Grieve: Moving on After a Loved One Dies

Updated on December 5, 2015

Today is a sad day. I think it’s natural for local tragedies to have an effect on our emotional condition, but I have to admit that if I don’t know the person, I don’t usually have an immediate connection to those emotions. As though not knowing them makes a tragedy less sad.

Last night, a mother and her three young children were involved in a car accident. Two children died and another is in critical condition. As I read through the article and watched my Facebook feed fill up with condolences, prayers, and funding suggestions to ease the burden on the family, I lost it.

I don’t have any children but my husband and I are actively trying to conceive. And now I feel torn inside, as though a part of me was injured by this loss to a local family. It’s devastating, heartbreaking, and ultimately confusing. And I have no connection to the family, other than that in the moment I was reading about the tragedy, I felt overcome with sympathy and struck by the pain of what they now must go through to put their lives back together. How can they ever move forward knowing half of their family is gone forever?

I’m not a religious person and haven’t been to church since I was eight when my pastor said that we can never fully repent for our sins. Does that mean we’ll never go to Heaven? Does that mean that prayer doesn’t actually provide any aid? Or does that mean that prayer and religion have power to only those who believe? I don’t know. I have no answer for that other than that I said a little prayer today because I needed that moment of spirituality.

But how do we deal with the grief that we feel? Grief is an emotion that hits everyone, either internally (through the death of a loved one) or externally (through tragedy on a local or national level). It’s an emotion that is never addressed in school and it is an emotion that comes with no genuine foundation for how to proceed.

Everyone says that 1) it will get easier with time, 2) you’ll find new ways to remember the person, and 3) eventually you will move on with your life. That person will never go away, they say; because that person will always be in your heart and memories.

And these sayings are absolutely true. My father died two years ago August 29th and I’m not over his death, but I’m managing. I’m not even sure I’ve dealt with his death in my mind because I don’t think I’m at that point where memories of him don’t make me sad. At the time, I refused to go to counseling because I was too broken, too raw to think I could handle opening up about my emotions and then time just passed. But now, I don’t know. Perhaps counseling; or perhaps talking about the emotions of grief is an appropriate way to proceed.

Today I’m thinking about the family that lost two young children in a terrible accident. I cannot put into words the pain they’re dealing with, and I want to express condolences in a manner that helps raise awareness on how people deal with grief. We’re human. It will always be hard. There is no solution to ease the pain or move forward with your life. There is only the pain of the loss and the slow recovery as that pain transitions into a memory.

At this point it’s a cliché to say that we must, as individuals, find the strength to carry on. We can connect with others and address the sadness that we feel, but in the end, we must carry on with the strength in our own hearts. We can help each other through the process, though. To provide a shoulder to cry on or a comforting gesture. We have to remember that we are in this together, whatever the crisis, because tragedy touches everyone.

I want to end this by saying that grief is a painful and powerful emotion and I wish there was a step-by-step formula for getting through the hardest times. But there isn't. There is only that pain and what we choose to do with it as we try to piece our lives back together.

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