How To Cope With Death Without Losing Your Sanity
Copyright by Jennifer McLeod writing as jenjen0703, all rights reserved. Some photos are under CC under Share and share alike. November 28, 2011
There is one thing I have experienced more of than I ever wanted to and that is loss. This loss has come in many forms, but the most significant one has been people in my life.
The first real traumatic experience of loss in my life was the adoption of my daughter. I know that I am reuniting with her in January, after she turns 18 years old. But that does not mean giving her up did not cause me as much pain as it would have if she had passed away. To read about the birth of my daughter and my giving her up for adoption, check out Adoption: Selfless Sacrifice.
Aside from the adoption, I had never really experienced significant loss of people in my life, except for my paternal grandparents passing away when I was young. They were elderly when they passed away, so it seemed natural to me. I used to think if one of my children died that I would never be able to survive it. And at that time, I probably would not have. I did not develop better coping skills and maturity until later in my 20's, at which point I began to view death differently.
After spending several years in the AA program, I became friends with Jim and later dated him. His addiction to pain pills made it difficult to be around him, and things did not work out between us. Not long after we broke up, he committed suicide. I know the reasons why he did it, and it was not because of our breakup, but it was difficult to not feel somewhat responsible for his death. My heart shattered at the news of his death, but I made it through it without drinking, and that was a huge milestone of progress for me emotionally. Yeah, I hurt badly over Jim's death, but my life continued and so did everyone else's. Understanding how to move forward in life and feel pain at the same time was scary, yet comforting. I had recognized the situation as one I had no control over, except for what I could do for myself. At the time, I did not know the loss of Jim would benefit me in the future...
Fast forward several years to December 2009. My "foster dad" is in ICU with two collapsed lungs (I call him that as I have known his family since I was 9 and was extremely close friends with them. They were my "adopted" family, and they call me their daughter). We knew it was time for him to go, as this was the end of a debilitating illness he had struggled with for several years. I was called upon to stay with him and his wife prior to this, so I stayed by her side until it was over. I stayed by her side through the funeral process and funeral itself. I knew Ed was in Heaven, and it helped tremendously. I prayed that there would be no more major loss in the near future because I was hurting bad about Ed's death. I had never experienced death first-hand like that before. That was traumatizing for me, but an eye-opening experience.
Needless to say, one thing I learned throughout all of this is I made a mistake when I asked God not to bring any more loss into my life for awhile. I should have asked for His will in my life instead. Since Ed's death in December 2009, I have lost nine other people to death. My ex-boyfriend (and close friend) TG passed away last year (thought it was brain aneurysm, recently found out he was murdered), and his stepfather and girlfriend passed away a few months later. My good friend Kim passed away after falling and hitting her head. My exes stepfather also passed away from a heart attack. One of my best girlfriends from 15 years ago was murdered by her ex-boyfriend. My cousin passed away a few months ago from a heart attack. My ex-roommate passed away last month (we do not know why yet). My biological daughter's adoptive father passed away this year, also, after battling leukemia for years. And, I am counting my fingers as I list the deaths I have had to deal with in the last two year, and I know I am missing one person. There have been so many people I love and was close to who have passed away in the last two years that I feel either numbness or heartache. I barely had time to cope with the first death when the rest happened one after another, in sequence.
And, I bet you might be wondering how I am handling it all? Honestly, I do not know. I am handling things one day at a time. Some days are better than others. I think about the people who have passed away and which ones I know believed in God. That fact alone helped me deal with their deaths because I know where they are. They are with God, so as much as I miss them, there is no reason to mourn their deaths excessively. I mean, that is why we are here, right? To prepare for life then. We will only be on this earth for a short time, but it is what happens after that time that is so important. I am grateful for the opportunities to talk to my loved ones about God before they did pass away.
I continue to move through each day and do what I can with each day God had given to me. That is all anyone can do. I am not always successful, but I continue to try.
5 Tips to Help Cope With Death
- Consider grief counseling. If you are not coping well, see a therapist. He or she can teach you coping skills you may not know and help to put things into perspective for you.
- Find a support group. Surround yourself with others who understand what you are going through. Sharing your grief can help to cut the physical heaviness of grief significantly.
- Keep a journal. Write down your feelings. This is extremely useful for situations when you need to talk, but do not have someone immediately available.
- Do not avoid talking about your loved one. Just because your loved one is physically gone does not mean they are totally gone. Memories live on, and some memories are worth talking about because they make us smile or laugh.
- Refrain from taking personal responsibility. I know this part is difficult, but it is true. Unless we personally cause the death of someone with intent to kill them, we do not have control over other's deaths. We do not have that kind of power and should not be taking personal responsibility for that kind of loss. "Coulda, shoulda, woulda" gets us nowhere.