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How To Cope With Death Without Losing Your Sanity

Updated on January 25, 2012

Copyright by Jennifer McLeod writing as jenjen0703, all rights reserved. Some photos are under CC under Share and share alike. November 28, 2011


Understanding Loss

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...


More Loss...

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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.


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    • JenJen0703 profile image

      Jennifer McLeod 6 years ago from Battle Creek, Michigan

      It is a tough subject to write about, and as I was working on it, I then had to attend my cousin's funeral. Seriously? And I can think of at least 3 more that I expect in the next couple years (not including my grandparents). One way I do look at death is based on whether or not the deceased believed in God. If you are a believer and pass away, your death should be celebrated. I can't wait to see this Heaven that is waiting!!!

    • MikeSyrSutton profile image

      MikeSyrSutton 6 years ago from An uncharted galaxy

      This was a great hub on a tough subject to write about!

    • Just History profile image

      Just History 6 years ago from England

      I am so sorry, it must be very hard to bear. For some of your friends it was their time to go- for others maybe not, but it does not make it any easier for those that are left behind

    • Cheryl J. profile image

      Cheryl J. 6 years ago from Houston, TX

      This is a very inspiring and encouraging hub. I am truly blessed with your special encouragement and insight about losing a love one. You are a super strong person. Great hub.

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 6 years ago from New York

      What a tremendous amount of sharing in this hub. It is said God won't give us more than we can handle but there are times we feel His idea of what we can handle and our idea are worlds apart. You have managed well through so much.

      May God give you...

      For every storm, a rainbow,

      For every tear, a smile,

      For every care, a promise,

      And a blessing in each trial.

      For every problem life sends,

      A faithful friend to share,

      For every sigh, a sweet song,

      And an answer for each prayer. (An Irish Blessing)

      Voted up.

    • profile image

      Sueswan 6 years ago

      Hi Jen

      "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."

      Memories keep loved ones alive in our hearts.

      Voted up and awesome.

      Have a good evening.

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 6 years ago from Florida

      Very have certainly had your share of heartache and grief. I am SO sorry for all your losses.

    • tirelesstraveler profile image

      Judy Specht 6 years ago from California

      Thank you for writing about your feelings. Losing so many in a short time takes so much out of you. You are so correct about the only way thru is one day at a time.

      Laps=love and prayer(s)

      We do what looks like laps in life, but God always loves us and prays for us.

    • Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

      Gypsy Rose Lee 6 years ago from Riga, Latvia

      The parting of a person we know and love can be very painful especially when it is unexpected. However I will say one of the toughest experiences is having two funerals for one person. My dad died in America when I was 10 years old and when my mom and I came to Latvia in 1994 my dad's wish had been to take along his urn and rebury him in Ranka in the country not far from the place he was born. Now I had to go through a second funeral for my dad and that was real tough.

    • kimh039 profile image

      Kim Harris 6 years ago

      Hi JenJen0703. So much Grief and loss...and the closer we allow ourselves to get to people the more grief we have. The only way through it is a day at a time and putting one foot in front of the other. definitely, the only sober way through it:) congrats on that. ADAT

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 6 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      JenJen....A beautiful story and heartwarming message. We are like-spirits, my friend. I've dealt with loss and sadness far too often, but like you, have found my way through, to eventual inner peace. We keep our loved ones alive in our hearts and minds....their memory is a precious gift we will always treasure. Up & awesome.