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Last week a reader named Mike mentioned that he was having a hard time dealing with the sudden passing of his father. I was very humbled by the responses from our other readers who gave advice on how to deal with the grieving process. The comments were so wonderful and heartfelt that I thought they would be nice to share with everyone. So here they are. I have edited a few of them just to add detail or bring consistency to the overall post.
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1. Embrace the sorrow. Sorrow is not the opposite of happiness. Sorrow can be called the “beautiful sadness” when the feeling comes from a mixture of great appreciation and extreme longing for the loved one who has passed. It takes a human being a while to adjust to major changes in the world, such as the disappearance of a major pillar of our lives. – YB
2. Do something positive in your father’s name. You could start a charity or a scholarship fund. Make a donation. Plant a tree or something else that you can watch grow. This can help to ease the sadness back into joy. – Joy W.
3. Remember what your father taught you. You can ease the grieving process by remembering what your Father meant to you when he was here, what he taught you and how much he loved you. Time will do the rest. One day you will just remember his good years and be grateful. I lost mine too tragically and needlessly. Now I remember how much he loved and was pleased with me. Talk about him. Even talk TO him. – Miranda
4. Accept the pain. You can accept the pain and give yourself time to heal, mentally and physically, and understand you need time. We all get upset and lose people we love in ways that were unexpected. It’s ok to be angry and hurt. Validating that your feelings are ok and giving yourself the time to deal with it is key. Some people try to put on a face so others don’t see their pain. That just drags on the pain. Acknowledge it, face it, deal with it and then you can move on. Focus on all of the happy times you had with your dad. Celebrate his life after you mourn his death. – Christina
5. Don’t put a timer on the pain. Mike, that is a hard one to bear. I am sorry for your loss. Losing a parent tragically and suddenly throws you for a loop. I lost my mother unexpectedly. One day she was here, the next gone. My father lived almost 20 years without, when he suddenly took a turn and was rushed to the hospital and died within hours. Just last year, my brother died of cancer. I feel robbed. I can only tell you that you must deal with your grief first and don’t put a timer on it. Some of us spring back easier than others. Eventually, you’ll allow yourself to smile again, laugh and remember sweet, happier times with you father. The cutting-to-the-heart sadness will always be there, but it will soften over time. – Becki
6. Grow from the Pain. Mike, first I’m sorry to hear of your profound loss. With an event like that, just staying with those difficult feelings when you can and taking time out for self-care and family support is a huge achievement. Courageously experiencing our felt sense of grief is an enormously powerful growth experience, although we wouldn’t wish it on anyone else. Kahlil Gibran wrote “Pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding” and I have come to feel the truth of that. I think a better word than “happy” for a truly centered and healthy person is “joyful” – we can be in contact with the joy and mystery of life even when we aren’t happy, even when grief and loss take center stage in our personal experience. Being present with our experience as much as we can reminds us of our larger belonging, our timeless self. – Chris
7. Focus on the good things. Accept that your father is in the best place and for you to focus on things good in your life no matter how small. Focusing on the things you can change will put you in a better state of mind. – Samantha
8. Connect meaningfully with others. Mike, very sorry about your loss. No happy successful person is happy all the time – otherwise, he is a phony. Finding the right approach to deal with tragedy is a very personal thing… You will find yours, I am sure. Pain in the short run is unavoidable, and that’s ok. The goal is to not let the pain break you in the long run. For me (and that’s the personal part which may not work for you), what worked was an intense focus on the present day, and attempting to connect with others meaningfully – also to find outlets to express my frustration and anger – also to spend time in nature – and finally to forget all the silly talk about how every experience can be positive and instead realize that life is a school for the spirit, and not every lesson is pleasant… Take care, and kudos for your journey. – Stan
9. Believe that someone is in control. Any loss like this is not easy…I lost my Dad about 7 years ago. But contentment/happiness is not the same as no trouble come your way. Perhaps most important is a belief that God is in control, no matter what. – Christoph
10. Keep the memories. It’s very difficult to do. Over time you have to let go of the loss and keep the memories of the time together. I’ve lost both of my parents, and though their loss makes me sad, the memories of the times we did have together remain and make me happy. I am able to share the memories of my parents with my children, and that in its self brings me happiness too. You will find it, it just takes time. – Dave
11. One day at a time. You have to handle it the same way sad and broke people do, one day at a time. Only time will heal the wound. – Rich
12. Pain is proportional to the amount you loved. Dear Mike, I don’t know you but I’m sorry for your loss – I struggle with bereavements and accepting the loss of anyone close to me. Always remember that your pain is only ever equal to how much you loved – this is a gift in life, and something to be cherished. Good luck and I hope this thought brings you some comfort. – CF
13. Believe that everything happens for a reason. I, too, lost my Dad tragically. It wasn’t sudden… he diminished over 10 years with Alzheimer’s, and it was excruciating to watch my friend and mentor waste away to oblivion. The loss is always with me, but I believe the process of grief has strengthened my resolve to live my life fully and to take things “one day at a time,” I believe that prayer is answered when we welcome everything, even the crap that life throws our way. Be strong, be happy, and be aware that everything really does happen for a reason. – Tanya
I just want to add that everyone grieves differently and no one can fully understand all aspects of an individuals suffering. At some point we do have to find a place for our sorrow. If it stays at the front of our thoughts it will start to define us. It will direct all of our actions and eventually consume us. When the time feels right, do not get rid of the sorrow. Put it in a special place in your heart so that you can always remember the good times, the love, and the appreciation you have for them and the life they lived.
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