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Vunessuh's avatar

What should one expect the first time they ever lose a loved one?

Asked by Vunessuh (16712points) June 25th, 2011

Based on your own experiences, if someone (an adult) asked you what to expect the first time they lose a close loved one, what would you tell them? What advice would you give them for when that time comes? What experiences could you share that might help or ease the grieving process? I know everyone experiences the death of a close friend or family member differently, but what would you say to someone who is clueless as to how it feels and what to expect and wants to know for the future?

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20 Answers

CaptainHarley's avatar

The hurt is very deep and sometimes never goes away. You just learn to live with it.

lillycoyote's avatar

The first person I lost was my mom. And it’s different for everyone. And it I don’t know if you can really tell someone what to expect. The reality of it is so, well, so fucking real that no matter what someone tells you I don’t think anything can prepare you for the real thing. Like trying to explain to someone what it’s like to get beaten up as opposed to experience a beating personally. I know one thing that was different about the first one, losing my mother, is the sense, at least for me, of this is real, the universe isn’t fooling around, it’s no game. There are things about losing someone you just won’t and can’t get, I don’t think, until it happens to you. Some of those adages, those cliche’s people say when someone dies, I started to what they mean. Like “Her death has left a big whole in our lives.” I got that when my mom died. It’s hard to explain exactly, but the amount of room, of space a living person takes up in the world is huge, compared to the physical space their bodies take up. And I never understood how terribly difficult it must have been for people to lose loved ones at the World Trade Center and under similar circumstances. Not just the loss, but to not have a body recovered. Not so much because they don’t get to bury their loved one but because I’m not sure I would every completely and fully accepted the fact that my mother was dead if there hadn’t been a body. It’s just something you have trouble believe, you don’t want to believe, you expect any minute they will walk in the door, that they’re not dead, just not around at the moment. The first time is hardest, it was for me, not because the grief is any less, not that you necessarily get used to losing people, though the older you get, the more times you go through. My dad outlived almost everyone he ever loved or cared about and I don’t think he ever got used to it. I think it wore him down, to be the survivor. I think he got very tired of it and I think the last two losses, his favorite brother-in-law and his favorite cat are the things that put him over the edge and took away his will to go on. I could probably go on and on but I’ll stop here.

I apologize for any mistakes in this Great Wall of text and hope it makes sense. I could tweak it and write forever but then it won’t get posted.

creative1's avatar

Sometimes you will miss the person for no apparent reason except for something may have happened that may have reminded you of them or you thought they would have enjoyed. I don’t think I ever will stop missing or loving the people whom have passed in my life. I have just learned to live my life in a way that I am able to cope and get along without them.

I don’t know if I am the best person for this I have delt with a lot of death in my life starting a young age and I don’t think I always delt with it in the best ways but I have learned that you do need to always go through the grieving processing. Its when you try to bury the feelings that they will eat at you and if you don’t eventually grieve your loss it will cause problems in your life.

InTheZone's avatar

It helps me to recall what they did for me that made my life more meaningful, and what I might have done for them to make their lives better. The ways we were able to express our love to one another. I try to remember the details of these moments as vividly as I can, and somehow this makes me feel as if they are still here.

This puts a more positive spin on my thoughts about them, which is especially useful when I’m blue or really feeling the loss.

flutherother's avatar

I agree with what @lillycoyote said, you can’t prepare yourself for it even if the person is old and you know it is coming it is still a great shock when it happens. It surprises you, shocks you, and numbs you. You think this can’t be true, but it is. I found I got some relief by reminiscing about the person with others who knew them and children are a good antidote to any negative feelings. The emotions do fade gradually with time.

MilkyWay's avatar

You might not feel the pain straight away. You might not even be shocked by the death. You might go numb inside, unable to feel anything. But the pain will come later on guaranteed.
But time is a great healer. It is the one that brings you pain and wounds you, but it is also the one to nurture the wound and heal it again.

Ladymia69's avatar

It depends on who it is. I loved my grandmother dearly and lived with her for the last 2 years of her life. When she died, I felt deep sorrow. But when my father went to sleep and had a heart attack that killed his brain, I was in agony. I felt such regret for him (you would have to know my mother to understand). I have never been the same. I feel like a piece of me died with him. And with my grandma. It’s something I can’t get back.

Ladymia69's avatar

Be gentle with yourself, and don’t let anyone else impinge on your grieving process. It is your own, and it is different for everyone.

stardust's avatar

It’s impossible to prepare oneself for such deep hurt. I think @jailbait made a good point about the initial numbness. For me, I suppressed the hurt for a couple of years and when it came, it was very painful. I agree that the grieving process is unique to the person and the most important thing is to allow yourself to grieve in your own way. Be gentle with yourself and give yourself time. It has helped me to remember funny moments and share them with family. Talking to your loved one and asking them to be with you for a little while can be helpful. It has been for me at least.

incendiary_dan's avatar

I’d tell them not to be surprised if they feel like crying around holidays and special occasions, when they realize they can’t share that with the loved one.

Bellatrix's avatar

Based on your own experiences, if someone (an adult) asked you what to expect the first time they lose a close loved one, what would you tell them?

That the pain of grief is like nothing else and nobody can say how they will react until they go through it.

What advice would you give them for when that time comes?

To allow themselves to grieve. You can’t avoid it. It will happen even if you try to suppress it. Let the pain out and give yourself time.

What experiences could you share that might help or ease the grieving process?

To listen to their own inner voice. Do what feels right for them. Don’t worry about what other people think. I gave a friend who lost her son suddenly a journal. She said it helped to be able to write down her feelings as she worked through her grief and to say things she didn’t feel she could say to others.

I know everyone experiences the death of a close friend or family member differently, but what would you say to someone who is clueless as to how it feels and what to expect and wants to know for the future?

I think grief is a little like childbirth. Every experience is different. I wouldn’t want to say to someone “this is what it will be like for you” because I don’t know how it would be for someone else. For me, it was the most painful thing I have ever experienced and the loss of my father still hurts. I don’t think you ever fully get over losing a person you love as you love a parent or child or a partner. All you can do is take it a day at a time, keep putting one foot in front of the other, cry when you need to and be kind to yourself and trust that in time, the pain lessens and becomes manageable. There will probably be moments from that point on when that pain comes back. When you miss that person acutely. As has been said many times though here… this too will pass (or at least it will become bearable).

Dutchess_III's avatar

My parents. My dad was first. I was shocked at the void that opened up in front of me at the moment I got the news. When I got the news about my mom a few years later, I was ready for that void but….it was still….shocking. It’s like, there is nothing between you and eternity any more. Those moments are….unexplainable.

YARNLADY's avatar

I can only echo the first answer.

P.S. I have never understood (felt) the so-called stages of grief.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

The only advice I could offer is to find someone compassionate to talk to while going through these stages, be it a family member, friend or therapist. The first year can be the hardest. It is common to reach for the phone to call a loved one no longer living, and then it is like having a shock to the heart.

Holidays, birthdays and anniversaries are also prone to be a difficult time. What has helped our family member after the death of two loved ones is to make subtle changes to the family traditions, as well as taking on their former roles.

@YARNLADY If you are referring to Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’s five stages of grief (Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance), they are based upon studies of people dying and not their loved ones’ emotions. This may explain why you do not understand it.

Kayak8's avatar

The first four to five days can be pretty much a blur of the numbs—just long enough to get you through the funeral and all the people offering condolences. Many of these condolences will strike you as hollow, empty or surprisingly helpful and meaningful. You will find support from the places you least expect it and may not find it where you anticipate that you will. The worst of the reality of it sets in at about the two week mark. Just about the time that people forget to call, there are no more casseroles, and when most people around you not feeling the loss will have moved on to the next shiny thing. I always make a point of calling the bereaved about the two week mark. Many friends don’t want to bring up the loved one for fear of stirring up the loss when, for the bereaved, the loved one is all that they want to talk about.

For some, the hardest reality is not being able to call up the sound of the person’s voice in their heads anymore. With videotape more common on the last generation, the voice is there, but people are trapped in the few fragile frames you have them.

For most people, the first year is tough. The first holidays, birthdays, mother’s/father’s days without the person. It can be very difficult to make changes (e.g., moving an empty chair at the dinner table so you don’t have to stare at it three times a day) for fear of dishonoring the deceased. Different family members will each process their own personal loss in their own way and the various ways can sometimes collide.

Active bereavement is a time-limited process for most people (this is why bereavement groups are not open ended). Grief, on the other hand, can be as different as the people experiencing it.

YARNLADY's avatar

@Pied_Pfeffer Ah, yes, that might be it.

Aster's avatar

All of the people who I know who have died I believe welcomed it. If they could have done so at the time. I mean, if they only knew what Joy awaited them compared with the Hell their lives had become they would have been relieved. Just as my kids will be relieved, I hope, when I kick the bucket. So it’s hard for me to be devastated knowing the relief they felt and the happiness they’re hopefully experiencing now. But the day after mom died I woke up with tears in my eyes. I’ve never had that happen in my life. And that Christmas I had no tree. Then I found out that others didn’t want one either. It just didn’t matter. It’s a faith thing; I think all of them are happy now and were miserable before. The living mourn and suffer; the dead are happy .

GracieT's avatar

I remember that when I was first told that my mother had died, I was still in the hospital. Because I was there, they were prepared and when they told me I was surrounded by people that were prepared to help me. Then my life started to return to the way it was before, but it will never be exactly the way it used to be. When I was able to go back to school to finish. I remember thinking returning to my dorm one day when it started to rain. The day was grey, gloomy, and cold. I thought that I was cold, I was tired, and I just wanted my mommy. It will get easier. I echo things that other people have said before. Time will make it easier to handle the loss. The pain of grief will lessen. It will always be there, but time will help to make it not as obvious, not all consuming.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Ah @GracieT…it’s got to be so much harder when you’re young. ((( )))) Honey….

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