Dealing with death of a loved one
Dealing with death of a loved one is difficult. Many people mean well but their actions are not always helpful. Death isn’t something we want to talk about however it is part of life. For some they experience it in their childhood while others reach the age of 40 before they experience death in their immediate circle for the first time.
In this piece I will share with you my experiences and how I dealt with it, the mistakes I made and the things that worked for me. I am not a Psychologist or Psychiatrist or any other Health Professional nor do I portray to have any Professional background in this field.
Introduction to my story of death of a loved one
My first time when I had to face the lost of a loved one was at the tender age of 5 years when my Father died in a motorcar accident. My Grandmother passed away when I was 16 years. Three of my children didn’t experience life due to unexpected miscarriages. My husband died when I was 28 years old. So I have somewhat experience in this unfortunate field.
Children dealing with death of a Parent
When my Father passed away I was only 5 years old and the youngest – until 7 months later when my little sister was born and I became the middle child. My Father died in August and 5 months later I started school. In the 1970’s there were no Preschools in South Africa so you started school right from your Parents protection. Before my Father’s death, I didn’t worry about a thing – my Parents took care of everything – my childhood up and until 5 years was happy and carefree. After my Father passed things changed considerably.
The graveyard became a place we visited several times a week and death became a reality.
The one thing that scared me most was that if my Mother also died, we would be orphans. That thought plagued me every day and became a nightly nightmare. I constantly lived in fear because of it. My Mother is still alive at the age of 85 and I thank God for His Grace. Me, my Mother and sister were a close knit circle and a bit isolated. In those days there were few single parent families so we were not considered a complete family – as one Pastor once told us. During my childhood I developed a masked response of untouchability. I pretended to always be happy – not showing my true feelings. Hiding behind an invisible mask. It worked for me until later on in my life when I had to unmask in order to find the true Me.
The death of an unborn child
My first miscarriage happened when I was 7 ½ months pregnant. I was 21 years old. Everything went well with the pregnancy until a Saturday night when I was in my final trimester. I felt a hard kick in my stomach and then the bleeding started. When I arrived at the Maternity hospital the Doctor gave me the news that he couldn’t find a heart beat. He gave me something and I went into labor. Twelve long hours later my stillborn baby boy was shown to me for a brief moment before they took him away. After the birth I was moved into a single room where I could hear other babies cry and happy families.
Five days later I was discharged and had to walk out of the Maternity Hospital without a baby.
The experience left me depressed. I wondered if I would ever experience the joy of children. Then less than a year later, I became pregnant again – great joy and once again a boy. Unfortunately he also miscarried at 5 months old. My third miscarriage was at 4 months (also a boy). By then I gave up hope of ever having children- until a miracle happened that also saw me walking out of the hospital with a living healthy baby in my arms.
Dealing with the death of a spouse and becoming a single parent
Twenty three years after the death of my Father, my husband (only 30 years old) also passed away in an accident. So at 28 years old I became a single parent with 2 children aged 5 and 3 years old. I now walked in the footsteps of my Mother with the advantage or disadvantage of knowing the difficulty of a child grieving the death of a Parent and the fear that comes with it.
I thought that it would be easier because I had experience with it – wrong.
It was tough becoming a single parent at such a young age, grieving my husband while also taking care of the physical and emotional needs of two frightful children. Giving up was never an option so my main concern was my children so I did everything in my power to make sure they get the healing they needed while neglecting myself, my needs and feelings. I paid a high price for not taking care of myself later on in life.
My tips to dealing with the death of a loved one
- Take care of yourself – your feelings, grief – take time for yourself. You cannot take care of others until you take care of you.
- Do not try to rush your grieving process. Take all the time you need.
- Do not get stuck in a rut – keep on working on yourself and keep track of your progress
- Talk to others who also experienced the same – many times you will find ways that worked for them that can also be beneficial to you.
- Feel your feelings – the pain, the sorrow, the fear – masking up do not work – it only delays your healing
- When dealing with a grieving child – support and love them but also be careful for manipulation – unfortunately this also happens.
- Learn new things – a hobby, walking group or anything else but keep moving forward.
- Keep your loved one’s memory alive and celebrate his or her life. Do not focus on the day the person died. He or she lived a life worth of celebrating.