Tips for dealing with the death of a loved one

What a start to 2021

Well 2021 has most certainly been one that has been challenging for me so far - and it is only the 8th of February!!! I have been very quiet in all aspects of business life and I thought a little blog would help to explain and as always, there are some tips to help you if you are going through a similar situation.

If you are on my mailing list (if you are not, you should be ;-) as you get lots of exciting info and offers), you will have heard the sad news that we had in January. Not only did we lose my very dear Nanny at the start of the month, but we also lost our brother in law at the end of the month.

Both of these situations are really hard to deal with under normal circumstances, but with Covid and all of the restrictions in place, it made it even harder.

I really feel for everyone who has been going through any loss at the moment as it is so hard. You all know me as the person that is strong and so positive, but even I have struggled some what over the last 4 weeks.

Why has it been so hard?

Well I think that the reason that people are all finding the loss of a loved one so hard at the moment is because they have been denied so much with them.

Due to the fact that we are all in lockdown again, we hadn’t seen our Nanny personally from May 2020. Nanny was 90 and we were protecting her. My husband was out working and the boys were out as well. We couldn’t risk being in person with them, and bringing something to them. We couldn’t live with ourselves if that had happened.

Saying goodbye

Most people haven’t been able to say their “goodbyes”, whether this is before the passing or after, at a wake or family gathering.

I do feel that saying goodbye is definitely part of the grieving process and maybe even the start of the grieving process, and one that should definitely be done. Where I live, having a wake is a huge part of the process and it is so difficult that we couldn’t have one.

Both Nanny and our brother in law were amazing people in the community and known by so many people, and I feel sad that no-one got to have the opportunity to attend a wake for either of them.

It would have been so lovely to have seen so many people that knew them and heard lots of stories and memories that people had of them. They both deserved to have huge wakes but unfortunately that didn’t happen. All that we can be thankful for is the fact that we all have amazing memories and will cherish them forever.

The funeral

To only have 25 close family members at funerals at the moment is so hard. Everyone deserves a great send off and I feel that so many have been denied that. To be able to celebrate life at a time that is so hard, again is so important. To be surrounded by loved ones and to be able to hug them without fear is something that we should be able to do and to then not be able to be together after the funeral is so hard.

When families go through something like this it is so important to be surrounded by loved ones. The family and friend circle is what keeps people going in difficult times. As a result of the current situation and restrictions, many are missing out on this. We had our “bubble” and thankfully we were able to be with a very small number of our family after Nanny’s funeral. It was lovely to raise a wee toast to Nanny and to remember all of our stories about her.

The weeks after

This is certainly strange for anyone going through this. It is so hard not to go and see my Granda. As much as we want to, we still are protecting him as we are still in lock down. Roll on the better weather so we can go and see him and be outside.

For sorting things out afterwards as well it has been so hard for people to do. It is like the world is in “pause” mode. Nothing that you want to do naturally at a time like this can be done, so you just have to put it off until a later date. Will this help with grieving or will it prolong it? Who knows at this stage.

I know for us it will be very strange going back to Nanny and Granda’s house. It will be so strange to go in and not see Nanny sitting in her chair, doing her crosswords or knitting teddies for charity. It will be weird for the kids too as Nanny always had her “sweet shop” open and always spoiled them with treats when we went to see her. How will I feel when this happens, well we will just have to wait and see.

So with all these emotions running riot in these very strange times, what is my advice to you if you are going through the same thing?

1 It is OK to be angry at the moment.

Anger is part of the grieving process. The key with anger is to acknowledge it, express it and then move on from it.

Yes there were lots of things that I was angry about in the last month, but I can not change them. By holding on to that anger, it is only hurting me. I remember someone explaining holding onto anger as holding onto a burning coal. The heat from the coal is causing heat (inflammation) in your body which can lead to illness the longer that you hold onto it. The only person that hurts when you hold onto that anger (the coal) is yourself. By releasing the anger, you can get on with the healing process.

2 Acceptance of the situation as it is.

We can’t change the current situation, as much as we would love to, so there is no point is stressing over it. Yes it would have been lovely to have a huge massive celebration of Nanny and Colm’s life, but unfortunately we couldn’t.

Does it mean that they meant anything less to us? Certainly not!! The outpouring of love on any social media post about them was phenomenal. I guess that is the way that we got to celebrate their lives and the great thing is each year we will be reminded of the love that was given.

3 Have a power cry.

This is something that I do when I feel the emotions getting too much for me. I acknowledge the emotions are there and then I let them go. Standing in a hot shower, with peace and quiet is actually a great place to have a power cry.

The significance of the water cleansing and taking away that emotion certainly helps. Have that cry, let it out and then get on with things.

4 Never forget.

I think one of the biggest fears when someone close to you passes away is that you will forget things about them. You will always have great memories of your loved ones. They are locked in there and you won’t forget them. The more you talk and reminisce about them, the easier it will be to recall them.

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We have always had a thing called “GGS - Granny Gladys Syndrome” that we always joke about. It was when anyone would do something that Nanny would have done or said. We still use that phrase, and I guess we always will and it has been so funny over the last few weeks when we have done something and someone has went “ohhhh GGS”. Chat about the things that make you smile and remember the good times.

5 Talk to your younger children openly.

This is the first time that our younger children have ever had to experience death and to experience 2 close family members dying in the space of a month has been quite a shock to our youngest.

He is only 12 and we have been very open with him and made it really easy for him to talk to us about death. He has never had sleep issues before and after both, he was lying awake in bed late at night and even sneaking into our bed. We let this happen and have had lots of little conversations with him. He is back sleeping again with no issues.

It is ok for them to also see you sad and crying as it will also show them that it is ok to cry and let your emotions out. When our youngest asked why I was so sad, I just explained that I was sad that I wasn’t going to be able to see Nanny for a long time and sad for Granda, and he accepted that.

We also recognised that there was a bit of a “shorter temper” at the end of the month which was so not like him so when I thought about it, it certainly related back to the fact that he was trying to deal with, and process what had happened. Again, we had a chat and the outbursts went away.

Children are so aware of what is going on around them and they will take their cues from you. Our goal was to not make death feel like a big deal and that it was part of nature and something that you shouldn’t be afraid of.

7 Be at the other end of the phone.

If you know of someone who has lost someone recently, I would highly recommend that you pick up the phone and call them, or answer the phone when they call you. Due to the fact that we are all so isolated at the moment, this may be the only form of contact that they might have.

They need to chat and if all you do is just listen, it will be a major help to them. They may not want to be seen on a zoom call but they might be aching for a chat. Be the one that lifts the phone, they will really appreciate it.

8 Don't find comfort in food and drink

When we are trying to deal with difficult emotions, it is very easy to comfort ourselves with certain foods and alcohol.  Yes, this will give you short term comfort but unfortunately it can lead you down a very slippery slope of being dependent on these kinds of things and result in cravings and the end result can be ill health.  The chemical reaction that you get from these foods and drinks will release hormones in your body that are the equivalent to receiving a hug, but it is only a short term chemical hit.

If you can steer away from these kinds of things when stressed or emotional.  I recommend going for a long walk outside or having a nice relaxing bath as an alternative.  They will give you a similar chemical response in your body but rather than having a negative effect on your body, it can have a more beneficial effect.

If you are having trouble sleeping, try to not use alcohol as a means for getting to sleep.  You may feel that it is helping but unfortunately it doesn't.  Yes, you many fall asleep a little bit quicker initially, but the quality of your sleep will be affected and when you waken the next morning your body will be exhausted and you may reach for the unhealthy foods again and the vicious circle starts - and it is hard to break.

9 Write your feelings down

If you feel that you are holding things in and they are becoming too much, try the art of keeping a journal or as many would call it a diary.  The action of writing things down really helps with dealing with feelings.  

You can write down the things that are annoying/hurting you and as you progress you can even start writing about all the good things that are happening and all the great memories that you have.

When we are children we are encouraged to write stories and write about how we feel, but as we reach adulthood, we tend to stop.  I feel that it is even more important to write about our feelings as we age as it certainly helps you to process your feelings easier.  Some of the most successful people in the world take time each morning and evening to write about their feelings.

I know that writing this has certainly helped me to process things even further.

10 Have hope.

Things will get easier as the weeks and months go by. It is not that you aren’t going to miss your loved one, but that you can get on with things going forward. Your loved one would not want you to be hurting so bad for so long, and they wouldn’t want you to be missing out on life either.

They will always have a special place in your heart for them, but your heart can hold so much that you can love again.

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I hope my little tips from going through what we went through last month can help in some small way. You know me, I always like to share and if something works for me I will let you know.

However, if you are really struggling with grief, please reach out. There are lots of charities and support groups out there that can help professionally. I highly recommend talking through your emotions with someone who is trained to help you. Remember, it is ok to talk.

And finally, one of my business contacts sent me this little quote that helped her when she had a loss in her family and took great comfort from it. She said "they haven’t gone, they have just gone ahead”. I have to say I took great comfort from it too.
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I hope that my ramblings have helped you if you are going through anything like this at the moment and if you need to reach out, my inbox is always open.

Love and Hugs

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