Me and my team have been working with clients who have suffered the passing of a loved one for over 12 years. No-one client is the same but I have noticed there are overlying stages to grief.
First things first, remember this is not a fit all guide, to coping with the passing of a loved one. Everyone is different and handle their loss in a different way. Please don’t take offense to anything, that you feel is not becoming to YOUR situation and no offence is meant in this article. I just have a very unique perspective on the subject.
The thing is, the funeral process is a blur for most people and then after they are left floating, suffering from a multitude of emotions, that for many, they are not use to.
Silent rooms and surrounded by a thousand things to remember them by, the stages of grief are only intesified in the lack of noise and dis-connection.
Grief Effects Us All.
You see the funeral director is rarely told the whole situation, they arrived do a job, let you cry and perform your requested service. Then that’s it, your left in limbo, trawling the internet to find a reason or a sticking point, only to find perspectives on dealing with grief that are generic or bitter.
For over 12 years every week whilst creating and doing ashes tattoos, I have seen every aspect of society, in every stage of grief, trying to make sense of the loss of their loved one. The way their loved one passed varies a thousand ways, from freak accidents, murder, hospital mishaps, long illnesses to the natural passing of old age. One thing is for sure, every situation is different, with the clients being in various stages of grief.
One thing I’ve learnt, is that there seems to be varying stages of grief, some only go through a few, some all, the more sudden the death, is usually the catalyst to go through them all. I’ve tried listing them below. What this should do, is show you’re not on your own with your emotions, we are all human and the feelings you’re going through are normal and nothing to be either ashamed about, confused about and they are not ever stupid. We use these emotions to heal.
We use the emotions of grief to heal.
You Never Really get Over It.
Here is some very good advice. You don’t get over the loss of a loved one. Ever. 3 years after my father passed, I walked down a shopping island and saw some hot chilli sauce. I smiled, as my dad will love getting this for Christmas, chuffed with my Christmas shopping foresight, its only when I got to the till that I reminded myself that my father had passed away 3 years ago. Am I mad, no, they are always in your thoughts and always will be.
This may sound like a crazy analogue, but visualize a spikey sea urchin inside yourself. That’s grief. You never get over grief, you just learn how to take the spikes off and find a place in your heart where it feels comfortable and doesn’t hurt so much.
Someone could have lived the most amazing life till the age of 60 and then they slowly pass away in front of you and their no longer there. Grief makes you relive them last months over and over and clouds out the amazing 60 years you had holding and loving that lost loved one. There is light at the end of the tunnel, as once you take the spikes off grief, you can start to embrace and reminisce about the amazing life you had together and also remember the times that made you smile. That’s my dad and his chilli sauce for Christmas.
Remember the analogy of grief being like a spikey sea urchin you are holding inside you. You need to go through the stages of grief to remove the spikes of grief. The longer you live with the spikes, the more it will torment you. This is a guarantee, you need to grieve, you need to console yourself, you need to smooth off the spikes and the pain of the loss, to embrace the life you shared, the time you spent and the bond you had together.
The Stages Of Grief
Let’s evaluate the stages of grief. Remember it’s not a checklist, and it’s not a one size fits all, as everyone’s situation is different, but I’m sure as you read on, you’ll relate to at least one of the stages.
This is especially applicable if the loved one was taken away from you out of the blue. That small head shake, when you think of what’s happened, the blank memory, this is all shock of the fact that one minute they were there and then the next, they are gone. The funerals over and yet you are casually waiting for them to come back through the front door. Back to your side. They couldn’t have gone, they loved you and you loved them.
When your loved one is taken away from you out of the blue, shock kicks in, the natural routine of life doesn’t make place for the loved one just not being there anymore.
I’ve worked and talked through things with clients, whose partners have been the subject of incredibly upsetting ways to pass away and yet they are talking about it, as if they are ordering a takeaway. Very blasé, very causal, it just hasn’t sunk in yet and for some people that can be years befoe accepting what has happened. In the army they call it the 1ooo yards stare. The person is solely operating on basic functions and is emotionally and pshically comforting themselves with the routine aspects of life, to protect their emotions and themselves from the devastating loss of their loved one. If you don’t recognize it has happened, then the pain is offset. Do I have a recommendation on getting past this stage, no, not really, take time away from the family, or work if need be and take it on board what has happened and the repercussions of the loss of your loved one in your life.
There is an underlying temptation as I write this article to expand on examples etc of each stage, I’ve decided against it. I’m not writing this to trivialise and keep you entertained, I’m not trying to entertain you, but help you grieve. Suffice to say, I see a lot of clients who have recently suffered a loss and shock is very common, as we as humans, deny the loss, so we don’t suffer the pain.
Anger can take on a multitude of facets. If you lost your loved one through someone else’s fault, then anger towards them and the system as a whole and also, one that not many people talk about is internal anger with oneself. Did you do enough, could you have done more to have seen them survive, why didn’t you say the words you always wanted to, but thought you’d always have time to.
You can’t change what has happened and anger and resentment are natural in the situation. Anger at a system, who, may have as an example made a medical mistake, is easily justified, anger at yourself isn’t. Unless you literally took their life, then anger against your own short comings are temporary, as your anger is a manifestation of over hyped regret. You can’t change the past… simple words, yet in some situations, very profound, we naturally fold around the fast pace of life, miss things, don’t say things we wish we had. Remember, your lost loved one, was taken before they could say the things they wanted to.
Don’t knock yourself up with anger, as it’s an emotion that can have after-effects in your own life. Lashing out to the living on the pain of a lost one, can have implications to those future relationships.
Am I saying don’t get angry if you want to…. No, but explain to the ones on the receiving end of your anger, exactly why you feel that way. This way they won’t feel attacked and in most cases, they will actually form more of a bond, as they are understanding to the situation and as your showing willing to talk, they will reciprocally express their opinions. When your angry, will you take them opinions onboard, probably not, but getting it off your chest, as they say, has healing benefits and has huge implications in the grieving process.
Cry, I cannot emphasis this enough, don’t hold it in. This includes men! However big and hard you think you are, let it out. No one will judge you a weaker person for showing, natural raw emotion. I’ve sat and hugged clients who have cried solid for over 2hrs, the release you can even feel when your hugging them, as they just slowly slump in your arms. You need to get it out. In today’s society we have a misconception of feeling weak if we show the raw emotion of crying and yet it’s by far the best thing you can do.
Here’s a very personal example. When my father passed away, I cried. I cried more than when I held his hand, as he passed away. I cried till I felt like a bag of jelly. Time didn’t exist, work commitments, nothing, that’s all I did, cry. For the first week I cried about the death of my father.
Then slowly through the pain of grief, I would then be crying about the times we were no longer going to have together. This is recovery. I then started to cry as I reminisced about the time we had spent together.
Then slowly but surely, I didnt cry as much, as I was now remembering the times we spent together and these weren’t shitty memories of morphine drips and ……………………………doctors telling me he was on pathway.. shit, I’m crying now even writing that part, you see it still hurts a little years on, but hey, I was remembering the good times I spent with him, the laughs and the stupid things we got up to. The tears were for the reminiscent of the positive times we spent together, slowly fading away the pain of watching a life melt away.
This is where people make a fatal error, you won’t cry or due to society pressures or perspectives, repress crying and then you try and move on.
Accept it will still hurt and you will be upset, but try and every now and again, focus on the times you spent together, you were both amazing and unstoppable and you experienced a connection that many people strive for all their lives. That’s worth crying about, but embrace the time together, not the time apart.
You need to grieve, you need to cry. My sister has always kept everything in and the passing of my father has changed her to a much different person, a mental soup of perpetual regret and never grieving, has left her a bitter person, the exact opposite of what my father loved in her.
There is no path, or route, to be able to smile about the joy of the life you shared together, rather than the pain of loss, all I know, is you need to go through it.
Over 12 years I have heard everything and the main goal you should aim towards if you can, is to be able to smile about the amazing life you experienced together, try not to focus on the shitty nature of life, where they are taken away from you.
One day you will be the reason someone is in the deep dark throws of grief, would you want them to spend their life focussing on your demise, or slowly start to celebrate the amazing times you had together that formed the bonds of your connective love for each other.
Weird Things You Notice After A Death
Weird things : Somethings just keep cropping up that I can’t explain. Robins, as in the little birds, I always ask my clients of they have noticed any robins and a vast majority have. Some even get robins tattooed on them, as they seem to appear when your loved one passes. Feathers are another common aspect, feathers appearing out of the blue on your doorstep, or in some random place. Maybe they are carriers of our loved ones lost souls, I’m not sure, but even with my sceptical mind, they are a common denominator in people who have passed via old age and the likes.
On my father’s passing, I’d never seen a robin in our back garden, ever, over 8 years. The next day after he passed, a robin would perch on the table I spent so much time with my dad at, for over 5 days. It was always there, not doing anything, except looking at our house. When we went out, it would fly away, close the door, half an hr later, it was back. Morning, night, 5 days straight, then it was gone and we have never seen one in the garden since.
I was tattooing a client who commented that her mother completely approved of her tattoo. Quite an easy statement to over pass, except it was her mums’ ashes I was tattooing into her. The client said she had never had a tattoo, expressed a desire for a tattoo, or even conversed on social media about tattoos. She had never mentioned the idea to anyone, let alone her departed mother, as she stated it was just something running around her mind, to commemorate her mother.
She went to a spiritualist, who said mum said the tattoo idea was fantastic and the man doing it would take good care of her and she would be fine. So, she booked in and got it done, but being sanctioned and recommended from the afterlife is why I end this article by saying, nothing surprises me anymore.
Try and take one thing from this, Remember the life they lived, not the life they lost.