Learning to Live Without One You Love
AS LITTLE Gregory was born into the world, his mother was going out of it. She knew that she was going to die. Medical treatment that might have extended her life briefly could have destroyed her unborn child. She did not want that.
So Anita Brown made her decision. She refused the treatment, and then tried hard to stay alive long enough to have her baby. Five hours after giving birth in a California hospital, after seeing her baby and saying farewell to her husband and family, her own life ended. Now they were left to cope with life without one they loved.
What Can Be Done?
Each year millions of persons throughout the world suffer the tragedy of losing a loved family member in death. The stunning shock and awful grief that often follow are indeed difficult to overcome.
Perhaps you or someone you know has suffered such a loss. What can such a person do to ease the pain and return to a more normal pattern of life?
Some have said that ‘time is a great healer,’ and that its passage will bring life back to a more normal routine. But time, by itself, heals nothing at all. It is what you do with your time that either harms or heals. Time following a death can be poorly used to cave in to self-pity, or it can be wisely used to develop a fulfilling life pattern.
While there will be a variety of problems, the basic one is learning how to live without the one you loved. The steps you take will determine how much of a scar is left and how long your period of sorrow will be. And there are a number of things that many have found to be helpful in coping with the problem, things that involve the day-to-day routine of life.
But, in addition, there is something else, something that is a very powerful help in easing sorrow and enabling one to go on living in optimism. It is what Anita and her family had, and it caused doctors and nurses attending them to be amazed because it proved to be such a help in time of need.
First, though, let us consider some of the things in the daily routine of life that have been found helpful in coping with the loss of a loved one.
When a death occurs, you will, of course, have to break with your normal routine for a while. Some may suggest a long period of mourning. But that could prolong the process of overcoming grief and could make it more difficult to overcome self-pity.
Hence, many have found it helpful to resume a more normal routine as quickly as is practical. For example, one married couple worked together on a bread-delivery route. But tragedy struck when the husband fell off a roof he was working on and was killed. The wife relates:
“Partly due to a financial need, I had to get back to work quickly. Within two weeks I was back delivering bread by myself.
“But in some ways that was a blessing. Necessity is a good teacher. It helped to get me back into association with others in the community, to listen to their problems and to think of others, instead of just brooding over my bleak circumstances.
“Having to go back to work so soon forced me to accept the responsibilities I knew I had to face up to eventually anyway.”
Get On with Living
Hence, there comes a time when a person needs to accept the situation realistically and get on with the process of living. As another widow observes:
“The time comes when you realize you are thinking too much about the terrible loss you have had. Many of my tears, though, were being shed in self-pity.
“I began to realize that my grieving would only stop by living each day. So I started to make deliberate plans, taking an occasional trip and doing little jobs that had been started but not finished.
“Positive thinking can help overcome pain. If there is no self-analysis, grief can be prolonged for years. I have met widows who are still weeping every day after five years, causing real emotional and health problems.”
This calls to mind an interesting account mentioned in the Bible. It was about King David of ancient Israel. He was grieving for a newborn son who was dying. While the baby was still alive, he was in deep sorrow. But after the baby died, David quickly resumed his responsibilities, getting on with daily living. This surprised his associates. When questioned about it, he said: “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept. I thought, ‘Who knows? The LORD may be gracious to me and let the child live.’ But now that he is dead, why should I fast? Can I bring him back again?”—2 Sam. 12:22, 23, New International Version.
The survivors cannot bring back the dead. And, likely, the one who has died would want you to go on living a meaningful life. So do not try to keep on living through the identity of a person who is no longer with you. Develop an identity of your own, and get on with the process of living, as did King David.
Changing Your Surroundings
Some who have suffered a death in the family have found it helpful to allow time to pass before giving things away or making major changes. The question that needs to be faced eventually, though, is this: Should you dispose of the personal items of the deceased? Perhaps you will. But, then again, some things may be useful later, such as a husband’s tools for home repair.
However, what if the personal items kept cause constant depression because they are painful reminders of the loss? Trying to preserve things too much as they were, or trying to live as if the loved one were still there, will not help overcome sorrow. Instead, this can make a home a museum of sad memories.
So after an initial period of mourning, it is best to see how many things need to be changed to meet your new needs in life, so that the past does not unduly hinder the present.
In the case of losing one’s marriage mate, the survivor, in time, may choose to remarry. But since no two persons develop exactly the same relationships, no other person will ever exactly replace the one who died. There is no point in trying to find someone who will. However, the new can be just as unique as the previous, giving much fulfillment.
In many cases, a mate may choose not to remarry, or to remain single for a longer period of time. Such persons may quickly find that they have greater ability to do things than they thought. The added responsibility of doing more in raising children, cooking, or performing other tasks previously cared for by someone else can bring into play personal resources not developed as much before. Even children often find that, when they must adjust to the loss of a parent, they are able to do much more than they realized. They can be of far greater help with chores around the house or with caring for younger members of the family.
While friends can never replace a loved one lost in death, they can be of great help and comfort. They may volunteer to assist in caring for many things. If they are trusted friends, you may even ask them to help. Of course, you should not become overly dependent on them. But a true friend who will listen and keep a confidence, who will accept some of your burdens for a while, and who will help you to make wise decisions, is of great value in a time of distress.
Thus, practical considerations such as these can do much to help a person return to a more normal life after the death of a loved one. Yet there is another powerful help. It is what helped Anita Brown and her family to meet their challenge and still be so optimistic about the future.
[Blurb on page 6]
Time, by itself, heals nothing at all. It is what you do with your time that either harms or heals
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Some may suggest a long period of mourning. But that could prolong the process of overcoming grief