When someone close to you dies

Life as we have known it is suddenly changed forever. The interpersonal space that we have shared with the person who has passed will never exist again, not in this lifetime as far as we know it.

Such severing of bonds of connectedness are painful to us, disorientating and threatening to the balance of life that we have known before death occurs and often we just “fall apart for a while.” I think at some level, our unconscious mind tries desperately to compute and make sense of the finality that death brings, challenged by all the memories of existence we have shared and the emotions of relational knowing. I think we really struggle to integrate the ceasing of someone’s living into our everyday being – it just seems too incredible at some level, unbelievable and impossible…

Impossible given our knowledge of the person, as if their passing questions our very being at some deep unconscious level that we sense, but cannot somehow directly reach. We experience ourselves moving through days and weeks after a significant loss, with a sense of instability, change and difference. We may experience unexpected emotions like irritability or euphoria alongside heavier feelings like sadness and fear and wonder what is happening to us perhaps? Partners and close friends may feel pushed away as bereavement settles in and threatens to stay.

I think we are really frightened when someone close to us dies because suddenly the reality of our own mortality is there before us, no longer masquerading under the glitz and beguilement of everyday living, rather fully exposed, naked as the greatest and most terrifying certainty of our human existence.

How do we begin to process such awareness? My image is being hurled overboard into a stormy sea with little more than a life ring to keep me afloat amidst turbulent waves, darkened skies and being so alone. I write from my own experience of recently losing my beloved elder sister to a vicious cancer that permeated throughout her body rendering it immune to treatment. Though therapists rarely share much of their own lives with clients, I hope my article may connect with some readers who are suffering as a result of losing someone close and I hope my words may bring some comfort.

For I believe that life is the best remedy for loss. I see that we may become stuck, immobilised and suppressed through the sequence of events following a death and I believe that it is reaching out to life itself through activity and engagement that best helps us to heal. I think we are designed to heal but I also think we need to find a way to accept this and let healing occur.

From the depths of deep despair, sadness and loneliness following the end of a relationship through death, I think we can discover impetus, motivation, excitement and courage in living more deeply ourselves. To know that we too will die one day, makes much of the preciousness of every single moment we have.