Losing a loved one is never easy. Losing a loved one unexpectedly and at a young age is painful and raw. You are suddenly powerless—as if someone has simultaneously knocked the wind out of you and pulled the carpet from underneath you. You are left struggling to breathe normally again while trying to figure out what the hell just happened.
Earlier this year, I lost my 27 year-old cousin, Jason, in a skiing accident. Jason was known for his sense of humor, generous heart and his thirst for travel. I mourn his abrupt passing, as a family member, a friend and most painfully as a mother of a son.
In the weeks after his passing, life got painfully real for my family. There were unanswered questions and many scenarios of ‘what if.’ There were moments of disbelief and anger. Everything seemed so wrong, so unfair. It felt like time was being stolen away, and our entire family was being cheated out of life and memories yet to be made.
This was the first time I personally experienced a sudden and unexpected death in my family. And it has been difficult. You can try to prepare yourself for the stages of grieving: denial, anger, sadness, acceptance, but know that it’s not a smooth ride. Everyone will go through these stages at a different pace. Here are a few things I’ve learned from all of this.
- Everyone grieves in their own way—Some may want to stay home and not talk to anyone for a few days, while others may publically share their grief through social media. There’s no right way. It’s about what’s right for the individual.
- Accept kindness—It’s easy to push others away when you are hurting. It’s ok to want to spend time alone to heal, but don’t isolate yourself long-term. If you need space, thank others for their support, and let them know that. But also ask for company when you want it.
- Remember to take care of yourself—Rest when you can, both your body and mind. Be sure to eat. Ask friends for help with meals if you just can’t handle cooking.
- Give yourself time—Emotions will come in waves, often when you least expect it. Roll with it and understand it will take time to heal. If this happens to you while you’re at work, try to get outside for a quick walk to regroup.
- Honor your loved one—Remember to reflect on the good memories. It’s good to remember and celebrate your loved one. It can also bring your family closer together in a difficult time.
Everyone has their own way of dealing with death, seeking comfort in ways that may only make sense to themselves. For me, getting out on the mountain and skiing helped me cope. It’s my way of honoring Jason and to clear my head. I feel closer to him there.
Losing someone can also make you reflect on your own life. It can make you re-evaluate what is truly important. It will take time to heal, and you may be a different person after that process. Take comfort in your loved one, and the impact they have had on you. Consider it their parting gift to you, perhaps making you stronger in the process. And take time to remember that the days are long, but the years are short. Live fully.