The journey of aging will bring tears and laughter as we prepare for the when a loved one passes. As part of the aging process, we see our parents, siblings, spouses, friends and even children passing on before us. The cliché of “time heals all wounds” is true however, we all go experience grief a little bit differently. While time does soften the pain, the emptiness and sense of loss sometimes remains traumatic.
The Journey of Aging & Dealing with Grief
I suggest following the link below to understand the 7 Steps of Grief. You will probably recognize the emotional process if you’ve been through the process of someone passing over before.
Following is the grief model from the 7 Steps of Grief:
- Shock and denial
- Pain and guilt
- Anger and bargaining
- Depression, reflection, loneliness
- The upward turn
- Reconstruction & working through
- Acceptance and hope
For some, our grandparents or parents will be the first to pass. My mother is passed for 20 years and I still find myself wanting to go to the phone and call her. I still have moments of wondering if enough had been done to let her know how much she was loved. My father died at the age of 34 of a massive heart attack leaving behind his wife, a 13-year-old, an eight-year-old and a seven-month baby. What’s more, it changed the course of our family for the rest of our lives. Plus, he never got to experience the joy of being a grandparent.
My step-father passed this year at the age of 96. He lived a long life in good health but I miss him all the same. Never-the-less, when a parent or a grandparent passes it’s almost as if we lose our past. But be comforted that we have the memories with all the love and joy that was experienced and no one can take away our past. That, of course, is the great tragedy of Alzheimer’s disease, for example. Because Alzheimer’s patients really do lose their past.
As we become older so do our parents and grandparents so we know what is going to happen, but it is still traumatic for most when it actually does happen. With their loss, we no longer have the physical connection, but through our fond memories, they live on within us and around us. We are, after all, spiritual beings living in a physical world!
Being the oldest sibling doesn’t necessarily mean you pass over first. When a brother or sister passes, we are suddenly without the ones with which we spent our childhood. The memories of our younger or older sibling stay with us but, as with our parents, it’s someone who has been a part of our lives for a very long time.
My younger brother recently passed and the world just doesn’t seem the same knowing he is no longer in this physical realm. However, I’m still angry with him because he died too young simply because he refused to take better care of himself. That’s a tough one. But, that’s a part of grieving, isn’t it?
However, we must continue to cherish each breath we take, each heartbeat we have and each hug we receive. So, remember to say “I love you.” every time you talk to a loved one. You’ll be glad you did.
This is the super tough one. Yes, as a parent it seems like we should go first but, death isn’t optional for anyone, young or old. I know friends whose children passed way too early in life and the pain is still great for them. It doesn’t matter if the child was five or 50 – the loss is still a shock and is excruciatingly traumatic for even the most level-headed among us.
For instance, my best friend’s children both passed at different times but each time it was as if a part of her heart had been ripped out. What keeps her going is her loving commitment to her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. However, tears still come when she talks about the daughter and son.
In addition, only three months before her husband also passed. She tells me, “one doesn’t stop grieving – you just learn to exist in a different reality”. She also says, “a part of the future no longer exists but somehow you find the strength to go on even though the tears still come.” As always, the empty feeling that comes from loved ones passing is painful and even traumatic for some, but especially when a child passes.
When a spouse passes, we are suddenly without our mate, our life partner, and the father of our children. A spouse passing often leads to financial difficulties that compound the physical loss. Hopefully, plans are made to help compensate through this ordeal but unfortunately at times they are not.
Therefore, it is important that you and your spouse talk about such issues and provide for the future in case of an unexpected or expected loss. It’s hard to talk about but it’s important. Because of financial reasons my father let his life insurance policy lapse. In three months, he had a heart attack and my mom struggled for years.
My husband passed away twelve years ago and did not leave any monetary protection for my future except to receive his social security amount because it was a little more than mine. So, the sadness of losing him and missing him was compounded with the financial stress.
Having a plan to protect your family is very important but difficult to discuss. Talk to your current insurance agent about the best plan for your family but most importantly talk to your spouse. For more information, I recommend that you visit the National Institute on Aging (NIH).
When a friend passes, it is also heartbreaking. We find ourselves without our buddy to laugh with and a shoulder to cry on. Our friends are a special blessing in our lives as they are the ones we have chosen to share our thoughts, our tears, and our good times with.
At the age of 15, I experienced this when my good friend since six years of age was killed in a car accident. The sadness of losing this friend over 60 years ago still lingers but I still have happy childhood memories of us together. When the sadness comes around, remember the special times you had together. Then, sit and reflect on those fun memories and have a good laugh and a great refreshing cry.
Here’s what someone told me a few years ago. When we cry, it’s like you’re being emptied, but that only makes more room for the Universe to refill you with loving memories, so go ahead and cry all you want. It’s good for you when a loved one passes.
This might include the dog you grew up with, the cat that loved to get in your face while you were trying to sleep, or the little hamster. Our pets are a part of our life and losing them is heartbreaking.
As we age and experience the loss of loved ones, many reach for our fur baby to love and give us comfort. In fact, most doctors and therapists agree that our fur babies are an integral part of our lives and are very important in a therapeutic sense, especially as we age.
As we go through the grieving process, we realize that with time, the pain of loss is lessened but never forgotten. That’s one of the unique characters of being human – you can’t take away our birthdays and you can’t take away our memories (unless you have dementia) so your past is always with you. Everyone processes grief differently, but the more we educate ourselves about it, the easier it is for most people.
In aging, I recommend that you keep the memories and essence of loved ones in your heart and mind – even surrounding yourself with old mementos is comforting and eases the grief significantly for most. The point is to accept that they’re in a new place and no longer a part of our physical realm, but there’s no need to forget or stuff the memories. They are yours to remember and enjoy when a loved one passes.
My final word of advice is to experience grief rather than trying to avoid it. If it’s too much to cope with, talk to someone, either a professional, a trusted friend or a family member.
But I implore you to remember with cheer, that it’s physically, morally, and spiritually impossible to “lose your past”. Instead, remember that you are a whole person with a full life and this is part of living that we all go through. Death is not optional for any human being but rather is a part of our existence that everyone gets to experience.
Furthermore, I suggest that you arm yourself with the tools you need to get yourself or help someone else get through the grieving process when a loved one passes. Doing so will enhance the rest of your life in a positive way which I think is what our loved ones who have passed over really want for us. Think about it. From their vantage point of having passed over, their perspective is far different from ours and I truly don’t believe they want us to be sad for the rest of our lives in the earthly realm.
Love and hope to all! Lela signing off.
Guest Author: Lela Taylor
All Images Courtesy of Canva.