Time is not a healer

With grief you hear people say “Times’ a healer”, I’ve always hated that phrase in the context of talking about the loss of someone. Its just so vastly inaccurate, and literally the worst thing you can say. Time isn’t a healer…living through a loss of someone never heals, I don’t care what people say. Time is a teacher. Over time we learn how to live with our loss and with the pain but it will never completely disappear. That is the reality of loss. On any given day it can be as raw as the moment it happened. I have days where it can dominate my thought process and other days where I don’t think on that loss. Then feel guilty about it, like I have not been thinking about it enough.

I lost my brother when I was 16 and he was 18. At the time I had an expectation that things would get easier and I would feel comfortable with that loss? but I have learned that was wrong . Nothing has changed in regards to how I feel about that moment. Its still horrific, its still painful and upsetting to think about it but I with time I have learned how to carry that experience.

I think dealing with a loss at not only a young age but also out of sync from ‘normality’ has made it even harder. Its unnatural to lose someone before their time, it impacts your ability to deal with it rationally. That is not diminishing anyone else’s experience of losing someone at any age or to any circumstance.

Learning from grief

Learning to live with it, is learning how to live without constantly suffering. The pain of the event will likely never fade away you will always feel it at moments. To suffer is a choice we make, one that can be made subconsciously. Over time I believe you can learn how to end suffering and start living. We can make a choice to be happier. Make a choice to overcome the suffering from grief.

Learning that grief is a shared human experience; to suffer loss and subsequently to grieve. This is a concept that for younger people may be harder to grasp because maybe people your age haven’t dealt with that level of loss.

Here is what didn’t work when I was 16. My default setting at that time was to act like everything was fine. I tried to convince myself that my brother was on holiday or something like that. I would assume his role at times. Go-to the pub with his friends and they all looked out for me. But the truth is I was not facing the reality. I was masking it all behind denial and good times.

Bereavement counselling for me as a teenager did not work. We would sit in silence for a majority of my sessions. I think the counsellor expected me to automatically open up and talk, that didn’t happen. Thankfully this area is starting to move forward but there is still much to-do. To talk to a teenager or a young person about bereavement is a subtle art.

What works for me

As always what works for me might not work for you, I always say it but with mental health its about finding what works for you as an individual. When it came to loss and dealing with the loss of my brother I tried everything. Like literally everything. I still trying things now and that’s my big take away from grief, it is that its something I personally have to work at. I believe the loss contributed massively to my own thoughts and even fears around death. In other posts I have spoken about dealing with fears around death turned me to Buddhist teachings on death and this is an ideology that helps me deal with feelings around death.

Talking about that person

It sounds simple but actually talking about the person you have lost, sharing your stories of them and memories will help towards reducing the suffering you feel. Being open and honest about it. I feel no shame in telling people what has happened in my life and who I have have lost. I do feel like its a subject people who are in that position are reluctant to talk about with others maybe because they find it embarrassing or too painful to talk about.

Allowing yourself to live

A big part of my grief came through feeling guilty about being alive.  A good time was normally punctuated by a feeling of guilt. You get this mentality that you have to always feel bad or you have to always feel down about a loss and like you shouldn’t enjoy yourself…ever. The key is how to respond to feeling guilty. I spent lost of my life ignoring it and pushing it away. But when you realise guilt is just another form of suffering and given that we know suffering can be a choice we can decided how to respond. It doesn’t have to be a bad thing, I use guilt to drive me forward; maybe with new hobbies or pushing myself academically or in my job.

Asking for help

This is the hardest lesson. I read this in a book once ‘you are your own rescue’ so only you can ask for help. Take the first step, you don’t need to see the whole staircase just the first step. That might be calling your Doctor and asking for some therapy. It could be contacting one of the many charities out there who offer free support for people dealing with grief. It could just be as simple as texting a friend and just asking for a chat.

Some short tips for grief

  • Exercise and look after your body: not exercising actually acts as a depressant so make sure you look after yourself.
  • Watch out for triggers: this could be on the persons birthday or the date they died. If you are aware you can prepare yourself for those waves of grief.
  • Read Books: This is what I do for any mental health aspect I research the topic it helps you learn about loss and hone techniques to deal with it.
  • Family & Friends: your support network is important turn to it for help but remember people find it hard talking about death but choosing a person you trust will help.
  • Faith: not everyone has a faith but if it helps you turn to it, explore it.

Final thoughts

In closing, this has been a difficult post to write. Its hard to know what to say because its such a wide ranging subject and sensitive one at that. I really hope if you have read this you find some solace in it and maybe things that will help you learn from your grief. As I said before for me I still have to work at, some days more than others. I have accepted this is the norm for me now, its something I carry with me but I no longer feel the weight of it. Its meant I can try to help others with my experience, its focussed my life more towards being happy and the importance of not ticking boxes or living to a checklist because life’s too short you have to take it as it comes and live in the present.

I want to mention a book which drove me to write this article and I haven’t finished it yet but its Solve for Happy by Mo Gawdat. Mo lost his son Ali and this sent him on a path to help us all find happiness it also sent me on a path to share my story about grief. His book is in the links below but please also check him out on the Elizabeth Day podcast this is where I found him.

Finally I leave you with this quote by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”
― Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

All the best

There are some articles I want to mention here as good places to read more on the topic or to get help;

YoungMinds – Ryan shares how he processed his grief and spoke to people he trusted after his best friend passed away

No Death, No Fear: Comforting wisdom for life by Thich Nhat Hanh

Solve for happy by Mo Gawdat

Child Bereavement UK – rebuilding lives together

Mind – for better mental health

Care For The Family – because family life matters

http://AtaLoss.org – Signposting the bereaved to support

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