Accepting Someone's Death
1. Absorb the Shock
• Cry, when you need to. Don't hold back tears, for this is a human bond that's been severed. Cry, even though crying is a sign of defeat to the very sadness you want to overcome, and to your failure to accept the death of your loved one. Gradually, you will become exhausted, losing interest in crying, as you see everything else in life almost stops while you are crying. You will find that crying makes you nearly doped, unconscious, nonexistent ... that you have to decide then whether to come back to reality, consciousness and life again, or cry on and on.
Allowing oneself time to cry is better than avoiding, hiding or suppressing sadness that could come back even stronger afterwards. Although there would be less shock and bereavement then, you may experience permanent guilt and diffidence whenever you remember. Suppression helps only temporarily (while with people, at work, etc.); otherwise, facing one's loss courageously and wisely helps accept it once and for all. If there is a time in life to cry, this is. If for anything, cry for "understanding" life, death and yourself better, at such intersections of life where you must slow down. You don't lose a loved one every day; so live this death experience to the full, with all its sadness, enlightenment, weakness, and strength.
When you "come back" to reality, remember you can always cry anew, taking that trip away from reality again and again. The analgesic effect of crying is better than that of harmful drugs, which can totally alienate you from your surroundings. Your objective is to accept your "new life," not to prohibit tears or sadness, which is natural. It doesn't matter whether you cry or not, as long as you accept your new life, even if crying becomes part of it.
Crying won't revive the dead; it only helps you understand their new status: they can't be physically present like before, but they can mentally, whenever you recall them. They can live in your mind all your life, until you die too. Mental presence is more important than the physical. There are many dead people whose actions are still influencing our life, compared to many living ones with useless presence.
• Think, whenever you calm down enough. Don't lose control over your mind to one overwhelming emotion blurring your vision of the truth. Don't turn yourself into a battlefield for endless conflicting thoughts. Rather, STIFFEN UP, physically or mentally—whichever makes you strong. Nothing is like conviction to be armed with at moments of diffidence. Stick to your beliefs: those honed by the moment, and those you might forget, that you should remind yourself of frequently. Think aloud if needed, and repeat positive ideas. You may use mantras, poems, religious scriptures, or any peaceful texts.
Re-think your whole philosophy in life to feel mentally strong again. Start off by treating death as the fundamental fact to base all other facts upon. When we think of death, we go back to square one, to the ABC of life. Go back to your roots, to where you came from, i.e. from nothingness, from death.
• Escape, when sadness causes you actual harm, psychologically, mentally or physically, damaging your attitude toward your life and self-esteem, distorting your thoughts, or deteriorating your health. In extreme cases of sadness, diversion is a must:
However, you should balance between the diversion you need and your responsibility toward your loved one. If escape is unnecessary, or you simply find it unfair to the memory of your loved one (making you feel guilty for insensitively trying to "erase" it), face your sadness instead, only taking temporary breaks and making partial changes in your life, of any of the aforementioned options. Although many outsiders may immediately suggest escape for you, and many may abuse religion to alienate you from reality and responsibility, it's up to you to decide.
• Avoid people who are less affected than you by this loss—typically most people—during bereavement time. Meanwhile, it's good to be with those who had a similar loss before, if any, even if they don't suffer now, to learn how they coped with it. Don't over-talk about your feeling with someone who can't feel it. And, don't blame them for that either. Instead, appreciate their effort to "imagine" your loss; and respect traditions for the time being, which you cannot change.
On the other hand, guests should respect the privacy the deceased's family needs. Visits and conversation should be short, unless the bereaved ask for advice, company or help. Most people don't understand the limits of empathy, that many guests lavishly show, and many hosts naturally expect, which is like many facts of life, nakedly exposed at the moment of death.
If you have just lost a loved one, talking too much to strangers may increase your pain:
Rather, spend more time alone, with yourself, or with those who really share your loss, feeling, thinking and talking about the same things. Talking is a relief and sharing ideas/stories with other people about losing a loved one can teach you new things. However, talking or sharing is not as good as understanding: the wisdom of life you grow, alone or with others.
• Accept whatever responsibility the loss of your loved one has placed on you: funeral arrangements, receiving guests, meetings with lawyer, or doing a job they used to do for/with you before their death, that you now have to do on your own or find someone else to help you. Don't confuse your bereavement with the diffidence or reluctance you may feel to fulfill your new duties. It's always better to prepare for all such scenarios in advance, before someone's death, to minimize the pressure you will be under. However, you can ask for others' help if you have too much work.
2. Be Fair to Them
• Remember what you have learned most from your loved one. Valuing someone is not by how miserable you feel after their death, but by valuing their legacy and the lessons you learned from them. Keep those lessons with you all your life, until your own death. This is really how a person is immortal, by what they left to other people.
• Remember their favors to you: how they supported you sometimes emotionally or physically, directly or indirectly, when you needed help, company or someone to hear you.
• Allow yourself some time during the day to recall the good times you shared together. Cherish those memories and keep them in your "memory chest" to visit whenever you like. Even among other people, whom you have to be with, you can always recall those memories, as you can retire to your mind.
"Far from sight, far from heart!" only applies to animals or people with less brain capacity to handle many memories. You can keep the memory of your loved one up until the last day of your life. Actually, it's good to remember your loved one then to ease that final moment for you.
• Do things that would make them happy had they still been alive, whether things they loved for themselves, or things they wished for you, making them proud of you. When possible,
• Keep some keepsakes of your loved one, to remind you of them from time to time. Show respect to the things they left, by saving some of their pictures, videos, writings, and "samples" of their personal belongings, to go back to whenever you miss them or need to have a conversation with them (which mainly helps you and keeps the memory and legacy of the person always alive). However, don't leave their belongings scattered everywhere, else they will constantly remind you of them (remember that even while they were alive, either of you needed their own space). Rather, have those keepsakes in a special place you can go back to whenever you miss your loved one.
Don't keep everything they left, such as any unnecessary stuff your loved one would have thrown/given away anyway. If keeping such stuff becomes a burden to you (requiring regular cleaning, organization, maintenance, and space), it may even make you love your loved one less, as well as their memory, legacy and keepsakes, which is not fair to them. You make them commit a sin they didn't commit. Rather, it would be doubly useful to sell or give away any unused stuff, making someone else happy and freeing your space and schedule.
3. Be Fair to You & Others
• Avoid guilty thoughts!
Again, what matters most is the lessons you learn from someone, not the details of their face, voice, movements, etc. Remember a person, for pleasure or benefit, not for feeling miserable and guilty, or for wasting your time recalling every detail stored in your memory, like reading a long rambling novel.
• Avoid memory bias, a common cognitive defect affecting the way we think of the past (that we can never remember completely or exactly). It can make you overestimate, underestimate or just misunderstand your loved one. We love things and people more that are not/no longer available. If your loved one ever comes back to life, your desire to be with them will gradually decrease after a day or two. Their character, views, tastes, needs, etc. (which are different from yours, as yours are different from others'), may get you into disagreement together or at least make you temporarily avoid one another, as each of you needs their own privacy.
Put yourself in your loved one's shoes: if you were a "dead person" yourself, who has just come back to life, the one you would be missing and love to meet most would probably be you, since you were "nonexistent." You would miss seeing, hearing, and touching yourself. You would miss the gift of life that was taken away from you.
• Don't idolize them, making them holy or unreal. We are all imperfect. They were just human like you and me who had their own mistakes, shortcomings, weaknesses, and limits. Many people who idolize their loved ones during bereavement time, masochistically turning themselves into criminals by comparison, later in life change that attitude to the opposite, gradually repenting how foolish they were, even to the extent of hating the one they idolized: they go from extreme love and adoration, to extreme apathy and hatred.
So, remember their mistakes occasionally. When you think of your loved one's mistakes, try to be forgiving, empathetic, or even humorous sometimes, taking it with a smile.
• Remember it's only a question of time before you will die too. So visualize your own death, asking yourself: What will my death be like? How do I like to die? How will I bear dying and all the pain before death? Will I be sorry for myself, or glad to join the "Dead Club"? Should I sit and wait for death from now, or rather have my share of life first until Death calls out my name?
• Remember that other people will die too: other family members, friends, strangers ... and everyone alive, every life form. Ask yourself: Do you I sympathize with them too? How about those who just died and those dying now? How many person, like me, is mourning a loved one?
"You & your loved one" are only two members of humanity that must keep going, that you can't shun responsibility toward, the living & those yet to live, whom you owe MORE. You can save and improve many other lives. You or your loved one, had he/she been still alive, can't live for one or two humans only. By working and helping others, you get out of your "self" and maximize your life experience. This is the greatest goal of living.
• Ask yourself: What if I had died first, not them? Wouldn't they have tried to accept my death and enjoy their life too? Had they chosen not to, wouldn't it be unwise of them, to waste life just because someone else, I, died? So, live right and enjoy life, because that's life: we all die, each in their respective turn.
• Because of the overwhelming emotions and shock, you may not be able to think clearly. So, remember this was going to happen:
• Always remember you deserve to be happy, like everyone else, from birth to death. You should have no confusion or guilt about that, because happiness is what gives meaning to life: yours, your loved one's, and every living being's. Many people forget nurturing their self-love, while they are constantly busy or emotionally involved with others.
• Remember you did your best to make them "alive and happy," if you were good enough to them. If you were not, try to make up by doing the things that would make them happy had they been still alive. If you have a loved one who is still alive NOW but expecting death, try to make them happy before it's too late. The feeling of guilt is so difficult after the person is gone. Even in the latter case, you have no choice but to move on and not let guilt ruin your life and the life of others alive. If you had made a mistake hurting someone who is now dead, try to fix it "just for their memory's sake," and definitely try to make no more mistakes hurting other people or hurting yourself.
• If you are a person who prefer solitude and emotional independence, remember you didn't want this bond in the first place, to develop then painfully break, as is the fate of every human bond. Remember you've been together only, probably, because you had no other place to live, you were there mainly to help and please them, etc.
• Keep busy to get over it, by doing meaningful and useful things to yourself and other people. If you don't fulfill your duties, you will add to your grief and increase your problems that even your loved one wouldn't be happy about.
• Get enough rest and sleep, as lack of sleep will make you inattentive, touchy, grumpy, out-of-control ... especially when attacked by sad ideas that can easily prey on you. Don't ignore your body's needs lest your health deteriorate, whether you're conscious or unconscious of it, masochistically torturing yourself, or, worse, slowly killing yourself.
• Enjoy life to counterbalance pain and give meaning to your existence.
• Take precautions before similar future losses happen. You may consider avoiding all forms of attachment altogether, or only having healthy, less painful ones. All the above strategies for accepting the death of a loved one are equally useful to learn before a tragedy strikes, because we are always subject to losing someone one way or another, by accident, fatal disease, ageing, etc., permanently, or even temporarily, by travel, breakups, etc. It's prudent to take precautions or security measures to protect one's future from any psychological damage, if one seriously wants to enjoy life and continue being useful to themselves and other people after whatever hardships they face in life, which are inevitable and expected part of life.
Learning to accept the death of a loved one in advance is like learning first aids, having a fire-extinguisher, installing an alarm system, etc. It's equally helpful before growing any emotional bond with any human, animal, place, object ... as all bonds are doomed to break eventually.