How you react to loss.
If you came to me a day before my father passed away and asked me what I would do if I lost a loved one, I would have shrugged my shoulders and told you that I would deal with it when the time comes. Never in a million years would I have thought that my dad would have passed away young, and that I would be left fatherless while still in my 20s. Fast forward 6 months after he died. I was walking outside of my parents home and a man in a truck was driving by then stopped abruptly. With a big smile on his face, he looked at me and said “Hey! How’s your dad doing?” I looked at him puzzled and responded with, “My dad died.” His expression went from excitement to pure shock and sadness. He said, “What? How? I’ve been trying to get in touch with him! I’ve been meaning to drop by and see him! How did he die?!”
I realized at this point that being told someone has passed away is the most difficult news to swallow. In fact, you do not swallow it immediately. It lies there in your throat, sending shockwaves to your body each time you try to digest the news. Over time, it becomes easier to swallow. The shock soon becomes easier to handle, as it becomes less painful to digest the news. I did realize this. How you react to loss is a result of how conscious you are of the connection to life and death. The majority of us are not mentally prepared to experience loss. The other day I saw a dead pigeon and I had to turn my head because I did not want to experience the sight.
We walk around living and breathing people. The world is compartmentalized. Those who are ill are not always walking around casually. Hospitals are not looked at as glamorous places to visit. Those who have severe mental illnesses do not often assimilate with reality, or they hide their struggles. Those who are dead are in graveyards, which you usually avoid visiting unless you have to. It has become normal to avoid anything associated with loss, and that is why it is difficult for you to swallow it. That is why it was difficult for me to swallow it, and it took visiting a sick friend a week after his death for me to begin to digest reality. I came to terms with it when I made it part of my routine to visit his grave and have chats with him. I knew that even if he could not respond, his soul would listen.
You know, regardless, there will be shock. But maybe it will hit you less if you experience all aspects of life. Maybe instead of going out to eat one day, you could visit the Cancer ward and chat with the patients. You could even read the article you X’d out of, because you felt like it was too much to handle. I do admit that being a therapist gave me a head-start in healing, because I was aware of the stages of grief. But I also know that being aware and understanding the reality of the opposite side of the coin also makes the shock that comes with the reaction to loss a bit less painful.