Experience of death in a nutshell
Death is unavoidable, not only is it a part of life but it mostly comes unexpected and devastates all those affected. When we experience the loss of a loved one, so much happens within us.
Firstly, there is the feeling that this just cannot be true, l must be dreaming, who told me has made a mistake, it is not possible. Then comes the feelings of self-blame, blame against others, anger or rage. Sometimes we might feel guilt and the guilt may be to do with a sense of relief, because the person who died was really ill and suffering or had dementia or other mental health impairment.
When we struggle with feelings of relief and guilt, this makes us feel torn and potentially this leads to feelings of shame and powerlessness.
You may feel that it was wrong that such a good person died and why not a bad person. Sometimes these feelings are turned inwards onto ourselves, the question may arise, “why was it not me who died?”. These feelings will be exacerbated if you have been a survivor and others have died.
Then there are the questions among them are the following:
- What could l have done differently?
- What should l have done?
- Where is my loved one now?
- Why has the sun come up?
- How can life just go on?
Often with a death, we can feel completely overwhelmed; this is often because of the grief we are carrying from experiences from other deaths and losses in our lives. The loss and pain comes back to the surface and if we are not aware this happens, it can be a heavier unbearable weight to carry.
Grief is a pain that isolates us from everyone including those we are closest to. We often do not realise that grief is unique to each individual and even those closest to us will not be able to share in our experience. Their grief process will be different from ours and it is important to recognise that this is normal, rather than because their experience is different they are not in as much pain as we may be. It is just different but equal.
Finally, from my experience, taking sedatives, alcohol or other medication just numbs us to the experience. Grief is a journey and somehow we have to get through it so that instead of living inside the grief, we learn to live despite it.
It is normal to feel completely displaced like you are going mad, like you cannot go on, that you wished you could have done something to stop it, that you wish it was you.
The most important lesson death has taught me is that we may not have time in the future to do something we want to for someone we love, but we can do it now. Now is the time to do it or to tell the loved one how important they are to us. That all we have control over is our actions in the present moment in any relationship.
Often in my experience as a therapist, clients carry the guilt and loss of what they might have done but did not do. Life is too short for regrets, do what you can with those you love whilst you still have the time, if you make someone happy today the memory of that moment will make you happy when you remember them twenty years hence.
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About Maureen Anderson
Maureen Anderson M.A. Bsc(hons) psychology. U.K.C.P. registered psychotherapist/clinical supervisor.
Specialising in individual and couples therapy, based on the border of Leicestershire and Northamptonshire
15 years NHS experience.
Twitter account profile...Maureen Shapeshifter @multimorphica