C.S. Lewis raised the possibility that “there are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.” While this may sound overly optimistic, it can be true if you allow your actions to accord with your ultimate desires. Even after such a traumatic event as the death of a loved one, healing and progress are possible for those who are open to take the initiative required for recovery. The keys are knowing where to find support and willingness to seek help when needed in spite of false hopelessness or reluctance to impose. Taking those tentative first steps to conquering mourning is easier said than done. Luckily, there are institutions created specifically to facilitate the transition from mourning into hope.
Perhaps the oldest large-scale method of assuaging the pain of bereavement is literature. There is evidence of early literature on how to deal either with one’s own looming death or with the death of others, whether in religious or secular texts. Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus records that Caesar responded to the realization of his assassination by covering his lower body with his toga to prevent indecent exposure when he fell. The Ars Moriendi of the 15th Century (i.e., in the dark days of the Black Plague) contains passages for the dying and those who survive them. The tradition of writing for the mourning has continued since then, and organizations like Genesis Bereavement Resources, Resources for Grief, and Recover-from-Grief.com have compiled or contributed to lists of books, brochures, etc. designed specifically to help the reader through the grieving process.
2. Support Groups
There are a number of organizations that create opportunities for the bereaved to meet with and lend strength to one another. Bereaved Parents of the USA and CompassionateFriends.org are nonprofit organizations run by bereaved parents for other bereaved parents that arrange meetings and conferences and circulate literature among their members, who are not required to pay membership fees. The National Alliance for Grieving Children, in turn, is there for those who have lost their parents, and other in-person meetings take place nationwide for those experiencing some other type of grief. In addition, online groups like forums.grieving.com and grief.supportgroups.com, provide support for those who cannot or prefer not to attend meetings in person.
It can be difficult to know when natural mourning crosses the line into mental instability. It is generally accepted that “[w]hat distinguishes grief from depression is that grief is specifically related to the loss or death, and depression is characterized by a general sense of worthlessness, guilt, and lack of joy.” Yet, grief can trigger depression and worsen existing mental illness. Further complicating the question is the fact that all people grieve in different ways and for different durations of time. For those who are wondering whether grief counseling is right for them, a questionnaire on PsychCentral may help. The important thing to remember is that, whatever your unique situation, seeking counseling is less likely to hurt than continuing to suffer while second-guessing the validity of your pain.
It does not do to bury your feelings beneath a towering workload in order to avoid dealing with them. However, staying busy may hasten at least one stage of the grieving process—adjusting to life without the deceased. The feelings of disconnect, frustration, and yearning that accompany the loss of a loved one have a great deal to do with the disorientation of his or her absence. The larger the role the person played in your life, the harder it is to learn how to live it without him or her. Many people require some down time to recuperate after a death, but getting back into the swing of life has value of its own as long as it isn’t forced and doesn’t stifle necessary and inevitable emotions.
Said Ralph Waldo Emerson, “It is one of the most beautiful compensations of life, that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself.” The same holds true for those who are in mourning (this is, in fact, one principle that the support group is based on). Many of the organizations that exist for the benefit of others were founded by those who have suffered loss themselves, and found solace in helping others to either avoid or rise above their personal tragedies. This not only keeps them from sinking into solitary despondency by keeping them busy, it allows them to see their sorrow as a less significant component of a larger whole. Whatever the source of its effectiveness, those who reach out in service tend to find those services returned in one way or another.
“The hardest part about overcoming grief is that we’re taught that it’s too difficult,” when the truth is that no one needs to be alone in mourning. On the contrary, the multitude of others suffering from similar pain comprises a durable community that has learned to tap into the strength that has carried mankind through the ages. There is no prescribed method for handling grief, but there is a good chance that at least one tried-and-true method will prove useful in some way.
No type of bereavement is inherently harder to manage than another. However, wrongful deaths are often accompanied by a greater measure of anger over the loss that might and should have been prevented. The pain and difficulty of a fatal accident catch loved ones off-guard and constitute an enormous financial burden at a time when their time would be better spent recovering from the shock. Given the cost of a funeral, burial, and possible premortem medical expenses, the family may well have no choice but to undertake the arduous task of filling out an insurance claim or even taking the person responsible to court. If this is the case, a wrongful death attorney is far more likely to be an asset than an added burden. Having a legal expert means a quicker process with a good chance that the difference their services make exceeds attorney fees.
If you or someone close to you is struggling to make spiritual or financial ends meet after a wrongful death, Christensen & Hymas may be able to help, whether retained or consulted at no cost. To learn more, call our office at (801) 506-0800.