The simple answer is that there is no simple answer, except that you will get through tragic events.
The loss of a loved one is hard to get over, no matter what the circumstances. If the person lost is elderly then it might be just a little bit easier than someone who passed much younger. The loss of a loved one from a tragic event is more challenging as we try to find out why, as we try to rationalise what has occurred. The loss of a young person in a tragic event is more so devastating for those left behind, unbelievably so for their parents.
Perhaps the most devastating of all losses, the loss of a child through suicide, and even more so if it was an only child. Unthinkable, ungraspable, unfathomable.
In my experience as a police officer involved in managing numerous crisis events, the death of a child lost in a tragic event is the most difficult event that could ever happen to a parent. There simply aren't enough descriptive words to convey the pain a parent feels, it is indescribable.
The more emotional a situation, the greater the impact on us. If it is a negative event, the emotion felt remains much longer than if it were a positive event. The impact of a negative event on our long-term memory is likened to a scar, it never heals. And, it would be flippant of anyone to say that time heals all things, it simply won't in such a tragedy.
Just like all scars, scars on our memory remain forever. In the case of a physical scar we can use topical creams or have them surgically, both methods will still leave us with a lesser scar, but a scar nonetheless.
Unfortunately, we cannot do this with our memories.
The alternative to reducing a scar is to learn to look after it, to nurture it, to understand how the scar was made, to remember that we are scarred for a reason, and to remember that scars are nature's way of making the affected area harder to penetrate. To protect you forever.
We have all experienced grief in some form, and we have all read about the myriad of ways to recover from grief. May I suggest that none of us fully recover from grief, we just learn ways in which to live with it.
It is said that we go through five stages of grief - denial, anger, bargaining, depression and then acceptance - which for some of us isn't that helpful as the stages aren't clearly defined and they don't have definitive timeframes because for each of us these are different.
Here is a way that you may find helpful in coming to terms with your overwhelming grief;
Self-validate your emotions - You will be incredibly hurt; you may feel an enormous sense of loss, you may believe that you are in a nightmare from which you will soon awake from, you may feel completely overwhelmed and that you can't continue, you may feel surreal at times just like you are inside a movie, you may even feel numb. You will feel so many emotions. Know that what you are going through is how the majority of us are impacted by such a tragedy, it is abnormally normal.
Show your emotions, proudly - fighting off emotions may only make them worse and delay things further. Cry, cry, and cry some more. Shout, scream, stamp, and get angry. Show the world that you are hurting, that this tragedy is not right, that you are not okay with what has happened, and that you are in incredible pain that no one else is feeling like you are.
Guilt is normal too - Feelings of guilt and remorse are normal to feel, but they are like no other. They are not like simple emotions, they are more impactful. Why did this happen, why could I not see and prevent it, what if I had done something different, why, just why. In truth, there is often no clear answer. Guilt is possibly the only feeling that I suggest you dismiss and not feel, because it can be destructive. The tragedy happened, it was not your fault, it just happened.
Don't rush things - Take your time to feel what you are feeling, except for guilt as mentioned. Allow your brain to absorb the tragic event before you even think about starting the rationalisation process. Time is what you need right now, time is very important, time does not matter and has no relevance so use it to your advantage. Don't rush, there's plenty of time, right now anyway.
Get expert help - Initially, you may need to seek medical assistance to get through the pain and suffering. You will feel overwhelmed and sleep, an important part of dealing with tragic events, will be evasive. There is no shame in seeking medical help. In fact, the opposite is true, it is a sign that you want to get through this event to honour the person lost. Then, when you feel up to it, you should seek psychological counselling. Counselling from a qualified person who is skilled in the area of loss from tragedy, not from someone at a call centre or from an online chatroom. Socialisation helps, talking with real people about real events and real emotions.
Keep going - No matter how you feel, no matter what happens, no matter how low you get, just keep going - breath by breath, second by second, minute by minute - keep going. In time, and that differs for us all, you will start to feel other things again. I promise you; you will begin to feel again.
There will be setbacks - During times of remembrance such as anniversaries, birthdays, and regular celebrations you will be reminded of the one that you have lost. Take time to reflect on why this is happening, may I suggest that it is because the person lost meant so much to you.
In these tragic situations, and only if the circumstances are right to do so, it might be helpful to ask yourself if the person lost would want you to continue to feel down and/or guilty about what occurred.
Sure, they don't want you to forget them, and know that you won't, but would they truly want you to feel pain and hurt forever?
We are all much stronger than we believe that we are, you've got this, with a little help and support when needed.
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