Perhaps you struggled through years of caring for your sick loved one, especially if he or she suffered from dementia or another incurable illness. For a moment you may have even guiltily wished for your loved one's death. Or your loved one was killed quickly in an accident or another tragedy.
Now the day finally comes and he or she passes. You are amazed, stricken, numb, bereft, overcome with sadness and anxiety. These are perfectly normal reactions. Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross examined the five stages of dealing with death and dying in her 1969 book On Death and Dying. She included denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Based on my years treating patients who have dealt with the loss of a loved one and my personal experience with my husband's death, I know there are many more emotions that one can experience when dealing with late-stage illness and death.
I also believe that our emotions are often hard to identify and process in part because contemporary American society does not prepare us for our loved ones' deaths. Instead we have a false sense that all of us are here forever. A hundred or so years ago, we were more in sync with the cycles of nature. In an agrarian society, we witnessed crops growing, crops being harvested, and then the land lying fallow for periods of time. We saw chickens, cows, and horses going through their life cycles from infancy to death. Also many lived with a few generations in our households: babies, teens, middle-aged adults, and grandparents. Our elders and sick loved ones died at home, but now they are relegated to nursing homes and hospices, where we can't usually share their struggles. Those of us who have pets are still going through life cycles with them, which can be good preparation for our human loved ones' deaths.
Amidst the sea of emotion, there are ten practical tips that can help you deal with your loved one's death:
1) Try to feel your emotions. The entire gamut of emotions is possible. Try to get into them, whatever they are.
Read my other tips at Huffington Post Healthy Living.
Thanks as usual to Gina Misiroglu for putting me in touch with the HuffPost people. It's just one way she's bringing more visitors to Red Room and helping Red Room authors.