“It’s a journey, it’s a process,” comments Goldster psychotherapist Hannah Jackson on the way we grieve when a loved one dies. “We really must be kind to ourselves and not expect too much in the early days.”
Hannah notes that grief can become overwhelming for us. “But we don’t need to be overwhelmed by sorrow. Just notice your emotions.”
Some things that can help are journaling, poetry or even writing a letter to the person who has died. “Grieving is a process of adjustment,” continues Hannah, “reminding us that they’re gone. People like to make memorials, plant trees or do something significant.” So having some kind of concrete or living tribute to the bereaved person can help make a locus for our emotions and help us to feel there is something lasting or living dedicated to the person who mattered dearly to us. “That’s how that person lives on in our memory,” confirms Hannah.
According to Hannah, there’s ultimately something profound in us feeling happier at the end of the grieving process – because we can transmit that happiness to those who have passed away. “Family members live on because they are in our DNA,” she says. We may feel we have a duty to them to keep up our spirits and to live as strongly as possible. Hannah cites the case of a taxi driver who lost his wife and then went on to raise a lot of money in her memory. “Her memory spurred him on to do amazing things, and that’s another way we are left with something of the person who has passed away.”
Death teaches us that there’s a dignity to life. “We can smile, in time, that that person has been in our life.”
Hannah likens grieving to the seasons. “Grieving is like winter, but there will in future be a change in the seasons. Spring will come and there will be fresh, green shoots of joy and life goes on.”
The people we’ve lost teach us about their mortality – how to age and ultimately how to die. “People find help in faith and philosophy,” she concludes. “And we must remember we’re leaving things for future generations. What legacy do we want to leave?”