A few weeks ago, we lost a very beloved member of our family.
It didn't happen out of the blue. Half a year before he passed, he had a severe stroke and suffered unrecoverable brain damage.
As one of the most cheerful, active and outgoing people I have ever known, he spent the last six months of his life in a hospital bed, unable to walk, sit, talk or even eat.
When his time came, the deep wrinkle between his eyebrows — so vivid and tense within the past few weeks — finally disappeared, and a slight smile lit up his face. That's how we knew the place he went to was a better one, indeed.
It was through this loss that our family found out death is not necessarily a bad thing for the one who passes. In fact, sometimes it comes as a relief and an end of sufferings.
Yet to the ones who stay alive, death opens a new chapter of pain. No matter how much we tell ourselves it was better for our loved one, it hurts to know he is not with us anymore.
These days, we are learning a lesson of coping with a loss, and it's not an easy one. When you grieve as a family, you always have someone to turn to for comfort. But on the other hand, you often find yourself seeing others suffer and not being able to make them feel better.
Here is what you can do to help your loved ones (and yourself) get through the tough times:
We all perceive the loss differently. We all have our things we miss about the person. We all have things we feel guilty about.
And we all need someone to share them with.
Listen to each other. Open up to stories, thoughts, fears and remorse.
Don't try to come up with solutions. Don't try to make others think positive. Just listen.
It will not cure the pain instantaneously, but it will reassure your dear ones they are not alone in the situation.
2. Accept your weakness.
When we see our loved one suffer, we naturally want to do something to solve the situation. We are so terrified of pain that we will do everything and anything to make it go away, or at least pretend it's not there.
When we see a problem, we want to fix it, but there is little we can do to fix death.
When you grief as a family, you are constantly confronted with each other's sadness, and it will often make you feel helpless and guilty.
To learn how to deal with it, you need to swallow your pride and admit you are not omnipotent. You are not powerful enough to bring the late one back or to make others forget about their loss.
So, don't try to be. Let yourself be a human. Let yourself be weak. Let yourself cry.
In the process of grieving, it is important to be able to listen and to talk, but it is equally important to be able to share silence.
There will be times when you won't know what to say to each other. Words that normally might have a profound impact often become useless at the time of loss. There is no magic word that can bring your loved one back, and therefore, there is no word that can fix it.
When you feel you have nothing to say, hug. Cuddling is an incredible tool for release of oxytocin, a hormone that brings us peace and comfort. More importantly, it sends your loved ones a powerful message: We are together in this, and I am not leaving you alone.
4. Smile about the good times.
When death puts a stop mark at the end of someone's story, it robs you of a chance to rewrite it. What it gives you instead, though, is an opportunity to go back to this story and celebrate its best moments.
When the person leaves your life, the best thing you can do for them is appreciate the moments they shared with you.
Cherish those little things. Reminisce with your family about the good times spent together. Look at old pictures. Share stories. Celebrate the unique gifts the person you've lost brought into your world.
As long as you keep someone in your memories, you keep them alive.
5. Continue the legacy.
At times, grief is all-consuming and leaves us no energy for anything else. It is OK to let yourself and others get absorbed by it.
Yet, as you live through the loss, remind yourself you're still alive, and that the one you've lost would be happy about it.
When you don't know how to live further, ask yourself how would the one whom you've lost want you to carry on. Ask yourself how they would feel if they saw you giving up on life. Ask yourself what you can do to make that loved person smile at you.
It doesn't mean you have to forget your pain and jump into chasing the joys of life right away. Yet, at the times when you feel lost, remind yourself there is a reason you are still here. And one of the reasons might be to carry on the beautiful legacy of the ones who are not here anymore.