Are you beating yourself up because you feel you should have done more for your loved one before he/ she died? Or worse yet, for whatever reason, you were not with your loved one at the moment of death. Perhaps you feel you didn’t communicate well enough? It is not uncommon to have such guilt-ridden thoughts or others like them, and in the process of degrading yourself, destroy the ability to cope with your great loss.
The work of maximizing guilt and entertaining disturbing thoughts also has the insidious effect of draining precious energy that could be used in adapting to the many changes that have to be faced. And, as you think less of yourself it is inevitable that in lowering self-esteem you will be heaping unnecessary suffering on the great burden you are already carrying. So what can you do?
1. Recognize that negative thinking takes away your power. No one deliberately does something to hurt a dying loved one or would not want to be with him/her at death. The thought trap of blaming oneself is common, but it extracts an awesome toll on your head and heart, because it blocks the inner awareness needed to be open to insights and possibilities that normally pop into your thoughts when dealing with adversity.
2. You are your own best friend, even though you may be surrounded by others who are of great help at this time of loss. Therefore, tender-talking to yourself will lift you up when needed. Using your first name each time, repeat the most important self-love statement appropriate for loss: “Lou, hang tough; you are capable. You will outlast this loss.” Say it gently, but with great determination again and again, so it becomes part of your unconscious beliefs.
As you repeat your name and affirmation visualize doing what you know is difficult to do. This visualization will further help plant the belief that you are coping well in your unconscious. Always monitor what you are saying to yourself. Work to eliminate the limiting, self-defeating thought. Commit yourself to this battle and you will make it.
3. Rely on your faith. Your spiritual beliefs can be among the most, if not the most, helpful assets to finding meaning in your loss that leads to peace of mind. Allow grief to unfold naturally; don’t try to manipulate or put it on a timetable. It is a natural, albeit painful process. Forget what the books say.
As you do this, believe that the love of your God or your Higher Power will help you realize you are not in this darkness alone. Embrace that powerful belief. Never forget: belief powers your world. And, if you have a spiritual mentor, (or anyone with deep spiritual beliefs) seek him/her out on a regular basis.
4. Honor your best intuitions. You are connected to a loving Source with inestimable information and resources. They lie within, everyone possesses them, and you can tap into them by listening and trusting the wisdom that pours out. You need only create the intent to use, by making a choice to carefully call forth and examine the ideas that pop into your mind. Remember, intuition is one of the connections to this huge source of love. Always turn to your inner connection and listen whenever in doubt.
5. “Be the water not the rock” is an old proverb that holds great wisdom. In effect, when coping with great loss, it means be flexible like the water which goes around rock. The rock resists–and wears down and out. Do not resist that which automatically flows from great loss and change, all of the sadness, new routines, responsibilities, and a life that is different. That is the natural outcome of loss; loss changes us. We grow or regress. You gain nothing good from resisting.
The most successful method I know of for being the water and not the rock is to focus your efforts on loving more, especially yourself. Yes, I repeat, loving more. It is the most important thing you can do to grow from your loss because it will remind you of your goodness. Start today putting into practice what you find in the next three paragraphs.
First, become an expert at loving in separation with regard to the deceased. He/she will always be a part of you. Henri Nouwen, the prolific spiritual writer, says it best when he emphasizes that those who depart “become part of your self and thus gradually build a community within you.” That important inner community will help you focus attention on being more sensitive and loving to a relative, friend, your children, a pet, a homeless person, a shut-in.
Love will keep you safe, especially in this insecure time of change; it will intensely expand needed energy. If you choose to love more, you will insert yourself into the most dynamic form of adjustment for dealing with the never-ending transitions we all must face. Love is ingrained deep within you and needs to be expressed, especially when grieving. The result will be a successful adaptation. Love deeply.
In summary, all of the above ties into developing a stronger inner life that will get you through anything life has to offer. It will not be easy, but you do possess the insights to get you through this massive transition. Your greatest asset is you. You know the attachments you need to let go of and the people you need to be around in order to feel better. And above all, embrace and cherish the love that comes from others. It will further fuel your love for you.