Wed | Dec 7, 2016

Coping with a loss

Published:Sunday | December 21, 2014 | 12:00 AMJody-Anne Lawrence

Coping with a loss

Losing someone is never easy, and, unless you have gone through it, it's sometimes hard to find the right words to say. The hurt is unimaginable, and the healing process has no set period.

Hannah James* lost her oldest brother the day before graduating from university. This turned her life upside down, as she lost not only a brother, but a friend.

Everything reminds her of him.

"When around any family members, although we try not to talk about him, it's hard because almost everything reminds us of him. Clothes, pictures, his furniture, the taxi he used to operate. We try to put away things that will remind us of him. Guess we can't put away his furniture," she adds.

So she tries to stay away from home as much as possible. She also avoids walking past the spot where he died, by taking a cab home.

In her efforts to cope, she tried to find love - a decision she regrets because she went in trying to numb the pain that she was feeling.

"It was the worst decision I ever made - especially with someone I really cared about. He probably wasn't sure what he was agreeing to. I was not myself at all. I wrecked the relationship - the smallest thing bothered me. It's as if I wanted him to be a drug to stop the pain, but it was too much for him, because he had problems of his own. I wanted this guy to mend the pieces, but he couldn't, so I caught myself and backed off," she said.

This had her hurting not just over her brother's death, but also over a break-up - the loss of a partner and friend. Luckily for her, there were friends who are there to support her through it all - Aaron and Norman, whom she can call on at anytime, and Vanessa, who helped her to create a blog to write down her feelings and vent.

While at work, she sometimes hides behind her shades so that no one can see her tears. "I hide under my shades because I cry so much that the sun hurts my eyes," she notes.

She currently finds herself laughing at jokes she does not find funny, because she does not want the people around her to feel burdened by her sadness. She mustered up the courage to visit his grave a month ago, with hopes that it would assist her with the pain. Instead, she ended up crying until she felt like there was nothing left. But the loss re-emerged.

The emotional turmoil that James is going through is not uncommon. However, there is not only one way for someone to overcome such grief.

"There is no standard way to approach overcoming a loss such as a death. Each person grieves differently and individually. If you see the warning signs of pathology, depression and anxiety, seek professional help," advises Rosi Voorduow, associate counselling psychologist and public relations director at the Jamaica Psychological Society.

CRY WHEN YOU FEeL LIKE it

She adds, "Most times, all the logical things you tell yourself go through the window. You have to just mourn and take care of yourself. Cry when you feel like it. Stay close to the people who love you and forgive those who seem not to care. They may simply not know what to say."

Many do not know what to say, even the ones that are doing all the talking.

James knows that people might mean well, but there are a few clich√ąd statements that just hurt more than help. "I hate condolences because it reminds me too much of my graduation day when everyone kept saying congratulations and condolences in the same sentence. I don't believe those two words should be in the same sentence - but on August 10, it was the order of the day," she says. She adds, 'I am sorry', 'Hush' and 'You have to get over it' or 'You will get over it' are among the few statements that she also prefers people didn't say to her during it all.What James admits is important to her is when one listens, seems interested in what she is saying, and agrees with her.

Here are a few statements that Voorduow advises people to avoid using to someone mourning a loss:

'They are gone to a better place' - the finality of death separation is so overwhelming that it has no appeal. You want them here. Not in that 'better place'.

'God knows best' - which James also mentioned as one that she hates. "I already know that," she noted. This does not lessen the pain.

'You should be happy they are not suffering'. We want them better, not gone forever.

'They were old'. We really want our loved ones to live forever. Logic does not work.

* Name changed to protect privacy