Losing a loved one knocks you off your usual life path and onto a very painful path. After helping that many families, we started to notice the patterns. There are 7 steps that every family goes through when they experience the loss of a loved one.
1 Private Shock
Many people experience physical shock when they first hear the news. They will become short of breath, they will ache all over, and tears will begin to flow. When the pain and tears diminish, an overwhelming numbness often sets in.
2 Word Spreads
Next, word begins to spread. One or two family members usually begin the process of calling the closest relatives, who then call their own families. The phone calls continue until everyone knows.
3 Family Gathers
Inevitably what happens next is the family gathers together to support each other and make pressing decisions like who’s going to go to the funeral home to make arrangements. Decision-making can be very difficult at this time.
4 Condolences from Friends
The process of spreading the word continues even while you are sitting at the funeral home making arrangements. All of the family may know, but now the community of people around you is beginning to find out. Your friends, your coworkers, your neighbours. As people learn the news, they all experience some degree of shock, and they continue to spread the news – amongst friends, coworkers, and acquaintances. All these people are jumping on the path with you and your family, and they all want to say they are sorry for your loss.
5 Public Mourning
While the people around you need to express their condolences, you and your family will be going through an emotional time of mourning. That’s how something as profoundly personal as mourning the loss of a loved one becomes a shared experience. You will be processing the memories of your loved one, and people will want to be with you.
The way we mourn is very personal. Some people focus on the person’s death and how you and your family deal with the loss. Others shift the focus to the life that your loved one lived. The stories of their life become the focus.
6 Final Goodbye
Sometime in the next few days, it will be time to say your final goodbye. This may happen with the lowering of a casket or the burial of an urn.
How you go through these three steps – Condolences, Public Mourning, and Final Goodbye directly dictates what happens in the last step…
7 Private Grief
The last step is Private Grief. Anyone who has ever lost a loved one can tell you that grief is very real. Grief is triggered by the things that remind you of them. It could be their chair, favourite book, or even an aroma. But the most painful triggers come a few months later when people keep saying they’re sorry for your loss. You might be ready to get back onto the path of life, but well-meaning people will keep pulling you back into grief.
While we cannot avoid experiencing grief, we can make some decisions to alleviate the pain and support family and friends.
There are only two important decisions for you to make …
- First, do you want to control the time and place that people will express their condolences?
- Do you want the lasting memory of your loved one to be the way they died….or the way they lived?
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