Losing a loved one: Can we talk about it?
Losing a loved one can be one of the saddest days of your life.
Losing a loved one is even worse when you also lose the opportunity to see the person you love one last time.
One of the hardships of being away from home is that you miss important events of people you love. You miss the days of weddings, newborn babies, and unexpected deaths. My grandmother passed away last year. And I was in the United States, living about 8500 miles away from her funeral.
When I was informed about her death, I ran. I ran for miles every day on the road alone. I ran for hours out in the heavy rains of July. Then, I ran again in the lights of sunset on the same day. I ran in the appreciation of how weather rapidly changes so that I remembered how transient our life experiences really are. I ran so that I could hear my heartbeats so loud, and so hard, which showed me that one can still feel very alive even when their loved one is dead.
I ran in an attempt to heal myself from the grief. It was the first step, but I needed more help.
Then I chant my prayers to the Buddha that my grandmother once taught me. The prayers ask to share loving thoughts to all beings who are in pain; to wish for the end of conflicts and dangers for all; to bring the absence of suffering for all–both physical and mental.
The prayers mitigated my grief. My grandmother strongly believed in spiritual healing, so she would have been happy to know that that’s how I was healing. I was praying to let go of my grief. She believed that prayers heal any sickness, not because of the power of the divine, but because of the power of peace one finds while praying. While working to find such peace at my own level, I looked for more resources.
I saw an ad that my school offered free psychological counseling for students.
In the beginning, I hesitated to try the service. Perhaps because I was skeptical about it. But mostly? I was ashamed to be seen at the counseling service as if something is wrong with me. It was not common in my culture.
But of course, something was indeed wrong or at least felt wrong with me. Losing a loved one changed me. I decided to come to terms with it and to take the risk. I decided to seek support from a stranger I had never met, in the name of receiving counseling service.
Counseling helped with losing a loved one.
It helped more than I had ever imagined and it helped me to finally heal. It was just something big and consoling to tell a caring stranger about how heartbroken you are at that very moment. I told her, “My grandmother is dead” repeatedly; shakingly at times, strongly at times, with whispers, with breaths, with denial in the beginning, and with acceptance gradually in the process. And she said, ” I am really sorry, tell me more about it.”
The thing is, I had not realized how much more my mind had to say about my grandmother’s death, apart from my sadness. And her question opened it up.
I told her about the thoughts I didn’t want to share with my family and friends. I told her about how scared I was of dealing with more deaths of others I love from home. I asked her how long I should continue my journey of studying in the U.S. when it is so full of uncertainty and loss. Then I cried more. Then I paused. Then I shared with her my feeling of confusion about life and death and everything important in between.
We did not find all the answers during the sessions. But we found something useful and valuable. I found a better understanding of myself. I found out how deeply I loved my family and how intensely I wanted to become someone who can help heal the sickness and the suffering of people. And I found out that it is possible to always love someone, and feel loved, even when you will never see them again.
And I also found out that some major losses in life guide us to find a better direction at life if only we let ourselves open through the process. Everyone grieves differently: running, praying, eating ice cream, dancing – any of these can work as a possible solution.
But for me, receiving counseling was an important first step.
Looking back, it gave me a chance to break myself open, and to mend myself again with my own hands. I did it with the help of someone–with the understanding that all of us go through pain and we are never alone– and it helped to heal me the most.
Being in the U.S., I have always been impressed by the innovative medical products and cutting-edge health care procedures. But now, I have come to truly appreciate the importance of human connection in the process of healing: something we may overlook at times. You can get the help you need when losing a loved one. The delivery of psychological counseling is something we can and should develop both here in the U.S and all over the world.
If you ask me: I know for one that when counseling is done right and well, it can heal and transform lives.