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Loss is an inevitable part of human existence. From as early as childhood, we know that one day we might lose a loved one and, throughout our lives, we experience examples of grief, either through our acquaintances or through depictions in books or movies. And yet, we never fully understand the complexity of grief until we experience it first-hand. No matter how much we read about it and see it in someone else, grief is a deeply personal process that reveals hidden depths of ourselves and makes us see relationships, and life, ultimately, from a whole new perspective. 

According to psychological research, most people go through the grieving process on their own, and they are able to heal, in time, with social support. However, there are also complicated grief cases where things don’t get better after a few months, and people develop unhealthy coping mechanisms or experience intense emotional manifestations. 

No matter what you are going through, psychologists point out that there is no such thing as a universal grieving process. Everyone understands death through their personal, emotional, cultural, and social spectrum, so the best thing you can do is give yourself time to heal and process everything that happened. 

Contrary to popular belief, the ultimate milestone of “moving on” doesn’t mean forgetting them and getting back to exactly the way things were before. On the contrary. It means traversing an emotional journey until you come to terms with their passing, and learning to enjoy life once again whilst honouring their memory. 

The five stages of grief are only a rudimentary representation of the grieving process.

At this point, if you ask anyone about what it means to grieve, they’ll tell you of the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. These stages are so deeply ingrained in our culture that we almost always expect to go through grief as if it were a mathematical, predetermined process. However, it’s not that simple. 

While the stages of grief are a pretty good schematic representation of the process and give us an idea of what to expect, they don’t paint the full picture. In reality, you might not experience grief in this exact order, you may skip some stages, and you may experience others twice. When that happens, know that it’s normal. Allow yourself to filter through your emotions and make sense of them. Another misconception you need to overcome when dealing with grief is that people experience grief at the same intensity. This never happens. It’s normal to burst out crying after losing a loved one. It’s also normal not to cry and interiorize your pain. So, don’t judge yourself by what others are doing or by what you think you should be doing. 

There are no rules as to how you should deal with grief. However, these strategies can help you cope with the loss in a healthy way: 

  • Take care of yourself and your family. Even if this is a complicated time, you still need to eat and rest. If someone else from your family is experiencing intense grief symptoms, let them know that you’re there for them. 
  • As much as you wanted to isolate yourself, this isn’t helpful in the long run, so talk about your loved one’s passing with people around which you feel comfortable. 
  • If you feel overwhelmed by your emotions, or you are developing unhealthy coping mechanisms, reach out to a licensed professional. In general, complicated grief occurs when intense emotions occur even after a few months, to the extent to which they interfere with your health, work, and personal life. 

How can you honour a loved one’s passing?

As mentioned before, acceptance has nothing to do with forgetting about your loved one or burying the trauma deep within. On the contrary, the end goal here is to come to terms with the loss and continue to enjoy life while remembering them fondly. In a way, your relationship with your loved one continues even after their passing, and that’s something worth cherishing. 

As to how exactly you can do that, the possibilities are endless, and the best source of inspiration is all the beautiful experiences you shared together. For example, if you late grandfather loved gardening, you can plant a tree with your family in his honour. If they cared deeply about a social cause, you can make recurring donations to that cause or even start your own charity. 

If they were a creative individual who loved unique artistic expressions, you could honour them through cremation jewellery. For example, you can add your loved one’s cremated ashes into a diamond or another type of jewellery, a practice that dates to ancient times. This isn’t a shortcut to acceptance, of course, but jewellery sometimes helps make grief more bearable. 

Each individual and family has their own way of processing loss, which is why there are millions of ways to show your love for a lost friend or relative. Some families start a tradition and get everyone together to commemorate the memory of the deceased, telling their best stories and remembering all the good times they had together. However, you don’t need to formalize the event or do something big if it feels forced. Looking at photos or just thinking about them and what you learned from your relationship can be enough. 

In the end, you can do anything that brings you joy. Whether that’s learning to play your late dad’s old guitar, making a diamond from their ashes, or just calling someone to remind them of a beautiful moment you spend together, it’s the thought that counts. 

And, last but not least, allow yourself to live your best life. Many times, people feel like they owe it to their loved ones to go through a long grieving process, but, ultimately, the best way to celebrate them is by moving on, healing, and enjoying the things you love. 

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