Grief and Loss: 5 Lessons We Can Learn from Losing a Loved One

The older we get the more likely it is that we will be touched by the grief of losing someone we love.

Grief and loss, the stages of griefI lost my father nearly two and a half years ago.

Losing him knocked the foundation right out from under me. I felt as if I was in “free fall” for the first three or four months afterward. Nothing seemed “real” and nothing much mattered to me. It was as if I was awake but, in a “dream.”

I went through all the stages of grieving from shock and sorrow, to loneliness and missing him (still do). I even lost my appetite for a while, which is highly unusual for me. And for once didn’t worry about eating diet food either.

The only stage I did not experience was anger. I was not angry at him nor at God for taking him. Death is, after all, a part of life.

In the early stages of processing his loss I wasn’t ready to think about  the lessons death can teach us.

But, now that some time has passed I feel it’s important to share what I learned about life from losing of my father.

Lesson one

Share your feelings. Tell your loved ones that you love them while they’re alive. Hug them and share what’s in your heart. If you feel “uncomfortable” saying “I love you” or hugging them – make yourself do it anyway. Doing this just once or twice can melt barriers, heal resentments and open your heart.

Each night as I left the hospital I told my father that I loved him. He was so weak all he could manage to do was “blow kisses” to me. (My dear friend and fellow medium Andrea Atack reunited us the evening my father passed and one of the first things she said was that my father was “blowing kisses” to me.)

Lesson Two

Get to know the people you care about. Ask your parent, elderly friends and relatives about their childhood and early life. Ask them about the extended family you never knew. Pull out the family albums and go over all the people you don’t know and take notes. Use a tape recorder to preserve the family history. Just be sure to get it down before they transition. Ask your family members to submit questions and then interview your relative or parent and record this precious history.

This is one thing I wish I had done more of with my father. I knew a lot about his life and luckily my mother is still here to fill in some of the gaps but, not all. I wish I knew more about his youthful adventures.

Lesson three

Make time for friends and family and take photos at family events. When you lose someone nothing feels better than recalling wonderful memories of family gatherings and looking at photos of the event. (Whenever there is any sort of disaster reported on the news you always hear people say that one of the most painful losses was of their cherished family photos.)

My dad was the family photographer. He was famous for his self-portraits. Whenever he did anything he took a photo of himself doing it. We used to laugh when he did it – now those photos are the most precious photos of all. Since losing him we’ve tried to make an effort to take pictures at our family gatherings.

Lesson four

Have fun and laugh more. Don’t take life so seriously and don’t let fears hold you back. Take that trip with your best friend you planned since college to see the Great Wall of China. Do it now! Go to your high school reunion or reach out to old friends you’ve lost touch with. You will never look back over your life and wish you had worked longer hours. Instead you will be sorry that you didn’t make more time for your family friends and fun.

My father was a hard worker but he also loved to have fun. He went fishing with his friends fairly often and those were among his most cherished memories. After my dad died it dawned on me how many invitations I had turned down because I had put work ahead of friendships. I’m not doing that anymore and I hope you won’t either.

Lesson five

Be true to yourself. One of the things I admired most about my father was that he had no regrets. He lived the life he wanted to live. He loved his family, friends, church, city, home and being a mechanical engineer. He absolutely loved working on the huge skyscraper projects in New York all those years. And, he didn’t mind commuting into the city either. He did it for fifty years and didn’t retire until he was 72. I never once heard him say that he wished his life had been any different.

After my father died I realized I hadn’t been living authentically. I had spent 20+ years in a career I had no passion for. I was paying a mortgage on a house that kept be chained to the career I had no passion for. All I did was work practically, seven days a week. My life was a runaway train. I vowed to change that and I have – thanks Dad for teaching me this lesson – sorry you had to go so I could learn it.

Do what you want to do. Be who you want to be and don’t wait for the “right time or permission” to be that person.

Life can change and life can end in an instant. Live it – all of it – now.

Is your life all that you want it to be? If not why and what will you change to make a life of wonderful memories?

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35 Comments

  1. My dad died almost four years ago and I reacted much as you did. What an amazing gift to realize you weren’t on an authentic path and to change that. I too, left a career that was soul-killing and am on a path that’s more true to me. I appreciate your post – we aren’t taught how to deal with deal are we?

    Reply
    • Dear Shannon,
      I’m so sorry to hear about the loss of your father. My father will be gone three years in Sept. 2012 and it still seems like just yesterday.
      I miss him very much so I can totally relate to what you have gone through.
      In the loss of my father there was a gift he left – my awakening to how short life really is and how important it is to live the life you dream of living.
      No, we are definitely not taught how to deal with death, that’s for sure.
      Thank you so much for coming by and sharing your comments with us.

      Reply
    • Hi Shannon,
      I’m sorry to hear about the loss of your father. My father will be gone three years in Sept. 2012 and it still seems like just yesterday.
      I miss him very much so I can totally relate to what you have gone through.
      In the loss of my father there was a gift he left – my awakening to how short life really is and how important it is to live the life you dream of living.
      No, we are definitely not taught how to deal with death, that’s for sure.
      Thank you so much for coming by and sharing your comments with us.

      Reply
  2. Hello Angela,

    Thank you very much for your heartfelt and intimate post. It is a blessing to be able to meet you and your father via this site.

    I have not lost a parent like you have. However, I have ‘lost’ both inasmuch as I have estranged myself from them for some time now. Therefore, I can relate to your post and am thankful for the lessons you shared. I can indeed see myself applying them to my current situation and reviving the connection with my parents.

    Besides that I would like to share something that my spiritual teacher told me about death, which I believe is very helpful when we lose a dear one. He explained that we are not our bodies and our minds; our supreme reality is that each one of us is a soul. As such, we never die. Instead at the time of physical death we are simply leaving one body to enter another one, and experience life from a different perspective (i.e. a different body). Therefore, eternal life and bliss is our truth. We are all-consciousness and an image of unending peace.

    Do you think that this perspective helps deal with the grief we experience when we lose a dear one? I believe so; because it is not that they are gone forever, but that they are moving on to another stage in their own soul development.

    Looking forward to your thoughts on this!

    Cheers,

    Kandey
    Kandey Larden recently posted…What is Personal Development?My Profile

    Reply
    • Kandey,
      Your spiritual teacher was absolutely right. I learned this too from the Indian guru I studied with. She said, ”
      We are not our bodies, we are not our minds – we are the spirit.” Wonderful.
      I agree, as a medium have found this to be true as well. We shed the body but our consciousness lives on in a different dimension.
      Thank you so much for visiting and commenting. It’s a pleasure to meet you.

      Reply
  3. Hi Angela,
    Very clear expression about how we don’t realize the love we have in our life unless we lose it. I was very young when I lost my father in year 2000 after that within ten months my grandmother died. After three years my maternal grandfather died and recently a year before my paternal grandfather died.
    As a teenager growing into a grownup I’ve missed them all on each and every important events of life and I also miss them, miss the family I would have had today.
    I learned Soul Completion method in Reiki and it has calmed me and brought me peace. I’ve learned to accepts life the way it is, we can’t play God and hold on all happy moments. Some doors need to be shut down and some bridges need to burned, to continue walking. But it is possible through this spiritual method to go back in the past and fix the things. Knowing that my father is still alive in me and I can tell him which I wanted to tell in the past is an amazing discovery!

    Reply
    • Hi Sai,
      I’m so sorry to hear about all the losses you’ve suffered in your life. I’m sure you missed them growing up very much!
      Reiki is amazing. It is wonderful to go back and mend those fences and heal those broken hearts isn’t it?
      I’m so glad you were able to take those courses and that you know feel connected to your father in spirit.

      Reply
  4. Such an important post Angela. Our society doesn’t really help us process death. It is part of life, but one part most of us don’t know how to deal with and when we loose a loved one, it can stop knock us down for a long time. Within a span of 4 years I lost several family members including my father and I remember thinking, I need to learn how to deal with death and how to be around others who are experiencing a loss. Something we should process before we’re in the moment of experiencing the loss, so we can get through it a bit easier.

    Reply
    • Thank you Aileen. Death really sneaked up on me. I never expected my father to die. It was a shock.
      I’m so sorry to hear about the loss of your father too. Wow, 4 family members? That must have been devastating to you.

      Reply
  5. Thanks for sharing this, Angela.
    I too have found that the death of my father impacted me in very unexpected ways. One of the great benefits was that it provided opportunity to ponder deeper what it means to live from my own Authentic Nature. Earnestly seeking the truth requires letting go of old patterns of thought that stop our naturally curious and ambitious spirit from working for us. It can leave us feeling deserted and helpless. We find ourselves asking, “What am I to think next?” When we are open to fresh opinions, it becomes apparent that a lot of our current self-talk is spewing nonsense. These are the moments that can spur us on to think the unthinkable and to honor the spirit of our ancestors. It takes courage to challenge old opinions that we preciously hold as valid.
    rob white recently posted…Introducing WROAR Blog Talk RadioMy Profile

    Reply
    • Hi Rob,
      So true. I did feel as if the world had stopped and it gave me pause to think, “What am I to think next?”
      It put life in perspective for me and I’m grateful to him for that.
      What are we here for and why am I doing the things I’m doing?
      It does take courage to challenge the old opinions that we preciously hold as valid.

      Reply
  6. Hi Angela,

    I lost my dad about 10 years ago, and I do miss him everyday. Being the youngest and only daughter, we had a special relationship. He was an amazing person and I was lucky to be his daughter. Your father sounds wonderful and was a great example of how to live life to it’s fullest. Thank you for sharing your lessons, they are important reminders to reexamine our priorities.
    Cathy recently posted…Are You Interested in Non 12 Step Addiction Treatment? (Part 1)My Profile

    Reply
    • Hi Cathy,
      Thank you. I’m so sorry to hear about the loss of your father.
      It sounds as if you had a marvelous relationship with him as well.
      I learned to like my father as an adult after my divorce. He would come over to my house and fix things for me and we’d have tea and talk.
      It was a really special relationship.

      Reply
  7. Hi Angela,

    Beautiful heart-felt post. I’m glad to know more about your father and the important life lessons you’ve learned because of how he has touched your life and others.

    The only closest relative I lost a few years back is my mother-in-law. She was 70+, but she passed away unexpectedly. She changed my life by introducing meditation, alternative medicine, books, various points of view, different religions and so on to me. By the way, she was American but had lived in Asia for 40 years.

    A lot of what I know now was sparked off from her. Now that I recall, a few years after she passed away, I found a file of lecture notes in my home library. I realized that she had gone to a Silva workshop. That was how I became curious and eventually attended one myself.

    Unfortunately my mother-in-law did not lived long enough to see the person I became. She passed away because of food poisioning in India. Our memories of her still lived on. She had touched several others too for being the person she was.

    You know, I should share an account of my mother-in-law on my blog. I don’t believe I have done so. Writing this comment just made me realize it will be a good idea to. Thanks for the inspiration!
    Evelyn Lim recently posted…12 Love Quotes For InspirationMy Profile

    Reply
  8. Great lessons have come to you from your father’s death. You are living better because you have gleaned wonderfully important lessons and have incorporated them into your ‘new’ life. Your father would be very happy for you.
    Have you read the book, “The Five Secrets You Must Discover Before You Die”, by John Izzo? Wonderful book. Not regretting is a biggie and you say your father lived without regrets. That’s a gift.

    Reply
    • Hi Harriet,
      Thank you. I’m so glad you enjoyed the post.
      I am grateful to my father for all he taught me while he was alive and after he was gone too.
      No, I have never heard of this book. I will have to read it. Thank you so much for recommending it to me.
      Yes, my father had no regrets. I’m working on that now.
      Angela Artemis/Poweredbyintuition recently posted…Grief and Loss: 5 Lessons We Can Learn from Losing a Loved OneMy Profile

      Reply
  9. This is such an important post, Angela. Death is something that we all must deal with at some point in our lives, yet it’s a subject that we avoid like the plague. I admire the courage you showed by speaking about this. The lessons you’ve given here will help more people than you’ll ever know. May you find comfort in the memories of good times with your father.
    Nea recently posted…12 Easy Ways to Get in a Good Mood On a Bad DayMy Profile

    Reply
  10. Hi Angela,

    I am sorry to read about the loss of your father. Losing a loved one can be a very painful and traumatic experience for anyone. As you rightly point out, death is a part of life. But this knowledge, this awareness, does not make the process any easier for us. I feel you have gained valuable insights from your experience and here are the thoughts that crossed my mind.

    Share Your Feelings

    All we have in life are moments. This is a phrase I am fond of repeating. And the moments we have with our loved ones are dear as they are fleeting. It is up to us to seize each moment and make the best of them.

    The problem with us is that we do not tell our loved ones we love them as often as we should. We do not share our feelings or thoughts or our inner worlds at times. There is so much that may be left unsaid when the final separation comes. Thus, we must seize each moment and tell them often how we feel. It is the only way to have less regrets.

    Get to Know the People You Care About

    I am a big believer in sharing your inner world with the people you love. It is the best way to share the part of ourselves that matter. This should be a two-way street. Just as you share, you should also make the effort to understand the inner worlds of your loved ones. This will enrich the experiences and the times you have together.

    Thank you for sharing this article!

    Irving the Vizier
    The Vizier recently posted…The Dangers of Pride and ArroganceMy Profile

    Reply
    • Hi Irving,
      Thank you for your sympathies.
      So true – all we have are moments. Those moments add up the memories of our lives though.
      You have hit on two of the key points here.
      Sharing our feelings and being more intimate with the ones we love – so important.
      Thank you so much. And, thank you for sharing the link to Sharing your inner world too.

      Reply
  11. Thanks for this most heartwarming post Angela. I volunteered in hospice for a number of years and saw the value in all that you write about on a daily basis.

    I feel your loss too. My Mum passed away three years ago and I still find myself saying…I’ll ask Mum. But I was able to be with her a lot during her last years, for which I’m so thankful.

    Encourage each other.
    Elle
    Elle recently posted…High On Life.My Profile

    Reply
    • Dear Elle,
      I’m so sorry to hear that you lost your Mum. I do understand what you’re going through as well.
      Even when we are grown-ups we feel the loss intensely, don’t we?
      I’m so glad you got to be with her a lot during the end. I’m sure she cherished having you present.
      What a wonderful person you are to have volunteered in hospice too!
      I don’t doubt for a minute that she is still with you and very, very proud of you too!

      Reply
  12. Very powerful lessons, Angela. I will give you one more I learned from my mother’s passing. As you know I was not a believer of much anything then. I wrote to her every week, at the same time we used to have our phone chats, to ask her for answers. She sent them to me. She did. I would ask for specific signs and I got them. So my lesson was that she is still with me and will always be. I learned that when someone dies, they only give up the physical.
    She also led me to meditation. And that is how I met you. So I also learned as you so well point out in your books, you have to learn to listen.

    Reply
    • Hi Rosemarie,
      I’m so glad your mother taught you such a wonderful lesson. She is definitely with you for sure! It’s amazing how they will send us “signs” if we ask for them too, isn’t it? I want to thank her too for leading you to meditation – without her we would not know one another. Thanks Rose!

      Reply
  13. Beautiful lessons, Angela. I’m truly sorry for your loss, but I’m so glad that your dad is with you still, blowing you kisses. I find so much comfort in knowing that our loved ones who have passed over are still right beside us cheering us on.

    Reply
    • Hi Jodi,
      Thank you so much! He is still with me. I hear his voice once in a while too. One of the things I didn’t mention in the article was that 3 years prior to my father’s passing I had begun pursuing mediumship development. I had been seeing and hearing spirits throughout my life but, never felt called to go any further. I started taking classes but, never told my parents. Three months before my father died I did a week long training course with James Van Praagh and came home and told my father all about it. He was so interested and so supportive. He told me that I should make something out of this ability – which I did. Now he visits me often – and it is very comforting.

      Reply
      • I find it so beautiful how the timing in our universe is always exactly perfect. What a wonderful gift that you two are still communicating and continuing your relationship!

        Reply
        • Hi Jodi,
          Thank you. It is beautiful. I feel my father’s presence often. While I do miss his physical presence I feel blessed to be able to connect with him in spirit.

          Reply
    • HI David,
      I’m glad you still have conversations with him. He does hear you. You can ask him to send you signs that he hears you and he will too!

      Reply
  14. Hi Angela,
    Thank you for such a heartfelt post. My dad is 85 and you reminded me how many questions I still want to ask him while he is here! Life is precious, and my father, like yours, has been an incredible influence in my life.

    I am so glad you found your authentic life. We all benefit from your stories and wisdom. And that, I’m sure, makes your dad one proud father!
    In Harmony,
    Jen ?
    Jen recently posted…Free Snippet Friday: new tuneMy Profile

    Reply
    • Hi Jen,
      It’s great to see you! Do ask your dad about his early life now while you can. And, look over all the photos together.
      Don’t wait!
      My father did tell me he was proud of me and I will always treasure those words.
      Thank you so much for visiting and commenting.

      Reply
  15. I worked with a client in the palliative care unit at the hospital today and was thinking about this very topic afterwards. Perfect timing for me, Angela.

    Your dad sounds like he was an amazing guy and great role model for you. I’m sure he is so very proud of the person you are.
    Lindsay recently posted…Our deepest wounds surround our greatest giftsMy Profile

    Reply
    • Hi Lindsay,
      Your job at the hospital sounds very rewarding. As much as it must be difficult to work in that field it does make you appreciate life more, I’m sure.
      Thank you for lovely compliments about my father. He was pretty special. It’s sad that I had to lose him to see just how very special he was too.
      Thank you!
      xoxo,
      Angela

      Reply

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