I think that to grieve the loss of a loved one you have to find a way to access and speak about what you loved, what you miss and what you have lost. In my experience this has not been a simple matter. When an opportunity to speak about your loss is unavailable you become locked in a state of mourning. You cannot move on with your life because you can’t express yourself. I think that to recover, whatever that might come to mean, you have to find a way to express your grief and experience.
In, as it were, an ideal situation there will be appropriate people around you who are skilled in helping you engage with your loss, people you can grieve with, speak with. People who will be available to help. It might even be possible to work on these things together. It would still be hard because profound loss is an injury that strikes to the heart. We face a dreadful situation, we have lost our loved one, we have lost part of ourselves. We are left alive, having to live without them, how are we supposed to survive that and go on living? It is a dreadful position to be in.
In complicated deaths, perhaps an accidental death, a death of a child, a suicide, a sudden death, in such unexpected deaths there are further complicating states. These are the kind of deaths in which we may experience shame about our loss. Shame seals us even further into silence. Shame and silence and death fit together all too easily. It is simpler not to speak of the loss. People can spend the rest of their lives not speaking about their loss. On the surface they may appear to have moved on, and everyone will want to buy into that idea because really no one wants to speak about death. But this is a smoke and mirrors trick. It is not the same as working through grief and finding a way back to life. It is not the same as recovering. Faced with these complicated experiences our best hope is to get beyond the smoke and mirrors and find a way to work back to life.
Some cultures have found ways to work with the profound injury that comes with a sudden unexpected death. In Greek mythology, when Persephone was taken down to the underworld her mother Demeter suffered such grief that it threatened to leave the earth barren. As she grieved the loss of her daughter the crops withered and died. Fortunately Demeter was well connected and so Zeus (Persephone’s father) intervened. Persephone was found and a compromise was established. As a consequence, so the myth goes, we live in a world divided into six months of life, and six months of death. A world in which there are seasons, and so after winter, after the crops die and the life cycle is over, life returns and spring shoots emerge to burst into life once more.
People who suffer profound and unexpected loss often find themselves without anyone to help work the experience through. No one comes to their aid. The death is not spoken about. Then people experience the deafening silence, shame and untold grief all alone. Somehow, though alone and lost to their grief, they have to find a way back to life.
I have spent many years working with people dealing with experiences of death, bereavement and mourning. You are welcome to contact me to arrange an initial consultation if you need to deal with these issues.