Coping with death

DEATH is inevitable. It can happen anytime, anywhere and whichever condition – either good or bad – we are in. Understanding this basic fact is one thing. But confronting death itself . . . ah. . . we just could not cope!

Hardly, if at all, does one cope with the loss of a loved one. And I believe everyone would agree with me.

But cope we all must. Citing from a very recent experience with this life’s most dreaded and avoided phenomenon, I would like to highlight a few ways to consider when faced with death.

The first thing to remember is to allow your self the time to mourn or grieve. But by doing so, you should be careful not to stay long in this your temporary despair. Cry all you can and never control the tears whenever an opportunity comes along. Crying will actually free yourself of that heavy thing in your chest.

Think of the good death has given to your loved one. In the case of my mother’s passing away, it helped me a lot in overcoming my initial grief by realizing that her death actually ended her suffering. Cancer, as you know, in its terminal stage, uses up whatever energy left in a person because of the characteristic pain. We wouldn’t want of course to see our loved one suffer.

It is a big boost to know the stages of grief – denial and isolation, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance – and realize that you are not exempt from undergoing each one of them. You may not go through the full stages in order, or one stage may be lacking, but as proven time and again, each one of us experiences the pattern.

When I was first confronted with my mother’s death last February 19, I remember telling myself that this thing happens only to other people. I’ve been hearing in the past about relatives’ and friends’ death in their family and in those times, I never was able to reconcile with my own impending reality. I was actually undergoing the denial stage as early as then, as I was aware that my mother may soon pass away. I was seeing the signs yet I kept on denying it up to the last moment when death itself confronted me!

Anger was mostly directed towards my self. Yes, I was angry for not being able to take care of my mother during her last hospitalization, 11 days before she died at home. I was mad at my own health problem as it prevented me from running to her at the time she needed me most. I needed to meet an appointment for a full body CT scan at the Kuwait Cancer Control Center last February 12. I felt the more angry and guilty when I learned that my mother was continuously looking for me in the hospital. She must have wondered why I was not around. Had it not been for that pre-scheduled appointment, I could have been with her even before she was rushed to the hospital last February 4.

Bargaining stage was experienced way before the death of my mother. I remember praying fervently to God that last night, while I was dressing her breast lesions, to prolong her life. I promised God I will not leave my mother again until the end. I was bargaining for more time – maybe to make up for those lost times I was unable to stay with her in the past many years of working overseas.

Depression has been my constant companion since my own cancer diagnosis in the later part of year 2000. Acknowledging its on and off occurrence is something I have been accustomed to and I was ready when real depression set in as a result of losing my mother. I just allowed it to take its course. It took longer than I expected but I really didn’t mind. I actually basked in its healing action, fully aware that it, too, shall pass.

I can’t claim that I’ve fully accepted my mother’s death. Not yet. But, one day soon, I know, I will successfully pass that final stage.

In all the above phases, you need someone who will stay with you all the time, someone who is ready to listen to you and to understand when it’s time to hug you or just leave you alone. You also need friends who can tell you they care for you, who never fail to ask about you. And most importantly, you need work, to keep you busy and productive.

 And last but not the least, you need God’s comforting presence.

 

Author: Freda Editha O. Contreras
Published on: March 22, 2002

 

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