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Moving Beyond the Pain of Losing Someone You Love

Healing

“Sorrow prepares you for joy. It violently sweeps everything out of your house, so that new joy can find space to enter. It shakes the yellow leaves from the bough of your heart, so that fresh green leaves can grow in their place. It pulls up the rotten roots, so that new roots hidden beneath have room to grow. Whatever sorrow shakes from your heart, far better things will take their place.”  ~Rumi

Our son Nathan was nine years old when a car hit him. He had massive head injuries as a result of his accident. Doctors told us that he was brain dead and encouraged us to turn off his life support and donate his organs. Two days later we did just that and sadly said our last goodbye.

How do you begin this journey? Who prepares you for this sudden change? How do you wake up the next morning knowing your child won’t be in your life anymore?

At first we went on autopilot to survive because trying to absorb such an enormous shock was not an option. Nothing seemed real.

Of course, we knew the truth deep down, but we had another daughter to care for, and in the beginning everyone was running around trying to make us feel better, so our grief went on hold.

After the funeral and meals stopped coming around, we still wanted to avoid the grief, but somehow it started to face us.

My husband and I both wanted answers to the many questions we had about Nathan’s death.

We started to doubt what we had learned at the hospital and our own decision to turn off his life support. We began to come out of our shock and started piecing together exactly how this happened.

Our anger at the driver started to come out as well; we wanted her to be punished like we were. We asked if she could be charged and held accountable for her actions.

With all this emotion and energy flying around, we weren’t sure who we were anymore, and we were channelling our energy in all the wrong directions.

I started to play the “what if” game in my thoughts each day. Once you let it in, it can consume you. I was not so much exhausted with the process of grief, but more about how busy my mind had become with everything but that.

I would lie awake at night going over and over how, why, or what if. I became obsessed, convinced that if I worked out how, I could change that day or blame someone else, I could somehow bring him back.

At times my husband would withdraw from talking about Nathan’s death. I wanted to talk about him everyday, but he would often come home from work not wanting to talk at all.

This is often why couples find it so difficult when they realize they grieve differently—sometimes completely opposite to each other.

Grieving differently can bring a wedge between you both. If you don’t understand how you can work together through this grief, it can leave you feeling disconnected.

Please know that there is no “right” way to grieve. The way you feel at the time is the right way for you. When you begin to understand and be patient with those close to you who do grieve differently, it is then you can find a balance together. Give your loved one time to adjust to his or her grief.

In the early stages of grief, you often feel like no one really understands your loss, although people would tell me they did.

People mean well, they feel so awful that this has happened to you, and their greatest fear is that it will happen to them.

Your friends and sometimes your family believe you don’t want to talk about your lost loved one again, as this will cause you to cry and be sad. Often others feel uncomfortable around you when you talk about your loved one’s death and they see how painful this is for you. 

The fact is, you never want to stop talking about that person simply because your greatest fear is accepting that they are never coming home.

So days turn into months, and the pain increases instead of decreasing. The emotions that come through you are sometimes like riding a rollercoaster.

I remember planning for Nathan’s first anniversary. I believed that if I prepared for it, I would cope on the day and wouldn’t collapse in a heap. What I found is that it is never actually on the day of a special occasion that you fall apart but often when you least expect it.

After a few months, I began to read as much as I could on grief and losing a child, and I was so glad I did. My sister gave me a book called When the Bough Breaks by Judith R. Bernstein. This was the beginning of my journey into healing.

It gave me so much hope, because for the first time I realized that, even though I was in all this emotional pain, I was not alone. I started to see that all the feelings that my husband and I shared were completely normal, and that walking through this pain, I could slowly come out of it and begin to heal.

The next gift I received was a suggestion from a friend to take a yoga class. As my mind was constantly haunted by the “what ifs” and my emotional turmoil, I decided to try it.

At first, yoga helped by slowing my worrisome thoughts. When I began to connect to my breath, to breathe more deeply and gently, I was able to feel I had more control over my emotions.

Each yoga pose helps you release stress and opens your mind and body to receive love and healing.

I then went to see a wonderful healer who showed me that when I became still and spent time in meditation, it allowed my emotions to flow; I allowed them to surface instead of resisting them or suppressing them.

I learned to sit in the pain, accepting it without judgement. 

In understanding that I only had to face one day at a time, I began to cope.

In teaching me to surrender to these emotions and loss, my healer also taught me affirmations to say, and to write down what I wanted in my life. She was the first person to show me I was in control of creating the life I wished for, even if it meant not having my son with me.

I started to feel empowered with new thoughts. I started to see that I could be in charge of how I reacted to each situation. I asked myself each day, “Can I start the day positively? Can I start the day in hope?”

During this time of healing, I realized I needed to forgive the driver for Nathan’s death. Forgiveness is so important in letting go and moving forward. I also needed to forgive myself of all the guilt that I was holding for him.

I felt responsible for every story in my head and for all the times I didn’t tell him I loved him or hug him, for it is never enough when they are gone.

In forgiving, I freed my own life of anger and hurt, and in doing so allowed, love, peace, and hope to enter my heart.

If you’re dealing with the loss of someone you love, practice your stillness each day, become aware of your thoughts coming in and out. Allow yourself to be sad but more importantly, allow yourself to be happy. It is the gift you can give back to your loved one who is gone and to those still with you.

Photo by shanon wise

Avatar of Karen Lang

About Karen Lang

Karen Lang is a mother of two beautiful girls, a Reiki Therapist, and Shamanic Healer. Her passion is to walk with others on their journey and to share with them the knowledge and experience that she's learned on hers. If you would like to book a healing session, visit shamanismandhealing.wordpress.com/.

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  • http://www.vishnusvirtues.com/ Vishnu

    Sorry to hear about these tragic circumstances Karen – very brave of you to share your story here. Can’t imagine losing a child at such a young age. Your journey to forgive, find strength and move on is inspiring. What a powerful thought that finding happiness for ourselves after the loss of a loved one is a gift for your loved one who’s gone. That’s one big motivation to seek happiness in our lives again.

    Thanks again for sharing.

  • Fiona C

    Hi Karen thank you for your post. I lost my firstborn son James at 2days old 22 years ago this July. I remember feeling like I was trudging through a fog and a thick mire. At one point I decided just to do one day at a time. For various reasons I would not have looked at yoga practice or counselling during that time I was part of a religion which had very negative views of such things. I was raised in that religion so the teachings were well ensconced. I did go on to have another son the following year and he will be 21 this year. Sadly his dad, my former husband and the father of both my boys died very unexpectedly last year in quite a traumatic way. I have grieved my ex husband although we were both remarried and it has made me lose my way ……. So now religion free I am gratefully looking for all words of wisdom and guidance I can find in dealing with the stress and anxiety I find myself experiencing. Your post really hit home to me and I am going to look at yoga practice to help me. There is so much more I could write about why this hit home for me but again I would just look like to say thank you for taking the time to write about such a painful subject to you. Good things, peace and live to you and yours.

  • Jeet

    Big hugs for you, Karen!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=632016146 Nathalie Farigu

    what a poignant story and so beautifully written. thank you for sharing.

  • http://www.eleanorgoold.com/ Eleanor Goold

    Thank you for sharing your brave story and providing strength and hope to others.

  • http://twitter.com/Lawnordermobile andy

    It’s wonderful when something so awful gradually becomes something positive. It’s hard to explain, but feeling grateful for the time you had with someone now gone, becomes a gift from them. I lost my dear mother just 3 weeks ago and although I’m still very ‘upset’ I feel that by doing everything I possibly could to care for her has brought me acceptance quickly and allowed me to sidestep the guilt feelings that consume so many. I love my mum so much and refused to ‘look away’ from her illness and eventual death. I held her hand and told her how thankful I was to have had her as my mother as she passed away. Now, gratitude is as common a feeling as dread once was and I know I’ll always be able to share special moments with her for the rest of my life. Real love doesn’t want anything in return and utter acceptance of what has happened is like being able to turn the light on in a dark and lonely room.

  • Karen Lang

    Hi Fiona

    Thankyou for your comment and kind words on my story. You have had a lot happen to you over the years and I am sorry for your loss.

    Life takes us all on very different journey’s but I am convinced that when we seek to find the answers, that people will come into our life and give us hope and a different way to see our situation.

    Its wonderful that you are looking at life openly and although you pain is heavy, taking one day at a time and allowing this moment to be your focus will help you grow and heal in time.

    I wish you many blessings ahead FIona and feel free to email me anytime.

    Karen Lang

    naaron2@hotmail.com

  • Karen Lang

    Thankyou Andy for your comment.

    Im sorry to hear about your loss. When you walk through this journey with a kind heart and open mind you can help not only your own healing but many others.

    Many thanks for sharing.

    Karen

  • Karen Lang

    Thankyou Eleanor, I appreciate your words.

    Karen

  • Karen Lang

    Thankyou Nathalie for taking the time to read my story.

    Karen

  • Karen Lang

    Thankyou!! We can never get enough hugs.

  • Karen Lang

    Hi Vishnu

    Thankyou for your kind words. Death can be a gift to us, if we can find the true meaning behind each story.

    Karen

  • http://www.facebook.com/eddiesim74 Eddie Sim

    Thank you for sharing your light with us, it will lit many much needed lamps in times of darkness. Peace & love to you Karen

  • Karen Lang

    I appreciate your comment Eddie. Thankyou.

    Karen

  • Renee

    Wow, this really did bring tears to my eyes. I am so incredibly in awe of your strength in writing about your journey. I have no doubt it will help others through their grieving. Thank you.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=656986785 Megan Grace-Hughes

    Hi Karen, This post really resonated with me. I lost my father and brother 2 1/2 years & 2 years (respectively) ago both very suddenly. It’s taken time and major life changes (I’m now training to be a counsellor) to allow me to accept my grief and work with it. My sadness will always be there but I also feel the joy that they brought into my life whilst I had them.

    My yoga practice and meditation has changed my life significantly. I feel like a different person. And now as I embark on a new career I do so in my their name and memory.

    Thanks for sharing your experiences, I’m sure it will help a great deal of people.

    Megan x

  • Karen

    Hi Renee

    Thankyou so much.

    It is a gift, to give to those who have just begun this difficult journey.

    Karen

  • Karen

    Hi Megan

    Thanks for sharing your story. You are very early in your grief and I am sorry to hear of the loss of your father and brother.

    Yoga and meditation have such a powerful impact on grief and I am glad this has helped you.

    Give yourself time to grieve before you help others, grief often comes in waves and it takes time for those wounds to heal.

    I wish you many blessings and I think that giving back to others is a gift.

    Karen

  • http://www.thebounceblog.com/ Bobbi Emel

    Karen, thanks so much for sharing this very intimate story. I’m so sorry for your loss. But your words will help not only those who mourn, but those who seek to comfort the mourners as well. Bless you on your journey!

  • Karen

    Hi Bobbi

    Thankyou. I appreciate your feedback. We can all be apart of this healing process.

    Karen.

  • minhazz

    A beautifully written article which will give comfort to many ..thank you for sharing

  • Sara Davis

    Wow, Karen, this article really hit home for me. I lost my 6-year-old son, Noah, in a drowning accident a little over a year ago. Although going through a divorce at the same time, my ex-husband and I also have a daughter who we need(ed) to love and support. I can really relate to the “what if’s,” the anger and the roller coaster emotions. I also struggle with all the times when I should have stopped whatever I was doing to play with him. When I should have said I love you…when I got upset with him about something insignificant.
    I’m still working on forgiveness for myself. The “should have’s” and “what if’s” creep in and haunt my mind if I don’t block them out with distractions. But it is a process, I suppose, and as life inevitably goes on in this strange world without Noah, I try to remember a quote: “Do not cry because he is gone. Smile because he lived.”

    http://withoutnoah.wordpress.com

  • Nonna

    Thank you for this post. I’ve spent a lot of time being angry after losing my baby brother when he was 24, my sister when she was 42 and most recently my mom. My sis and mom both died from ALS (Lou Gherig’s Disease) and our family has the genetic type which means my sister and I, along with our children have a chance of having it. The thing is, when I read all the other posts I realize that everyone suffers and every family has to endure tragedy. No one is picking on us, we weren’t randomly selected to suffer the most. God bless you Karen, I cannot imagine losing a child. Thank you for sharing your journey with us.

  • Karen Lang

    Thanks Sara for sharing your story. I am sorry for your tragic loss, it must have been so awful to be going through a divorce as well. A year is not that long ago and often it takes that long just to come out of shock.

    How you feel is very normal and although the “What if’s” will hang around for awhile, know that no matter what you did on that day, it would not have changed the outcome. Once you truly accept this, it will bring peace into your life and help you move forward with your beautiful daughter.

    I wish you many blessings and strength as you walk this journey.

    Karen

  • ana

    Hi.thank you for your post.last october I lost my aunt who was a mother to me and my siblings because of liver cancer.after 9 days my grandmother died also because of liver cancer that she has been battling for over a year then after 18 days my eldest and only brother died because of motorcycle accident..they all died in same month..it was really traumatic for me and my family.we became the strength to each member of the family.thanks to your post.I somehow know how should I deal on my everyday grieving.thanks for taking the time to write post and share these thoughts.it surely would help other people who goes through the same grief that you have.