Friday, February 24, 2012

Dealing with Loss and Death

We all have to face it sooner or later - the loss of a friend through break-up, illness, or death; and the older we get, the more we experience it. We may do everything we can to keep ourselves alive and healthy as long as possible, but a healthy lifestyle and preventative care can only postpone the inevitable. We're all going to die, whether through long illness or sudden accident.

Living in a community with many retired people means that it can sometimes seem like death is all around us. But, actually, that's life. Death is just as much a part of life as is birth. It will happen to all of us sooner or later. Not accepting that fact can make it even harder on those left behind. Of course, all the acceptance in the world won't make it any easier to say goodbye when the time comes.

Just last week I was trying to help a friend talk through the loss of a relationship. Yesterday, another friend lost the cute little dog who has been his companion for many years. I'm not sure there is much difference between those losses and the death of a human friend or family member. We are never prepared for the end, even if we know it is coming. It all hurts.

There is another kind of loss that I'm seeing lately - the loss of a friend or loved one into illness.  One friend's husband was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's; another has Parkinson's disease, and another is beginning to experience some dementia.  I think this kind of loss may be harder - to watch someone you love slowly lose the personality that you fell in love with. The grieving starts with diagnosis and goes on and on for many years.

When it does happen to you, remember to allow yourself to feel your sadness. Let your surviving friends help you; they don't want to see you hurt any more than necessary. Remember the good stuff.  Think of something really cool that you can do to honor your friend.

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