a person holding the coffin

Death is Ugly, But…

I feel like I’m supposed to be writing something positive for the holidays, & I’m sure I will have put a positive spin on things by the end of this post, but I think this topic is important to talk about.

Unfortunately, losing someone or feeling grief during the holidays seems to be a common experience but for some reason, I never thought it would be something I would experience again for a while. But on December 11th, when I found out that a member of our family was suddenly gone, it felt… not real. I’ve lost a little more than a handful of close family members, but last Sunday was the first time I didn’t immediately react negatively to the news.

I probably had every right to; my cousin was struck by a car on the way home from walking his dog & his life was taken away instantly due to another person’s recklessness. His wife & daughters left without their husband & father; & because he was well known & well loved in a few communities, the loss is more significant.

Since the 11th I’ve gone from disbelief to peace, to irritation, to sadness, back to peace… & it took some time for me to finally shed tears because this past Sunday, it seemed to finally become real for me. Everyone processes death differently & I’ve decided to give myself grace in how I handle this one, especially since the priority for me right now is doing what I can to support his immediate family.

What I can attribute to the peace I am able to return to is the scripture I read earlier that day, Psalms 131:1a-2b, which says “Neither do I concern myself with great matters, nor with things too profound for me. Surely I have calmed & quieted my soul…”

It was as if God had prepared me for what I was going to find out later that night cause when my mom asked why this happened, I knew immediately that I didn’t need to know & that my cousin was in a better place. Obviously, something like this can work well for those who believe or are interested in scripture, but for those who don’t & aren’t this isn’t very helpful. Since You’re Not Finished isn’t just for Christians, & the experiences I have are bigger than me, I want to share a few helpful & practical ways you all can cope with grief during the holidays:

  • Take as much time as you need.
    • I’ve had the unfortunate experience of feeling like I need to move on quickly from a loss due to work demands & other life circumstances as well as watching my family member be bombarded with outside requests from others who don’t have the decency to give her the time, space, & privacy that she needs. While people may mean well, it’s important to establish clear boundaries of what is & isn’t acceptable support or communication for the time being without concerning yourself too much about how other people will feel about it. That doesn’t mean being a jerk, of course, it means giving people the opportunity to love you well & in the capacity you need as you grieve.
  • Stay healthy.
    • This is admittedly a hypocritical tip coming from me because there have been a couple of days since the 11th that I have eaten my feelings. I’ve always been an emotional eater, so this habit was easy to turn to for me. Still, I want to encourage you that getting a good night’s sleep, deciding to spend less time on social media, choosing who & what to interact with, & eating well are the best ways to continue having a good quality of life while dealing with grief. This includes not running from your feelings & adopting unhealthy coping mechanisms that delay healing. Keep in mind that there is grace for mistakes & times when this is difficult, just don’t stay in an unhealthy place. I can say honestly that my best days since my cousin’s death are the ones in which I’ve prioritized my personal well-being.
  • Stay in community.
    • You need a core group of people to have around you (when you have the capacity for company). Isolation feeds bad thoughts, feelings, & habits, which fuels sickness & diminishes your quality of life. People, the right people or the safest people, need to be able to reach you & as I stated in the first point, love you well & in the capacity you need as you grieve.
  • Reflect on positive moments.
    • Remembering your friend or loved one by their character & the good times you had with them, & doing so consistently as time passes, can ease the pain you feel. Recalling these memories with others who knew & loved them can provide you with the support you all need when the wave of grief is most difficult to get through.
  • Ask for what you need.
    • Today I was supposed to go to the viewing as well as the funeral for my friend’s grandmother but when I woke up this morning, I decided to go to neither. I realized how incredibly triggering attending those events would be for me, & since a triggered Brittany benefits no one I communicated that I needed space to myself for today. &, to my surprise (although I shouldn’t have been), people were understanding. Keep in mind that some have their own hang-ups, so not everyone will be. Fortunately for you, that isn’t something you will need to take responsibility for.

I realize that I’m writing this after only 9 days of losing a loved one, but after having experienced so much loss in life (not just due to death) I just feel the need to be encouraging to someone who may need it because life is too short to be withholding love & encouragement from anyone, regardless… or maybe even especially because of these circumstances.

Death is ugly, but I’m finding that the more I experience it the more meaningful life becomes. It’s a reminder to not take things for granted, to forgive that person (whether I stay connected to them or not), to love & feel deeply, & to quit letting fear derail me from doing the things I’m called to do in life. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not out here looking forward to death or losing anyone, I just know it’s unavoidable, so… it seems that I might as well live fully, wisely, & freely while I can.

For those who believe or have an interest in the Christian faith, here is an encouraging word from my cousin that passed away:

He’s good. & “Finish Well” definitely has a deeper meaning for me now.
Thank you, Nick.

If you need additional resources for mental health, addiction, and suicide prevention, head over to the “get help” section.

If you want to share your story or journey or experience of overcoming mental distress or as someone with a diagnosed mental health or mood disorder you’re OK with that being shared publicly on the YNF website, shoot me an email at brittany@yourenotfinished.com or stories@yourenotfinished.com, or contact me through the site.

Anonymous submissions are always welcome.

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