Losing a loved one, especially your partner, is painful and life altering. The only thing worse than losing your partner is losing your child. Though we can grieve for the loss of many other people or things in life, nothing affects us so profoundly as the loss of a loved one. How to cope with this deeply transformative life event? Is it even possible to survive such a life shattering moment? Is there life after death? Sadly, there are no universal answers to these questions.
Many objective circumstances can help to mitigate the pain caused by the death of a partner. I'm not sure that knowing your partner will die helps much, but it can definitely better prepare you for the loss. You get the chance and the time to say goodbye, and to make peace with what is inevitably going to happen. Though that by itself doesn't make the loss any less painful. Unexpected death can be much more shocking and paralyzing than an expected one precisely because it also robs you of the opportunity to tie up loose ends and say: 'I'm sorry' and 'I love you'. Little things matter in the process of grieving.
Imagine how you would feel if you had just had an argument with your husband, for example, and he stormed out the house angry with you, and you with him, and then an hour later you got the call that he was killed in a car accident. How much remorse, guilt and shame you would have to deal with, in addition to the loss.
Old age is another mitigating circumstance, though I doubt anyone can calmly accept the death of a loved one just like that. Yes, there are less regrets if you had a long and happy life together, but I'm sure you would still like to spend just one more minute with your partner, have just one more conversation, one more laugh, one more hug.
Nothing can really prepare us for the death of a dear one. We all experience a whole panoply of emotions when it happens. We all face the void in our lives caused by the loss. We all have difficulties imagining how our lives are going to be from that moment on. We all sometimes wish we died together with our partners.
Yet life does go on. It might not go on for us immediately, but eventually it does go on. What can help us in the process of mourning are a solid social network of reliable friends and family, professional psychological help, physical activity and meditation, artistic expression of all kinds, sometimes lying in shavasana and staring at the ceiling. We must allow ourselves enough time to grieve. It's perfectly ok if we behave in strange ways for a certain period of time. It's perfectly ok to cry for days on end if we feel like it. It's perfectly ok to do some crazy stuff if it helps.
However, we must be mindful that we don't fall in the trap of eternal grief. We have the right to move on in life, to meet someone new, to start a new relationship or a family. That doesn't negate our previous relationship, not does it diminish the importance or the value of our experience with the late partner. We're not betraying them in any way when we move on. Because in the end, we owe it to ourselves to make the best of the lives we have.
“If we want to change the world, we need to talk about the elephant in the room. That is why I love real people who say what they mean and mean what they say. No fluff, no lies and no pretence.”