Getting Stuck on the Cause of Death or the Final Images of Death

By Andi Meltzer, M.A., Certified Grief Recovery Specialist®
Have the events surrounding or leading up to a death left you feeling like a figurative knife is sticking out of your heart? Many people often focus on the cause, whether by suicide, cancer, murder, sudden heart attack, the result of not taking care of himself/ herself, etc., which is only part of the grief. The events at the end are important, but the key to recovery is to fully acknowledge the pain of the cause of death and then to shift to the unfinished business throughout the relationship.

That shift begins by reviewing the relationship from the very beginning in order to discover and complete whatever is left emotionally unfinished as a result of the end of the relationship and complicated by the cause of that end. The unresolved issues include the unmet hopes, dreams, and expectations for the future as well as the events of the past that you wish were better, different, or more.

Similarly, some people become stuck on a devastating, horrific image of the final moments of life. Some examples are someone’s illness transformed their loved one’s body to an unrecognizable state in the final weeks of life or a family member who walks into a room only to discover a murder or suicide scene. That final image doesn’t need to be a permanent condition that haunts you; rather, it can be one memory out of thousands of memories and images that you can recall. How?  Start with the first memories you have of that person. What did you notice about that person the first time you ever laid eyes on him or her? Be specific. Walk through a few events of the beginning of the relationship. You will then naturally move on to the many images and memories that span the totality of the relationship, however long that was. As a result, you will begin to remember your loved one the way you knew him or her in life not only in death. In addition, the fond memories will not turn painful when you complete the unfinished business of the relationship.

Carefully consider the partner you choose for revealing your broken heart. Many well-meaning friends will listen to you loop your story and don’t know how to help you, so they end up suggesting that you try not to think about it. It’s often helpful to ask your friend to be a soundboard as you share your feelings and stories without criticism, judgement, or analysis. Let your friend know he or she doesn’t need to say or do anything to make you feel better. Explain that he or she has the remarkable power to support you listening like a heart with ears and giving you an opportunity to express your pain without questioning anything you say so that you can release that pain and move on with a more complete picture of the relationship.

Andi Meltzer, M.A., Certified Grief Recovery Specialist®
This program is endorsed by and affiliated with The Grief Recovery Institute®
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