Dear Kiki: How do I cope with losing a loved one?

This month, Kiki helps a reader cope with their grief when they don’t believe in Asian traditions of the afterlife.
woman grieving
Photo credit: Yuris Alhumydy

Dear Kiki,

My dad suddenly passed and I don’t know where to begin to grieve nor cope. I’m not sure if I believe in the Asian traditions of the afterlife.

Grieving and disbelieving

Grief is a journey

Dear Grieving and disbelieving,

I am so sorry to hear about the sudden passing of your dad. My heart aches for you.

Dealing with any type of loss is difficult. Grief brings a myriad of emotions that can overwhelm you and affect you in ways you never thought possible. In your case, the unexpected departure of a close family member can leave you feeling completely blindsided and helpless, making it hard to grapple with the pain of loss.

Grief is a journey. It has no set timetable. To heal, you will need to unravel the layers of complex emotions, as well as learn to cope with the pain time and time again. The process can look different for everyone, so it is important that you find a way to go about your healing journey that feels right and comfortable for you.

Reincarnation and the afterlife

Photo credit: hubi.img

You mentioned that you don’t believe in the idea of the afterlife, and that’s okay. Even if this is something your family believes in, you should find your own way to mourn that feels meaningful and authentic to you. 

Reincarnation is a common belief in many religions and cultures, including Buddhism, Hinduism, and the ancient Greek. While often rooted in religion and tradition, the idea of reincarnation is a way for surviving members to conceptualize death and preserve the memories of their loved ones who have passed. Through reincarnation, many believe the deceased will be reborn into this world in a new form. For those who remain, it can feel reassuring that their loved ones are not “gone” forever.

Find your own rituals to honour your loved ones

However, there are many ways to honour and celebrate your dad. Instead, you can choose to incorporate modern rituals or create your own. In a study from the Journal of Experimental Psychology, mourners who overcame their grief more quickly engaged in rituals, which were found to have increased perceived control and reduced grief. It didn’t matter what the ritual was. It only mattered that they had one. People reported that engaging in rituals allowed them to connect to their loved ones in a deeper, powerful way and to overcome helplessness.

Here are some rituals you may want to consider: 

  • Write letters addressed to your dad
  • Visit a place you enjoyed going with him 
  • Pick up a hobby that reminds you of him 

These rituals, or intentional practices, offer a healthy way for you to cope and gain a sense of empowerment. The pain of loss may never go away, but hopefully the suffering will become less intense, more bearable, and perhaps even lead to positive feelings over time.

This may be too much to think about at this moment, so please be gentle and patient with yourself. If you are unsure where to begin, start with the basics. Eat on time and rest well. Maintain a consistent routine, even if it’s just going out for a brief walk once a day or watering your plants. Take care of yourself, so you have the physical and mental sustenance to tackle whatever emotions that come your way.

The Five Stages of Grief

Photo credit: Pierre Bamin

Regardless of how you choose to cope with the loss and honour your dad, the process will involve unpacking your emotions until you arrive at a place of acceptance and peace. Even though there is no set roadmap, the Five Stages of Grieving Framework can guide your way. Practice recognizing and acknowledging the feelings that may arise, and become aware of how they show up in your body.

Grief is personal but you don’t have to go at it alone. Talk to friends and family and share your feelings with others who are going through the same experience. If you have access to a professional, they can support you through your journey and provide useful resources. 

Healing requires time, practice, and support. Lean on others and prioritize self-care. It may feel impossible to imagine what life ahead will be like without your dad and how you will ever be able to fill the void he left behind. However, even though he is no longer physically here, your dad will always be a part of your life and who you are.

Always here for you,

Kiki

Dear Kiki is Cold Tea Collective’s advice column and it is published in the last week of every month. To get advice from Kiki, submit your questions and comments here. Or, subscribe to our newsletter to get Kiki’s advice straight to your inbox on the last Sunday of every month.

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