How to Cope With Losing a Loved One

To lose someone you love is to change your entire life forever. Through time, the pain stops. New people will enter our lives. New memories will be made. But there is a gap forever widened that never closes. The hole in our hearts remain the shape of the people that we have lost. No one else can replace it.

Today I had several expectations. I expected to go school, I expected to take my courses, I expected to present in a class, I expected to eat my meals, I expected to get in my workout. But what I never expected was a phone call from a friend’s sister saying … “Sandy, Melanie passed away this morning.”

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At first, my response was mere nothingness. Just a strike of silence as my jaw dropped while holding onto the phone with the little strength I felt I had left in me. My heart started getting heavier by the second. At that point, as much as I resisted, my tears began to soak my cheeks and before I knew it, I almost felt paralyzed.

If you remember reading about my cousin Lyna Nguyen, Melanie was Lyna’s best friend during the time of her cancer. They both had leukemia and provided a tremendous amount of support and encouragement for each other every day. They were both super hopeful, optimistic individuals that always seemed to find joy in the smallest mist of life experiences. One year, the two of them made plans to go skydiving together. It was unfortunate because Melanie ended up having to go back into the hospital with a fever, then went into a coma for a month. She woke up to learn that during that one month, her best friend Lyna had peacefully passed away. After that day, Melanie was dedicated to honor her life and so inspired by Lyna, she wanted to start a mission. A mission designed to inspire and uplift cancer patients and survivors.  Her and I began talking to each other often over the phone, texting, shooting emails back and forth to work on creating this non-profit organization. I’ve never met this girl face to face but she told me Lyna would talk about me to her all the time. In reverse, Lyna told me a lot about her as well. We bonded so much over the phone and I would send little things like a card, a picture and a drawing with uplifting words to brighten her day.

Despite her circumstances, she was so hopeful and inspired me in ways that I can’t even explain.

We had the paperwork ready and were supposed to finally meet to get our non-profit started. But for two months, my texts, phone calls and emails remained unanswered. Being a positive thinker myself, I thought to myself “she must be busy moving into that new apartment.” Never, would I have thought that it was because she was getting sicker by the moment on that hospital bed.

And so here I am, four years after losing Lyna, sitting here…facing the grief of losing another beautiful, beautiful soul.

 So how do we deal with losing a loved one?

 As we grow older, it happens to all of us right? We live our lives as we suppose. We are vulnerable human beings that have no power to control tragic circumstances. But how we face tragedy and how we deal with it, defines us. Our vulnerability gives us power. After Lyna peacefully drifted into paradise, I was the only one in the entire family who tried my best to avoid her. I tried my best to ignore her name, ignore her pictures popping up on Facebook, ignore those memories that would creep up on me every night before I went to bed. I didn’t know how to cope with losing someone so close to me. When I couldn’t block thoughts of her out, I made up my own imaginary world where I tried to pretend to be strong by tricking myself into thinking that she’s just away somewhere in college and we’ll get to see each other real soon. I masked my own feelings but more importantly, I masked the real truth from myself. How to really cope …?

Be vulnerable. Give yourself permission to face the truth

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Let those memories of your lost one strike every part of your brain. Let that painful, stricken pain take over you. Let those tears drown pillow. Be vulnerable to those feelings of grief. After three years, I finally was able to face to the hard truth and I felt so free because of it. It was a hard truth that was a beautiful truth. The beautiful truth is that she is in a much better place right now. Somewhere where she doesn’t have to get shots and take pills everyday. Because I allowed myself to become vulnerable to those feelings, I was able see the positivity in the situation versus the sad. Pretending hurt me in the long run because blocking those thoughts allowed for it to grow higher and higher by the day and though I thought it would help my weakened heart, it actually made it heavier. So be honest with yourself and face the realities. Now, instead of pretending that she’s in college, I imagine that spiritually, from the time I wake up to the time I rest my eyes at night, she’s right here with me.

In the warmth inside my heart.

You close your heart up because you’re hurt but you will discover is that your strength lies in your vulnerability and your willingness to keep your heart open in spite of all the heart wrenching blows of life. By allowing yourself to have an open heart, you will learn faster and heal faster. Your thoughts begin to flourish into beautiful realities.

Listen deeply to your feelings

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Being vulnerable to feelings of grief brings me to this next point. Think deep and intimately about your feelings. Have a moment of reflection to let your thoughts swiftly flow through your mind and try to grasp onto each and every one of those thoughts. If it was a funny moment that you had with that person, laugh. If it was a sad moment, cry. Respond to those feelings as it asks of you.

Celebrate their lives

While attempting to push away memories of her. One thing I never failed to do was celebrate Lyna’s birthday. Every July 21, I baked a delicious cake and lit it up with a candle as I reminisced happy, sad, hilarious moments that I spent with her. Looking back, it was those moments where I felt at the most peace with her being gone.

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Realize that they’re not really gone

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One morning Lyna and I woke up and decided to drive 3 hours away to get our first tattoo. Lyna got a tattoo of a butterfly because she has felt like it symbolizes her. An insect that marks the sign of hope, a new beginning, and an encouraging tomorrow. I wish you could have seen my face the countless times where I would have a bad day and a butterfly would land in my view. Immediately, I smile because I know that’s her encouraging me to stay bright and positive. One time I was driving in my car, feeling lost and confused after certain life circumstances. The sky was dark and gray. Suddenly the song that she had dedicated to me, ” Light Up the Sky” by The Afters came up on the radio and the sky lit up. The sun started smiling at me and I smiled back because I knew that again, she was and is by my side. It’s up to you to keep them alive by the thoughts that you choose to have to make that happen.

Take your time

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You’re sitting here reading this post in hopes to find some kind of way to help ease your pain. I’m truly grateful if you can find yourself able to relate to me and even more grateful if you find that I can help to comfort you even just a little bit. I would love if it I could take away all of the pain.

But the truth here is, I can’t.

There are no words to be spoken, no hugs of warmth to be given, that can make those feelings of pain go away. Only you can. You first have to face it. You then have to give yourself some time. No one person can tell you how long you choose to grieve. People can see how badly you’re hurting but they don’t know how much it’s killing you inside. Recovering takes time and everyone heals at their own pace. We cannot control the way we grieve. The best thing that we can do for ourself is to let ourselves feel it when it comes and let it go when it can. That all takes time. Take all the time you need. It’s up to you to keep them alive.

Trust that through time, your wounds will surely heal.

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This was a  conversation Melanie and I had in December. Looks like they are together at last. These girls were so inspirational and have so much to do with who I am today. Words couldn’t express the amont of impact that they have made in my life enough. Now it’s up to me to continue this non-profit organization and live my life to the best degree in their spirit. Their name. Their soul.

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” I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge. Myth is more potent than history. Dreams are more powerful than facts. Hope always triumphs over experience. Laugher is the cure for grief. Love is stronger than death. “

-Robert Fulgum

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