By Mary Zemites

One of the most distressing aspects surrounding the death of someone we love is the overwhelming sense of powerlessness. The realization that we could not prevent this death and will not be able to prevent the future deaths of other people we love is profound.

Independence, productivity and being in control are very highly regarded in our society. In reality, we are all powerless against the inevitably of death. But somehow we often don’t fully come to terms with this until we experience the loss of someone dear to us.

The word “powerless” has many synonyms – helpless, incapable, ineffective, defenseless, and weak. All have negative connotations and are all antonyms of that most valued adjective – strong. So, in addition to feeling as though our heart is broken, we are left with the overwhelming, absolute knowledge, that we are not in control of our lives. In a sense, we feel like victims.

We break down emotionally at the most inconvenient times and places. We are left to helplessly watch our child, parent, spouse, sibling or friend also suffer greatly in their grief. We can’t focus on or complete even the simplest task. We can’t sleep or eat in any regular pattern. In short, our entire lives are spinning out of control. Those first hours, days, weeks or months after someone dies can seem hopeless and unbearable.

How do we begin to recover? How do we turn these feelings of powerlessness into strength?

You are floundering. Trust yourself to flounder. After all, your world has been turned upside down. The previous order of your life has become totally disordered. Floundering is the correct and logical result. Trust it. Perhaps we can not make decisions or complete tasks because this is not the best time to make decisions or attempt tasks. Have faith that your new version of life will unfold, however slowly, and the course of your future will be revealed. Give it time and trust yourself to understand what to do and when to do it. Don’t rush it or force it. Be patient and kind to yourself.

Have faith in a higher power. Believe that this higher power is wiser than you. Trust that it is good that you do not have compete control over everything and everyone in your life. To have this kind of faith takes courage. It takes humility. It takes insight. These are the qualities you can gain from your experience. These are qualities of strength.

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