When a loved one leaves Earth, they leave ripples. Like a stone thrown in the water, wave after wave reverberate outwards, affecting everything they touch. Sometimes these ripples impact people positively, but more often than naught, they cause devastation.
Life is fragile, and very short. Most people don’t realize this or experience that fact until someone near them breaks the calm water. There are only so many reactions to a tragedy such as a lost life, and few are constructive unfortunately. I wanted to write about the stages of grief; to aid those who need help with progressing through the steps, and to pay tribute to a man I have never met, but who deserves being written about just as much as anyone else.
The Five Stages of Grief
- Denial. Denial happens to those who are completely in shock. When a tragedy occurs, it is easiest to pretend, at least for a short time, that it didn’t happen. This stage will temporarily make the person suffering feel better, but it won’t last long. The way to overcome denial is to talk about it. With anyone. Getting it out on the table will alleviate some of the fears you have of facing the facts. Once you can discuss why you are suffering, then you can begin to move on from the tragedy.
- Anger. This is the easy way out. Humans instinctively react with anger when someone is taken from them; mainly because we feel helpless and weak when those around us are hurt. Anger is a way to mask our own fears and weaknesses, to seem strong in the face of sadness. The truth is though, that it is OK to be sad for a little while. Getting angry causes stress and causes the ripples in the water to turn into towering waves. Find an outlet if you feel yourself getting angry: go for a run, lift weights, read your favorite book, watch your favorite movie, eat your favorite meal. Just do something you know will allow you to subside the anger you are feeling and start to embrace the sadness that is inevitable.
- Bargaining. Bargaining is difficult to describe for someone grieving a lost loved one. At this stage, the person suffering begins acting as if they can bring the lost one back to life. Examples are going through pictures, reaching out to other friends and parents and reminiscing, and trying to make changes in one’s own lifestyle in order to avoid a similar tragedy. This is more common with people whose health is at risk personally, but the way to overcome it is the same; turn the reminiscing and lifestyle changes into a celebration of the way the loved one lived, not as a way to somehow retroactively save their life.
- Depression. The hardest stage. Depression can last for years. It can lead to what some people call ‘dying of a broken heart.’ Losing a loved one can rip families apart, cause people to lose their jobs, and even commit suicide. Quite often, outside help is needed to get through this stage depending upon the depth of the depression. Talking to a counselor, to a group of close, trustworthy friends, and especially family will make this stage progress easier. Surround yourself with those who you know love you, and if that is too difficult for you; find a way to celebrate the person’s life who has left. Writing stories about the good times together, creating collages or photo albums, doing your favorite pastime when you were together. All of these may seem like daunting ideas, but they will aid in your recovery.
- Acceptance. The final and most important stage. Without acceptance, a person suffering never truly recovers from a tragedy. My advice for reaching acceptance is to first acknowledge that the person you lost was very important and realize that you are going to miss them. However, you must also realize that everyone dies eventually; sometimes before they leave the womb, and sometimes when they are 114 years old. No one knows when it will happen to them, so the best way to react to death is to tell yourself it can happen to anyone. That may seem grim, but you don’t have to treat everyone (or yourself) as if they are already dead. Live your life like you would want to if it were your last day on Earth. Don’t go crazy everyday, but treat others with respect, try to smile, and have as much fun as possible. People who leave, if they lived a good life, are probably going to a better place (depending on what you believe), and if you don’t think that, then make sure that people don’t forget the person you lost. Celebrate their life and everything good they did. If they didn’t leave an impact on other people, pass their message on for them. Leave your anger and depression at the door and just go on living. There are always going to be tragedies in life, and the way you react to them will show and develop your character.
In memory of Bryan Ferguson:
I didn’t know this man, but from what I understand, he was a hell of a guy. I was lucky enough to get the time to sit down with a friend of his; Chelsea Lelito. She met him in their younger days, and said that Bryan was a guy that everyone loved. He was friends with everyone, and if he didn’t know you, he would always be the first to come say hi. Even when some of Bryan’s friends got in trouble with some bad habits; he was always able to rise above the influence of his friends, while still accepting them for who they were. Bryan was always willing to go out of his way to help his friends when they hit hard times too. A great friend, always trying to have a good time, with a bright future ahead of him. It is a great loss to those who knew and loved him, and a great loss to the world for such a great person to leave it. I don’t believe that you need to know someone personally to have a sense of their character, and from what I’ve heard from friends of Bryan, I can say confidently that he lived a good life, and those who knew him were blessed.
Please don’t misjudge the nature of Bryan’s death; yes it was an irresponsible thing to do driving as fast as he and his friend were. However, we’ve all driven fast in our day for one thing or another, and we cannot know the situation here. All anyone can say is that Bryan and his friend made a mistake, and for that, no one can judge them. We all make mistakes, and sometimes, if we personally aren’t able to learn from them, then just maybe someone else will find the hidden lesson. One mistake will never take away from a lifetime of positive living that Bryan had. Honor his memory for those who knew him, and for those who didn’t; take the time to honor those you have lost.
I hope that any of you who are reading that have lost someone take this to heart, because it honestly will help. I know tragedy myself; my best friend died of brain cancer when I was 8 years old, and my great grandfather died just 3 years after. Yes I was young, but I knew what death was, and I had to face reality at a very tough age. I got through it, just as you will (or already have), and it was by accepting that the people I knew and loved and subsequently lost were great people and I will never forget them. That is why now, I treat each friend with love and respect, because I never know when they may leave. I know that when they do, though, I will be ready to pay tribute to their memory as long as I live.
Good luck and best wishes to those who knew Bryan. I know this blog post isn’t much, but hopefully the advice will help you, as it has me.