When your loved one dies, it may literally feel like it takes your breath away. You begin an odyssey that you don’t how know to navigate.

Shock and numbness prepare you for the journey as you plummet into a swirling dense fog of despair, an unfamiliar reality. The life you shared is no more. This is a forever loss and so begins… the eclipse into darkness.

Death has come along and usurped your plans for your future. The death of your loved one overshadows everything you know. It eclipses more than your heart; it takes over your emotions, mind, body, soul, and spirit.

iStock_000014424057Small

Encyclopedia Britannica defines an eclipse as that part of a shadow in which all light from a given source is excluded.

The cover of darkness can be a shield of protection against your excruciating pain. Well meaning family members and friends may gently encourage you to get back to the normal routine of your life. What you begin to realize is that there is no going back. You have to spend time “in the darkness” and walk through your grief. You discover that you’re at a loss – with the loss.

In the midst of the eclipse, you don’t know what to say, what to do or how to be. You’re uncomfortable in your own skin. It sometimes hurts so badly you can’t stand it as you begin to feel the onslaught of the fear and pain in being forced to face life without your loved one. As you’re suspended in what feels like an eternal limbo, you may experience other “layered losses” (multiple losses within the loss), such as having to move, shifts in dynamics with family members, the distancing of close friends, changes in routines or traditions, financial changes, loss of your job, status, more deaths- and all the ways your beloved shows up absent from your life. All of these losses complicate your grief. This becomes your life – repeatedly interrupted by the crushing echoes of loss.

How long your eclipse lasts is determined by your resilience to handle the multitude of changes caused by trauma; much like a severe earthquake with numerous aftershocks. After sustaining this life-altering injury from the death of your loved one, symptoms may develop, including depression, anxiety, changes in sleep and eating patterns, inability to focus, forgetfulness, tearfulness, irritability, fear, anger, thoughts of not wanting to live, loss of pleasurable feelings, pervasive feelings of emptiness and loneliness, not wanting to leave your house, isolating and withdrawing from others.  This is when you must be gentle with yourself because you are at your most vulnerable point. Self-care, finding ways to comfort yourself and reaching out to resources will help to stabilize your mood and improve mental clarity.

You may need more support than you’re getting, such as working with a professional to help mitigate your symptoms and to keep from exacerbating or prolonging your suffering. In addition, it may be helpful to join a grief support group so that you can be with others who are going through a similar journey. They understand and can show you much needed support, understanding and validation.

Gradually, in your own timing, you emerge from the darkness. As you tentatively step into the light, you may feel strange and awkward because you feel unfamiliar, exposed and raw in the blinding sunlight. You are different, changed by mourning the death of your love. You have become a survivor – stronger, more resilient, empowered with new coping skills and knowledge.  You will never forget your loved one or “get over” your loss. You learn to live with it… it takes time and it does take courage.

No one else has walked this path in your shoes. Only you know what’s in your heart. No one else has felt your pain. There is no right or wrong way to go through this process. There is only your way. Your way honors the one you lost – through all your pain, challenges and struggles to adjust.

You contain the essence of the one you love and he or she lives on through you.

This love has become the moon and you are now the sun.

This is your personal eclipse – your journey from darkness to light.

 “There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief… and of unspeakable love.”
- Washington Irving