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Coping with Guilt and Grief Away from Home


Grieving Process

Posted On: May 29, 2017

Coping with Guilt and Grief Away from Home

Death doesn't make appointments. We can't schedule our tragedies into our calendars to ensure that we're exactly where we need to be, spending time with the people who matter, at the moment it's time for a loved one to pass over to the other side. Death can occur out-of-nowhere, with no warning. Even if it's not entirely unexpected, the worst can still happen when you're somewhere else. Losing someone while you're away from home is gut-wrenching. You might go to school out of state, work somewhere else, be on vacation, live in another place, or be on holiday. It doesn't matter. It's not your fault, but it still doesn't matter. Grief and guilt combine into a toxic depression that clings to your heart and makes it that much harder to heal.

Vent Your Guilt

People will keep telling you not to feel guilty, and it won't help because you can't turn it off and on like a faucet. It's something you have to work through. One helpful piece of advice that you'll also receive repetitively is this: it's not your fault. And another: the person who passed left this world knowing that you loved her or him. Even if you had a fight or hadn't talked for a couple of days, your loved one did not die thinking you were angry or indifferent or full of hate. You may not be able to make yourself believe that, which is fine—it's absolutely understandable. However, there's no rule saying that you can't tell your loved one how you feel now. Trust that her or his spirit will hear you.

Give Yourself Space to Grieve

Ask for time away from your duties. Take as little as a day if that's all you have available, but give yourself space and time to grieve. Explain, to yourself and others, that the distance doesn't matter. Not being present doesn't make the loss any easier to bear. It's harder, in fact. It's critical to grieve in the way that feels healthiest and most natural to you, especially if you're unable to attend the viewing or funeral.

Make Technology Work for You

Every aspect of losing someone while you're far away is devastating. It hurts to lose the chance to say goodbye and “I love you” one last time. Missing out on the wake or the funeral hurts even more deeply because it's your last chance to see your loved one, say farewell, and receive a level of closure. To that end, make technology work for you. It might sound morbid, but why can't you use Facetime or another video messaging platform to be there for the last meaningful moments? Technology can allow you to be present even if you're across the country.

It's important to surround yourself with as much support as possible, as well. Local friends will understand what you're going through, and perhaps nearby relatives can come to visit you, too—then you can have a small memorial among yourselves. Have you ever lost someone while you were far away?