How do you really cope when someone you love dies?

They say each person has a unique way of dealing with loss and death, especially if that’s someone they love. I’m just person who’s having a hard time dealing with the loss of her niece, what more my sister who lost a child?

My sister was 26 years old when Rianna was born. I was 27, and my parents were in their 50s. So can you just imagine everybody’s excitement, anticipation, and joy when a child – first grandchild/niece came out to the world? It was priceless!

As of this writing, it’s been more than two months since the death of my nine-year-old niece, Rianna who succumb to a deadly illness. There were days and nights when we still find ourselves crying buckets of tears, panicking for no reasons at all, and having recurring thoughts of how we rushed her to the hospital, what ifs, how she died, and with so many questions.

Cheri Roberto in her book, “From Mourning to Morning” Your Partner in Grief and Hope, noted some bereavement studies that talked about the years of healing time.

“If it is an anticipated death due to illness, especially with loved ones in their advanced age, the average healing time is two to four years. If it’s a sudden tragic death, it may take four to seven years, especially if it was the death of a child, or due to violence or an accident,” said Roberto. (Lehman & Wortman, 1987; Mercer, 1983)

Wow! Having said that, it’s been only two months (or 60 days) since Rianna’s death and that means we can still grieve for four to seven years. How are we coping so far?

  • Go out and enjoy life. Life must go on. Easier said than done, I know! Because just the other week, I broke down to tears because October 17, 2015 was just the exact date when we rushed Rianna to the hospital where she immediately suffered seizures. Since then, our lives were never the same. It’s been two years since that fateful day.

Did you know a day after her burial, we went to the mall, hoping it could lessen our pain? After depositing the kids to the playroom, we sat down for an hour, blankly stared at each other, and began crying again. Three days after, we went out of town and visited National Shrine of St. Padre Pio in Batangas City and dropped by at Sky Ranch in Tagaytay City. While the kids were having a great time, we felt the emptiness, loneliness, and longing inside, wishing Rianna was there with us.

The following weeks, we went out almost every day. We avoided staying at home because we would always remember Rianna in her hospital bed or in her room. It’s not that we don’t want to remember her. We just want to cover up our loss and pain. But then we realized we can’t go out every day. We can’t spend all our money just to ease our pains. We have bills and credit cards to pay. The kids have classes the following day and Rianna’s death won’t pay our bills and debts, it’ll just keep on going, and worst, it’ll earn an interest if we can’t pay on time.

  • Watch movies at home. So we settled watching movies at home. Not only it’s economical, it’s more convenient and comfortable. We don’t have to go out, travel, pay the gasoline, and buy movie tickets or foods at the mall. 

Each movie ticket costs Php 230 per person. They don’t give discounts to kids, except for Persons with Disabilities (PWD) or Senior Citizens (SC), and we don’t have PWDs and/or SCs with us. So imagine if six of us will watch one movie (four adults and two kids), it will cost us Php 1,380 already! If we stayed at home, we can watch unlimited movies while eating popcorn.

When choosing movies to watch, we try to avoid serious, heavy drama, suspense, thriller, violent, or sexy themes for obvious reasons – we don’t want to be sad and we have to protect our 4 and 7-year-old kids. We watch during weekends or weekdays if there is no scheduled examination or school activity the following day. Cut-off time is at 9 or 10 p.m. even if we’re still half way through the movie.

  • Cry, laugh, and cry some more. If there’s one person who needs support at this time more than anyone else – that’s my sister because she was the one who lost a daughter. 

Someone once said, “A mother never gets over losing her child. It doesn’t matter how long it’s been, how old her child was when they died, or the reason they were taken away. Grief does not ever expire. Never tell a mother whose child died to move on, get over it, or ‘be happy’ that child is in Heaven now. You are ‘sick’ of hearing about it? She has to live with it every single day.”

My sister avoids crying or getting emotional in front of us. She would always say, “Rianna taught me to be strong ever since her confinement at the hospital.” But then she would tell us she would cry at night when no one’s watching, especially when she misses Rianna.

But they say bottled-up emotions would eventually explode so my other sister and I would always encourage her to express her emotions – to cry when she wants to. This is also our way of teaching the kids that it’s okay to be sad or happy when the situation calls for it. Crying doesn’t make one person less of a man/woman. It does make you a better person if you’re honest with your feelings.

  • Do things that make you happy. Apart from watching movies, running, and writing, I love reading books. I used to spend sleepless night finishing one single book. But I haven’t been reading the past few months due to work and many distractions such as the “social media”. I’d rather browse or watch Youtube than read. 

So it took me time to finish Roberto’s book. It was an easy read tho. The writing was flawless and I can always relate to what she was saying, especially her experiences. It’s like she was speaking what’s inside my head. But it took me a while to finish the book because I’m still grieving and it only made me remember what happened to Rianna all over again.

The book tells the story of Roberto who lost her 14-year-old son, Bruce, to a tragic car accident. How she ended up writing this book after her loss and became a wounded healer, you have to read it for yourself and I promise you, it’ll cover almost every question you have when it comes to grieving and losing someone dear to you. I don’t know the author personally, and I am in no way promoting this book for profit. This is just my honest review.

“It’s been a long road to complete acceptance and surrender. I’d like to believe that I’ve reconciled with my grief and I found out that the best way to honor and keep loving my son was to live the best life I can live, with love and gratitude for what I still have, while making my sons and my God so ever proud of me,” said Roberto in her book.

But I finally finished it. Yey! And it was actually the first book I finished this year. I originally bought it as a present for my sister, but she’s not ready yet to read it. Reading the first page was all it took for her to cry buckets of tears. So I didn’t want to force her. 

I believe by doing the things that make us happy, we are making our deceased loved ones happy as well. Before, I felt guilty whenever we’re happy, when we’re out in the mall or traveling. What would Rianna feel? But later on, we realized, we can never really move on from her loss. We just have to learn to live without her and go on with our lives. 

  • Take care of yourself and your family. Some people eat when they’re sad, some lose their appetite. I eat when I’m sad or happy, but mostly when I’m sad. Chocolates are my comfort food. I know this is bad, but I can’t help it. But do you know this is called, emotional eating? It’s eating to satisfy our emotional needs. 

When Rianna died, we had nothing to turn to but, food. It kept us company! What do you expect? But friends started noticing our weight gain, especially my sisters who normally sport a slimmer body. Their clothes don’t fit anymore. I don’t care because I was used to being called “fat”, but until when? Until I get sick? No way!

So 40 days after Rianna’s death, we realized what we’re doing was wrong. It’s time to make a healthy change not only for ourselves, but for the kids who are still young, alive, and well. They need to learn from us how to eat well and be healthy. It’s not easy to get sick. We should know first-hand; we spent two years at the hospital and paid Php 13 million just for Rianna’s hospital bills.

“Love yourself first, because that’s who you’ll be spending the rest of your life with.” So the three of us committed to healthy eating and Zumba classes and running/jogging.

Me, Julie (Rianna’s mom), Jiji with her 4-year-old daughter

It’s not easy to lose someone you love. I said in my earlier post, I’ve been heartbroken many times, but this has got to be the most devastating of all. But instead of questioning God, we committed to praying and serving Him.

We may not understand God’s plans for now, but I’m sure, we will in time. I trust and pray we will get through all the pain and heartaches, fears, worry, anxieties, and doubts in Jesus’ name, Amen.

“Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy!” (Psalms 126:5)

Published by Mylene Orillo

Mylene Orillo is a contributing writer at My Pope Philippines. Prior to that, she contributed to the Health & Lifestyle magazine.  She's a former correspondent at The Manila Times; former editor-in-chief of TravelPlus magazine; and former assistant editor of Health & Lifestyle, Zen Health, and DiabetEASE magazines by FAME Publishing, Inc., a company owned by cardiologist Dr. Rafael Castillo who has given her the much-needed break and opportunity in the health industry and medical field.  Her previous job as a Media Consultant at the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office and Writer-Researcher at the Headquarters Philippine Army ignited her passions for charity, volunteering, selfless service, and love of country. As a young girl, she loved reading her mom's collection of Mills & Boons pocketbooks, which started her passion to write romance stories.  She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism from the University of Sto. Tomas in España, Manila. She is now working towards earning her master's degree hopefully this year. She loves traveling, long-distance running, reading romance and non-fiction books, watching Korean Drama series, feel-good rom coms, military movies, and documentaries during her spare time. Someday, she wants to meet Prince William and Pope Francis, settle down with the love of her life and have a family and kids of her own; and become a bestselling romance author.

8 thoughts on “How do you really cope when someone you love dies?

  1. Seeing the different reference to money tells me you’re in a different part of the world. There’s a unifying pull about how humans morn with the same variety of emotions everywhere. It’s a preverbal thing that resonates before the emotions that generate wars and other forms of hate. Love hits before hate. I can empathathize with you. You have a beautiful family. I respect your strength to write and share about Rianna’s passing on your blog. Think of the billions and billions of humans who’ve experienced the same/similar feelings that spawned their grief over the passage of time. We’re all a part of that… so’s Rianna. It happens and is a terrible or as beautiful as you choose to perceive it. As you said above, it just takes each individual’s own designed pattern of time to own it and accept it. I would think that’s what Rianna would want.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey, thank you for taking time to read my post and for the comment. I appreciate it. Yes I know, Rianna is in a better place now and for sure, happier. Time heals all wounds they say. I know we will get there someday. For now, I just want to express my pain and grief and thank you for people who understands what we are going through. ☺️☺️☺️


  2. I’m glad you’re making an effort to take care of yourself! I understand everyone has their own pace for grief, so do go at your own pace and continue to take care of yourself. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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