How to Cope with the Death of a Loved One


We all struggle with the death of a loved one, especially on special occasions like Mother’s Day when you have no one to call. You may have feelings that you didn’t do enough for that person when they were alive but that is not how they would want you to remember them. Al Gibson shares his experience with the death of a loved one, in this case his mother and how he overcame feelings of regret and sadness.

What to do when it’s ‘Time To Say Goodbye?’

Death affects us all at some point in our lives. As the Scripture says, “There is a time to be born and a time to die”. And I believe God in His providence puts us in the right place at the right time. When my mother was on her deathbed in January 2019, I was privileged to be with her and console her during her final days. The chances of that happening were remote as we lived on a different continents  and hadn’t seen each other for a couple of years – but God brought it to pass.

My mom had been unwell for a few weeks, but was expected to recover. I arrived for a visit that had been planned for months, expecting to spend several weeks with her. However I was only just in time to spend the weekend with her before her death. For this, I am deeply grateful to God. Even so, at the time we didn’t know my mother was dying or we may have done things differently. For example, we were encouraging her to eat something when she didn’t want to. However, we did what we could and that meant taking turns at being at her bedside around the clock. (She was calling out for us every 20 minutes.)

death of a loved one

My mom’s condition was deteriorating but she didn’t want to go to hospital. I prayed for her and sang her favorite songs… Because He Lives I Can Face Tomorrow and I Am The God That Healeth Thee. She became calm and all restlessness and anxiety left.  The night before she died she slept peacefully for the first time in days. So, we were expecting a turn around. But in hindsight, my mother had come to the place where she was ready to go.

Death is always a shock

How does one cope with the death of a loved one? Death, no matter how expected is always a shock. When a family member or loved one passes you are faced with the sudden finality of their life and the realisation that this is the end. Though they will continue to be your mother, father, brother, sister or whatever the relationship is, it’s tough to come to terms with the fact that you will never hear them speak to you again.

Yes of course you will continue to carry their voice around in your head and the memories of your loved one are a wonderful comfort, but it’s hard coming to terms with one’s loss especially in the first few days. It seems like your world has changed and things are very different now.

On experiencing the death of a loved one or hearing the news, you immediately consider whether you did enough for them while they were still alive.  It’s therefore very easy to get into thoughts of regret and remorse. While it’s necessary to process these as part of the grieving process, you know deep down that the deceased person would not want you to feel like this.

When my mom died, I thought to myself I wish I’d come sooner. I should have called more, written, texted more regularly, sent flowers, done all the little things that are so easy to neglect in our busy lives. I did what I could but death questions whether it was enough. But in those last hours of her life I realised it was enough to just massage her hands, pat her back and tell her I loved her and was there for her. That was a precious gift only God could have made possible in His timing. That was a great blessing which I will always treasure.

I was there before but more so for after

By God’s grace I was with my mother as she died. I heard her exhale loudly three times and she was gone. Her breathing stopped and there was silence in the room. There was also a deep sense of peace. I was heartbroken but I knew it was for the best. I felt frustrated that all the things I had collected over several days would now go to waste along with the gifts I’d brought for her.  I was disappointed that we wouldn’t’ get to spend time together but I realised I hadn’t come so much for before as for after.

I’ve read that when people are dying they need the permission of their family to go. Surrounded by her family my mom knew we all loved her, and given the discomfort of her situation, we couldn’t help but release her. She was being cared for by my sister and her family. She had waited for me to come, had spoken to my brother on the phone and must have felt it was time to go.

A friend of God all her life, she knew she was heavenly bound and she told my nephew she just wanted God to take her. A few hours later she was gone.

Coping with the death of a loved one

Now, reflecting on my mom’s death a few weeks after her memorial service. I realise God in His providence brought me to her just in time and His plan for my trip was to ensure his beloved daughter would get the best possible send off and her house would be lovingly packed up. He knew my sister’s apprehension of having to do this alone so He sent me. I was also able to encourage all my mom’s friends and ensure each of them had something appropriate to remember her by.

It’s wonderful to see God’s Hand on our lives and how He orchestrates things, especially the death of a loved one. This may or may not be your experience to date but rest assured God loves you and He has a plan for your life. He is able to set things in motion that you look back and wonder how that could ever have happened.

He can do this in times of joy and in times of sadness. The important thing is that we trust Him and put our lives in His care. Then, even when we mess up, He causes all things to work together for good. He makes everything beautiful in His time!

Also read: Bereavement: His hand is on yours in your loss


Wordsmith, overcomer and exhorter. Al has a degree in Journalism and Media Studies and years of communications experience in Africa, the UK, Israel and USA. He left South Africa in 2001 and worked for GOD TV in England for 18 years. He now heads up Countdown Creative, a content creation business in Exeter. Al is the author of three biographies. Blogs he writes for include; International Christian and UK and US Christian.

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