The loss of a loved one can be one of life’s most difficult experiences. Although you might be feeling a sense of relief that your loved one’s suffering is over, you might also be feeling very sad. Separation from a loved one can be very painful.
During these next weeks, the impact of what has happened may bring on a variety of emotions and reactions. It is a time of numbness, disbelief and confusion. We are disoriented, frightened confused ….. We find ourselves in a state of alarm. We behave as if we are searching for the one who is lost, even though we are not consciously expecting to find this person.”
How a person will respond to the loss of a loved one can depend on the mode of death, the length of time in relationship, the intensity of love, and the degree of dependence one had on the loved one for a sense of security, or self-esteem. Learning to adjust to the world without the loved one is one of the major tasks of the grief process. Really, it is a life-long process, which may present new challenges.
The healing process, the journey continues. Be kind to yourself. Dealing with grief is hard work. At a time like this, it may be difficult to concentrate on reading, material, but we hope you will give it a try.
Please take care of your health and be assured of our continued support.
Characteristics of the Grief Process
“Grief is not a sign of weakness…”
Grief is not a sign of weakness. It is, rather, a healthy and fitting response to a loss, a tribute to a loved one who has died. Running away from grief postpones sorrow; clinging to grief prolongs pain. Neither approach leads to healing. Allow grief to have its way for a while; then, gradually and gently, you can release yourself from its grip. Recognition of the appropriateness and the value of grief is the first step in accepting the reality of the loss. And acceptance is the first sign of recovery.
Each of us is different, but for most people grieving follows a pattern, proceeds through the stages. We do not all experience every phase. Nor do we move through grief at the same pace or with equal intensity. The following characteristics constitute the basic elements of the grief experience. Reviewing them might help you to identify your own pattern, determine where you are in the process and anticipate what you have yet to go through:
A period of numbness usually follows the event of a loved one’s death. One feels stunned, in a trance. It could last only minutes, but also persist for days, or even longer. The state of shock allows a person time to absorb what has happened and to begin to adjust. People sometimes use tranquillisers to extend this period. There’s also a tendency to leave decision making to others. Yet, it is important to face the reality of the death and to regain control of the direction of one’s life.
As shock wears off, grief gives rise to a variety of emotions. When such feelings seem overwhelming, we do well to defer major decisions. Other grievers and counsellors can help us interpret and deal with these feelings. As we come to understand what we experience, we can find appropriate ways to ventilate our emotions, and to channel them to our advantage.
The mental and emotional upset of a loss can cause physical distress and make us vulnerable to illness. Grief sometimes causes us to neglect healthy nourishment and exercise, or to overindulge ourselves in drinking, smoking or medication. We might need a doctor’s advice in regard to our symptoms, their causes and their treatment.
The death of a loved one makes the future very uncertain. We might panic in the face of the unknown and the fear of “going it alone”. Panic prevents concentration and defers acceptance of the finality of death. It tempts us to run from life, to avoid people and to refuse to try new things. Patience with ourselves and a willingness to accept help from others will enable us to subdue panic and outgrow its confusion.
Many people fault themselves concerning a loved one’s death. We have all made mistakes in our relationships and sincere regret is the best response to them. However, self-reproach out of proportion to our behaviour can affect our mental health and impede our recovery from grief. Close friends, or a trusted counsellor can aid us in confronting and dealing with guilt feelings, whether justified or exaggerated.
People in grief naturally ask “why”? Why him? Why now? Why like this? Most of these questions have no answers. Frustration then causes us to feel resentment and anger. We want someone to blame: God, doctors, clergy, ourselves, even the person who died. If we can accept the lack of answers to “Why?” we might begin to ask, instead, what we can do now to grow through what has happened. Then we start to move beyond anger and toward hope.
Grievers typically, but in varying degrees, experience loneliness and depression. This pain, too, will pass. It is important to realise that being alone need not inevitably result in loneliness. Moreover, stresses other than the death-loss could account for depression. Reaching out to others is a keyway to lessen loneliness and to overcome depression.
At times, in the grieving process, a kind of drifting occurs. Mourners find it difficult to return to familiar, even necessary activities. We prefer to daydream about what was or fantasise about what might have been. If we can foster gratitude for the past, and begin to assess our potential for the future, this will prove a passing phase, rather than a permanent state of aimlessness.
In time and with effort, hope grows. We can express emotions without embarrassment or apology. We can feel concern for, and show interest, I others. We can make decisions and assume responsibility for ourselves. The example of other recovered grievers can serve as signs of hope for us.
Eventually, a bereaved person recognises and embraces a healing truth: grief has changed me but has not destroyed me. I have discovered new things about myself. I can build on the strengths developed through adversity. I am no longer my “old self”, but I am still me, and I face the future with confidence.