Understanding Your Grief
"There is no way around the pain that you naturally feel when someone you love dies. You can’t go over it, under it, or around it. Going through it is what will help you heal." (Therese Rando, How to Go on Living When Someone You Love Dies)
Grieving is one of the most unique experiences we endure throughout our lives. We not only grieve our loved ones, we grieve during our own dying experience. Bereavement brings along confusing and conflicting emotions such as helplessness, worry, fear, guilt, failure, relief, happiness, and sadness. We feel overwhelmed, as if the world has crumbled at our feet. The relationship that we had has ended and we are displaced from a role that is important to us. There is a hole in our being that yearns for our loved one.
As humans, we are expected to put our feelings aside and move on. We try to avoid the feelings because they induce pain. But it is okay to feel. Processing your feelings as they come allows you to move through bereavement.
According to Elizabeth Kübler-Ross, there are five components of bereavement: denial, bargaining, anger, depression, and acceptance. We cycle through these stages in our own special way. We can be in one stage for any amount of time and experience the same stage multiple times. Losing a loved one is very painful and it takes time to accept the fact that they are gone. However, the mind-over-matter approach that we often use to overcome our fears only pushes us further away from embracing the loss. As Kenneth C. Haugk said, "Half the battle is just accepting the grief and letting yourself grieve."
Grief is all-encompassing. It affects your entire being. Not only are you experiencing complex emotions, but your perception of who you are may change. You may have a spiritual battle or an increase in a bond with a higher power. You may also notice weight loss or gain, tightness in your chest, dizziness, and headaches. Cognitively, you may have memory lapses, a hard time concentrating, or a slower response time.
Tuning into your grief requires you to pay attention to not only physical health, but mental health as well. Healthy coping behaviors include: listening to music, doing arts and crafts, participating in meditation, praying, reading Scripture, writing a letter to your loved one, exercising, screaming, reading, or talking.
If you find that you’re unable to cope, reach out for help! Establish one or two support persons with whom you can talk during hard times. Your support person can help you in the healing process. They should be empathetic, accepting, and active listeners. Attending bereavement support groups will allow you to speak openly about your loss among other people who have also lost a loved one. There are also bereavement counselors available to speak with you on an individual basis. We as humans are social beings, and while we may sometimes wish to isolate ourselves, our true desire is to receive the support of others. Grieving is normal, natural, and necessary.
—Raven Patten, Special Contributor
Mountain Valley Hospice & Palliative Care offers free grief support to the community at large. For more information, contact us today at 336-789-2922 (toll-free 1-888-789-2922).
Haugk, K. C. (2004). Journeying Through Grief. St. Louis, Mo: Stephen Ministries Permissions.
Cook, A. S., & Dworkin, D. S. (1992). Helping the Bereaved: Therapeutic Interventions for Children, Adolescents, and Adults. New York, NY: Basic Books.
Tags: Grief Support