A Primer on Grief
The death of a loved one is an event that all of us are likely to experience during our lifetime. Dealing effectively and positively with grief caused by such a loss is important to your recovery process as well as your ability to continue with and fulfill your own life for the better. Losing someone you love is very painful, and you may experience all kinds of difficult emotions. It may feel like the pain and sadness you’re experiencing will never end. Yet grief is about more than your feelings. You may experience disbelief, confusion, hurt or even anger. Shock and numbness may also be present. You may find it difficult to concentrate on everyday activities. You may experience physical symptoms such as tightness in your throat, heaviness in your chest, or pain around your heart. You may cry more than usual or not at all. Everyone experiences grief differently, and no one grieves in the same way as another.
Experts generally accept that there are four stages of bereavement:
- Accepting that your loss is real
- Experiencing the pain of grief
- Adjusting to life without the person who has died
- Putting less emotional energy into grieving and moving it into something new*
You’ll probably go through all these stages, but you won’t necessarily move smoothly from one to the next. Your grief might feel chaotic and out of control, but these feelings should eventually become less intense. Talking with someone you trust, sharing your feelings and allowing yourself the time to experience your loss can help you process your grief. Don’t be afraid to talk about the person who has died. Doing so may help bring happy memories that will help to lessen the pain of their loss. Sharing happy memories with those who loved them as well may also bring healing.
For some people, relying on family and friends is the best way to cope with the loss. For others, seeking bereavement services may be best. Grief can feel very lonely, even when you have loved ones around. Sharing your sorrow with others who have experienced similar losses can help. Write about your loss in a journal or even write a letter to your loved one, saying the things you never got to say. This may be a good way for you to find a sense of peace.
Special occasions may be difficult and, on such days, you may want to plan to take the day off from your normal activities in order to allow yourself time to reflect and do things that you enjoy to help you get through the day. It is important to take care of yourself throughout this process.
It’s normal to feel sad, numb, or angry following a loss. As time passes, these emotions should become less intense as you accept the loss and begin to move forward. If you aren’t feeling better over time or your grief seems to be getting worse, it may be a sign that it has developed into a more serious problem, such as complicated grief or major depression.
Contact a grief counselor or professional therapist if you:
- Feel as if life isn’t worth living
- Wish you had died with your loved one
- Blame yourself for the loss or for not preventing it
- Feel numb and disconnected from others for more than a few weeks
- Are unable to trust others since your loss
- Are unable to perform your normal daily activities**
—Crystal Hardin, Social Worker (Joan & Howard Woltz Hospice Home)
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).
*Smith, S. (2014, October 23). Coping with Bereavement. Retrieved from http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/bereavement/Pages/coping-with-bereavement.aspx
**Coping with Grief and Loss. (2016, April). Retrieved from http://www.helpguide.org/articles/grief-loss/coping-with-grief-and-loss.htm
Tags: Grief Support