When we lose someone we love, our world is turned upside down and changed forever. Coping with the loss is challenging and very difficult.
The weeks following the funeral can be busy with people calling to offer sympathy and support. After the visitors, friends and telephone calls of support decrease, the finality of death is realised and the process of mourning begins.
Coping with the death of someone we have loved and the subsequent change in our life is very difficult and can be crushing.
Understanding the emotions that we feel can be helpful as we try to process the fact that our loved one is gone and forever. After a few days and weeks we are expected to get back to our everyday routine; ‘get on with life.’ It is only then that the emotions of loss and the pain rise to the surface.
The Seven stages of grief
- Shock – Not being able to comprehend what you have been told
- Disbelief – This can’t be happening
- Sadness – A deep sense of emptiness
- Guilt – I should have said, or done
- Anger – why has this happened to me, the doctors should have, I should have.
- Fear – For the future without your loved one
- Feeling – Physically ill
- Hopelessness – Not wanting to go on
What is Grief?
Grief is the response to the loss and how we handle the loss. Grief is unique to each individual and is dependent on a number of factors, there are common stages of grief that most people will experience as follows:
- Shock and Disbelief
The first stage of grief is shock and disbelief. It is just unbelievable and difficult to comprehend that our loved one has actually died. Depending on the circumstances surrounding the loss, most people will experience a sense of immense shock, numbness and emptyness. The mind finding ways to try and compute the reality of death.
Be prepared for people to call, some people may not have heard about your loss and they will want to pay their respects to support you.
Denial is a defense mechanism our brain employs to cope with a reality too uncomfortable to accept. It involves refusing to acknowledge the truth of what has occurred. Our brain struggles to grasp the situation. The death feels akin to a bad dream from which we long to awaken. Denial becomes our way of coping.
- Anger may arise as you attempt to make sense of the death. You will scrutinize every detail, depending on the circumstances. The anger we experience manifests in various ways. At times, you may become angry and upset with others, with God or a higher power, and perhaps with yourself. It’s crucial to remember that anger is a natural response stemming from the difficulty of accepting the departure of our loved one.
If your loved one is ill, it is natural to pray to God/higher source pleading for your loved one to be spared. I remember this stage.
When your prayers are not answered we go back to trying to make sense again of what has happened feeling the emotion of anger.
- Pain and Guilt
The pain and sometimes guilt we feel when we experience a loss is intense and can be unbearable. We beret ourselves, going over our last memories with our loved one. We ask questions, “could I have done more”, “I should have told them.”. It seems that we find things to feel guilty about, this emotion whilst very difficult is natural especially if the death is sudden.
Most people will experience a deep sense of depression and loneliness. That life isn’t worth living without your loved one. You can feel lost, scared, and empty not wanting to see anyone, you might withdraw from social gatherings, you might even feel it a chore to get dressed every day and find yourself bursting into tears over little things. You feel you will never laugh again, you simply have no reason to go on.
Many people experience all of these emotions. Although it feels that they will never go away, over time they will. One second, minute, hour and day at a time. You will never get over the loss but you will learn to accept it and find a way live life again, a different life but life all the same.
The impact of Grief and Loss on the mind, body and soul.
There is numerous research about the impact of loss on the mind, body and soul. The turmoil experienced in the mind is expressed in the body and soul in a number of ways as follows:
Depression a common emotion associated with grief and loss. We want to stay in bed, have no appetitate, find it difficult to sleep, focus and talk to anyone and feel you are going into a black hole.
It is important even though you feel depressed to try and look after your physical health. If you are not eating or sleeping properly for a long period of time, please seek advice from a professional. If you can’t talk to a friend, make an appointment to see your doctor or seek the help of trained councillor who is a stranger.
Many people experience physical pain, including heart palpitations, sore muscels and joints, stomach issues, and many other problems. You may also become ill yourself especially if you have been a caregiver to a loved one following an illness.
Can lead individuals down a dangerous path. Consequently, some people, in their attempt to numb their pain, turn to alcohol, drugs, sleeping/anxiety tablets, or antidepressants. However, if you find that you are relying too heavily on any substance, it is crucial that you contact your doctor. Moreover, it’s essential to remember that artificial substances only provide a short-term solution. The pain will still be there when the effects of substances have worn off. Furthermore, there is a very real danger of becoming addicted to substances.”
Acceptance is the final stage of the grief and loss process. I know it doesn’t seem like you can ever accept death but you can and evenually you will. You accept that life goes on and that you have a life to live, as hard as that may seem. You will find that you start to have periods of time when sadness and thoughts of your loved one don’t occupy every second of your day. Thoughts of your loved one will slowly become less frequent and the pain less intense. In the midst of my acceptance process, I found myself trying to change my thought patterns to gratitude, recalling the importance of the person in my life, thanking God for having the prilivage to have had them whether a long or short period, no, it’s not easy but it is soothing to heart.
People deal with the situation differently but even if it takes years for you to heal, try to go forward with your life with hope, try to remember the good memories you’ve shared. Ask yourself the question, “what your loved one would say to you?, what would your loved one want you to do with your life in their absence? It might be hard but look for the things you are grateful for in your life.
How long will the grief process take?
Unfortunately, there is no way around grieving. There is also no way of determining the length of time it will take to go through the grieving process because everyone is unique. As difficult as it is to believe, it will get easier to cope and you will learn to accept the loss with time.
How do I move forward from Grief and Loss?
- Allow your family and friends to support you. Talk to them, let them know how you are feeling.
- If you feel that no-one understands, talk to someone who has gone through a similar loss, there are also support groups available and they might help you to make the effort to get out of the house again.
- Pray for help, ask your loved one for a sign. Prayer is very powerful and there is value in mediating through prayer, you will feel the benefit.
- Christmas, birthdays and anniversaries are going to be difficult and you don’t know how you will react. Prepare yourself and decide what you will do. If you want to spend time on your own that’s alright too.
- Don’t suppress your feelings, let them out, cry, talk, journal, laugh but feel them and let them go.
- Find ways to pay tribute to your loved one.
- Remember the times you have spent with your loved one and try and be grateful for the memories.
- Think about taking up a new hobby, something that you’ve always wanted to do.
It may be helpful to seek the support of a councellor/therapist trained in grief and loss. Don’t be ashamed to talk to someone, you will feel a huge sense of relief as you try nagavate this very sad and lonely journey. Below an article to find bereavement help in the UK, if you are living in the U.S. the grieftoolbox is also a great resource.
I hope you find this article of benefit and I hope you take time to really love, honor and take care of yourself over the coming months and years.
God Bless you Kate x