Grief and Loss
When we experience the loss of a cherised loved one, the world as we know it is turned upside down and our lives are changed forever.
The weeks following the funeral can be busy with people calling to offer sympathy and support, but it is only after the visitors, friends and telephone calls of support start to slowly decrease that the finality of death is realised and the process of mourning begins.
Dealing with the death of someone we have loved and the subsequent change in our life is very difficult and can crushing.
Understanding the emotions that we feel can be helpful as we try to live in the realisation that our loved one is gone forever. We are expected after a few weeks to get back to our everyday routine whatever that is, and to ‘get on with life.’ It is only then that the emotions of loss and the pain rises to the surface and of emotions that are confusing and very painful as follows:
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 so unbelievable and difficult to believe 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 the defense mechanism our brain uses to deal with a fact that is too uncomfortable to accept. It is the refusal to acknowledge the reality of what has happened. When we loose a loved one, our brain finds it difficult to comprehend what has happened, it feels like a bad dream that we want to awaken from and denial is how we handle.
Anger and bargaining emotions may also be experienced. As you try to make sense of the death you will go over every detail of what has happened depending on the circumstances. The anger we feel manifests in many ways. There may be times that you get angry and upset with other people, God or higher power and maybe yourself. Whilst you know your loved one isn’t coming back, you might feel angry because you’ve been left behind and you can’t imagine living without them. It is important to remember that anger is an emotion that we feel because we find it so hard to accept that our loved one is gone.
If your loved is ill it is natural to pray to God/higher source pleading for your loved one to be spared. You make a deal that you will change, do things differently in the hope that your loved one will recover.
When your prayers are not answered you go back to trying to make sense again of what has happened feeling the emotion of anger again.
- Pain and Guilt
The pain and guilt we feel when we experience a loss is intense and unbearable. We beret ourselves, going over our last memories with our loved one, asking 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. You might feel that life isn’t worth living without your loved one. You will feel lost, scared, and empty. You may not want 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.
Most people experience all of these emotions and although you feel that they will never go away, 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 to the body and soul in a number of ways.
As mentioned above depression is a common emotion associated with grief and loss, you may want to stay in bed, stop eating, you may find it difficult to sleep, focus, 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.
The turnmoil in the mind is transmutted and expressed in the body, you may feel physical pain, heart palpitations, sore muscels and joints, you may also become ill yourself especially if you have been a caregiver to a loved one following an illness.
Some people in their attempt to numb their pain turn to alcohol, drugs, sleeping/anxiety tablets or anti depressants. If you find that you are relying too heavily on any substance, it is very important that you contact your doctor and remember that artificial substances only provide a short term solution, the pain will still be there when the effects of substances have worn off and 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 will come to terms with the loss and accept that your loved one is gone forever. 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. The stages of grieving are inter-related and you may move between them at different stages. 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, the power of pray is underestimated during the grieving process, there is so much value in mediating through prayer and 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 be pressured to do something you don’t feel like doing.
- 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.
At the early stages of loss, it may be helpful to seek the support of a councellor or therapist, someone who is 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.
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