Dealing with Grief

Whenever we face loss, we experience grief.  The responses that we have as we grieve are very unique and individual.  Each of us responds differently to loss.  And we may even experience different reactions as we face different kinds of losses.  Our reactions to grief can include physical symptoms, feelings, thoughts and behaviors.

Many times, we experience grief emotionally.  We may experience all kinds as we face loss. Anger, for example, is a common and natural reaction to loss.  That loss may then create a deep sense of powerlessness and rage.  We may be angry with god, or the universe, for this unfair act.  And we may express that anger and rage, taking it out on others around us.

Another common reaction to loss is guilt.  We can experience guilt in so many ways.  Sometimes we feel guilty because we believe we may have caused or contributed to the death.  We are haunted by the "if onlys."  "If only I had forbade him to go to that party." Sometimes we feel guilty because we believe we are morally responsible, that god is punishing us for something we had done.

Your first response to your loss might be what is called shock.  First there is an icy fear,  then numbness.  This numbness seems to have a purpose.  It could be called nature's insulation-a cushion against the blow. In the midst of this shock, this numbness, you may have trouble believing your loved one is gone.  On one level, your mind understands what has happened, but on a deeper level all of your habits and memories are denying death.  This disbelief or denial is normal. 

Numbness usually wears off in a few days or weeks, but denial may remain in some form for months.  Some mourners keep a few of the beloved's clothes hanging in the closet.  Others are slow to rearrange their home or the pattern to their lives. Do what seems right for you.  There are no rules.  If denial interferes with normal functioning, then it can become a matter of concern.

Keep in mind that disbelief in some form is perfectly normal.  Like the other responses to loss, it eventually disappears.  As times goes on, you will see that you are moving toward acceptance.

You may be surprised by how angry you are.  Even when there is no one to blame for the death, you may try to find someone or something to be angry at.  This is normal.

Often anger is a protest about a great and unjust loss.  You may even be angry with your loved one for leaving you.  That's common although hard to admit and hard to express.  Instead, you may "take it out" on the medical people, other relatives, or god.

Even if anger seems well justified, work on releasing the pain and hurt of the anger.  The sooner you do, the sooner you will heal.

Few survivors escape without some feeling of guilt.  You mayfeel guilty because you didn't urge your spouse to get to the doctor with those first symptoms.  A long illness, during which you cared for the person, may have led to a feeling of resentment and then to guilt over the resentment. 

Sometimes writing a letter to the loved one helps.  You can say everything you wish you had said earlier. 

Whatever your situation, realize that feelings of guilt and regret are normal.  If you need it, get professional or religious counseling.

When numbness wears off and anger cools, deep sadness may arrive.  This is time when you need a friend, someone to listen and not judge, someone who will allow your rambling and repetitive talk about your loss.  A friend can also help get you into activity , some diversion for mind and body.  Consider sports activities or anything soothing and physical.  But avoid frantic activity-it's like running away, and you need to face reality.

Healing is slow, but it does come, and it will come for  you.  Through the years ahead there will be moments of sadness, reminders of the relationships that means so much to you.  Accept these times of the relationship that means so much to you.  Accept these times as symbols of the relationship that will always remain in your heart.

Guide Lines, Grief and the Holidays

This brochure discusses and offers some of the various aspects involved with dealing with grief / Special occasions during the holidays without your loved one. 

Life Beyond Loss

This helpful and informative brochure looks at various experiences of grief including shock and denial, emotional release, loneliness, pain, panic, guilt, anger and depression: as well as ways to help manage grief.

"People are forever changed by the experience of grief in their lives.  We, as humans, do not 'get over' our grief, but work to reconcile ourselves to living with it…"