You Are Not Alone
Experts advise those that are grieving to realize they can't control the process and to prepare for varying stages of grief. Understanding why they're suffering can help, as well as talking to others and trying to resolve issues that cause significant emotional pain, such as feeling guilty for a loved one's death. Mourning can last for months or years. Generally, pain is tempered as time passes and as the bereaved adapts to life without a loved one, to the news of a terminal diagnosis, or to the notion that someone they love may die.
If you're uncertain about whether your grieving process is normal, consult your health care professional. Outside help is sometimes helpful to people trying to recover and adjust to a death or diagnosis of a terminal illness.
What is grief ?
Grief is a strong, sometimes overwhelming emotion for people, regardless of whether their sadness stems from the loss of a loved one or from a terminal diagnosis they or someone they love have received. They might find themselves feeling numb and removed from daily life, unable to carry on with regular duties.
Grief is the natural reaction to loss. It is both a universal and a personal experience. Individual experiences of grief vary and are influenced by the nature of the loss. Some examples of loss include the death of a loved one, the ending of an important relationship, job loss, loss through theft or the loss of independence through disability.
Helping yourself heal
Adjust to living without the deceased. When a loved one dies, we also lose the part of our lifestyle that included the deceased. So while we are grieving for the loved one, we are also grieving for the parts of our life that will never be the same. Sometimes it can take a few months following the death for this realization to sink in.
Grieving the loss of shared activities can feel as painful as grieving for the person. So it's a natural tendency for some people to feel that their lives are more empty following a loss. This is a normal feeling for a time, but part of the grieving and healing process includes acceptance, and shifting our focus to include other people and activities. This opens the door to finding new opportunities for love and companionship.
Find a safe place in your heart for your loved one, and allow yourself to move on. This task can be especially hard for a grieving person because it can feel at first that you're being disloyal when you start to think about enjoying a life that doesn't include the deceased.
It's likely that memories of the loved one will stay with you throughout your life, and sometimes, even years after the death, you may feel a stab of pain when you think about the beloved person or pet that was so important to you. When this happens, it's important to remind yourself that it's a normal part of the grieving and healing process. Allow yourself to have these feelings.
Learning to cherish a memory without letting it control you is a very important step in the grieving process. By finding a special safe "place" for that person, you can heal from grieving and move back into your life. You begin to find joy in new experiences, and you can take comfort in the knowledge that you keep your cherished memories with you, wherever you go.
Finally, what do you do with the love that you feel? For many people, the hardest part of losing a loved one and grieving that loss is figuring out what to do with all the love they feel for the person who is gone.
The grieving process
Denial and Isolation
The first reaction to learning of terminal illness or death of a cherished loved one is to deny the reality of the situation. It is a normal that buffers the immediate shock. We block out the words and hide from the facts. This is a temporary response that carries us through the first wave of pain.
As the effects of denial and isolation begin to wear, reality and its pain re-emerge and we are not ready. The intense emotion is expressed instead as anger. The anger may be aimed at inanimate objects, complete strangers, friends, or family. Rationally, we know the person is not to be blamed. Emotionally, however, we may resent the person for causing us pain or for leaving us. We feel guilty for being angry, and this makes us more angry.
Remember, grieving is a personal process that has no time limit, nor one “right” way to do it. Take your time.
The normal reaction to feelings of helplessness and vulnerability is often a need to regain control–
If only we had sought medical attention sooner…
If only we got a second opinion from another doctor…
If only we had tried to be a better person toward them…
Secretly, we may make a deal with God in an attempt to postpone the inevitable. This is a weaker line of defense to protect us from the painful reality.
Two types of depression are associated with mourning. The first is a reaction relating to the loss. Sadness and regret predominate this type of depression. We worry about the costs and burial. We worry that, in our grief, we have spent less time with others that depend on us. This phase may be eased by simple clarification and reassurance. We may need a bit of helpful cooperation and a few kind words.
The second type of depression is more subtle and, in a sense, perhaps more private. It is our quiet preparation to separate and to bid our loved one farewell. Sometimes all we really need is a hug.
Reaching this stage of mourning is a gift not afforded to everyone. Death may be sudden and unexpected or we may never see beyond our anger or denial. It is not necessarily a mark of bravery to resist the inevitable and to deny ourselves the opportunity to make our peace. This phase is marked by withdrawal and calm. This is not a period of happiness and must be distinguished from depression.
Coping with loss is ultimately a deeply personal and singular experience — nobody can help you go through it or understand all the emotions that you’re going through. But others can be there for you and help comfort you through this process. The best thing you can do is to allow yourself to feel the grief as it comes over you. Resisting it only will prolong the natural process of healing.
When a person’s grief-related thoughts, behaviors, or feelings are extremely distressing, unrelenting, or incite concern, a qualified mental health professional may be able to help. Counseling/Therapy is an effective way to learn to cope with the stressors associated with the loss and to manage symptoms.
Each experience of grief is unique, complex, and personal, and counselor/therapists will tailor treatment to meet the specific needs of each person. For example, a therapist might help the bereaved find different ways to maintain healthy connections with the deceased through memory, reflection, ritual, etc., about the deceased.
In addition to individual therapy, group therapy can be helpful for those who find solace in the reciprocal sharing of thoughts and feelings, and recovery results are often rapid in this setting. Similarly, family therapy may be suitable for a family whose members are struggling to adapt to the loss of a family member.
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