The death of a loved
one is life's most painful events. Grief is a normal and natural
emotion that follows death. This means that grief is a common human experience to the death of someone we
love and "natural" means that there is a range of thoughts, feelings,
and responses to loss that are often associated with grief. Sadness, denial, guilt, physical
discomfort, and sleeplessness are some of the symptoms of grief.
People benefit more from taking steps to cope with grief after a loss than ignoring or denying their feelings. Healing is a process
of allowing ourselves to feel, experience, and accept the pain. In
other words, we give ourselves permission to heal. Allowing ourselves
to accept these feelings is the beginning of that process. The following information may be helpful to someone who is coping with the loss of a loved one:
Allow Yourself to Mourn
Someone you love has
died. You are now faced with the difficult, but important, need to
mourn. Mourning is the open expression of your thoughts and feelings
regarding the death and the person who has died. It is an essential part
of healing. You are beginning a journey that is often frightening,
painful, overwhelming and sometimes lonely.
RealizeYour Grief is Unique Your grief is
unique. No one will grieve in exactly the same way. Your experience will
be influenced by a variety of factors: the relationship you had with
the person who died, the circumstances surrounding the death, your
emotional support system and your cultural and religious background.
As a result of these
factors, you will grieve in your own special way. Don't try to compare
your experience with that of others or to adopt assumptions about how long your grief should last. Consider taking a
"one-day-at-a-time" approach that allows you to grieve at your own pace.
Talk About Your Grief
Express your grief
openly. By sharing your grief outside yourself, healing occurs. Ignoring
your grief won't make it go away; talking about it often makes you feel
better. Find caring friends and relatives who
will listen without judging. Seek out those persons who will "Walk
with, not in front of" or "behind" you in your journey through grief.
Expect to Feel a Multitude of Emotions Experiencing a loss
affects your mind, heart and spirit. So you may experience a variety of
emotions as part of your grief work. Confusion, disorganization, fear,
guilt, relief or explosive emotions are just a few of the emotions you
may feel. Sometimes these emotions will follow each other within a short
period of time. Or they may occur simultaneously.
As strange as some
of these emotions may seem, they are normal and healthy. Allow yourself
to learn from these feelings. And don't be surprised if out of nowhere
you suddenly experience surges of grief, even at the most unexpected
times. These grief attacks can be frightening and leave you feeling
overwhelmed. They are, however, a natural response to the death of
someone loved. Find someone who understands your feelings and will allow
you to talk about them.
Allow for Numbness Feeling dazed or
numb when someone loved dies is often part of your early grief
experience. This numbness serves a valuable purpose: it gives your
emotions time to catch up with what your mind has told you. This feeling
helps create insulation from the reality of the death until you are
more able to tolerate what you don't want to believe.
Be Tolerant of Your Physical and Emotional Limits
Your feelings of
loss and sadness will probably leave you fatigued. Your ability to think
clearly and make decisions may be impaired. And your low energy level
may naturally slow you down. Respect what your body and mind are telling
you. Nurture yourself. Get daily rest. Eat balanced meals. Lighten
your schedule as much as possible. Caring for yourself doesn't mean
feeling sorry for yourself; it means you are using survival skills.
Develop a Support System Reaching out to
others and accepting support is often difficult, particularly when you
hurt so much. But the most compassionate self-action you can do during
this difficult time is to find a support system of caring friends and
relatives who will provide the understanding you need. Find those people
who encourage you to be yourself and acknowledge your feelings - both
happy and sad.
Make Use of Ritual The funeral ritual
does more than acknowledge the death of someone loved. It helps provide
you with the support of caring people. Most importantly, the funeral is a
way for you to express your grief outside yourself. If you eliminate
this ritual, you often set yourself up to repress your feelings and you
cheat everyone who cares for a chance to pay tribute to someone who was,
and always will be, loved.
Embrace Your Spirituality If faith is part of
your life, express it in ways that seem appropriate to you. Allow
yourself to be around people who understand and support your religious
beliefs. If you are angry with God because of the death of someone you
loved, recognize this feeling as a normal part of your grief work. Find
someone to talk with who won't be critical of whatever thoughts and
feelings you need to explore.
Allow a Search for Meaning You may find
yourself asking, "Why did he die?" "Why this way?" "Why now?" This
search for meaning is another normal part of the healing process. Some
questions have answers. Some do not. Actually, the healing occurs in
the opportunity to pose the questions, not necessarily in answering
them. Find a supportive friend who will listen responsively as you
search for meaning.
Treasure Your Memories Memories are one of
the best legacies that exist after someone loved dies. Treasure them.
Share them with your family and friends. Recognize that your memories
may make you laugh or cry. In either case, they are a lasting part of
the relationship that you had with a very special person in your life.
Move Toward Your Grief and Heal The capacity to love
require the necessity to grieve when someone you love dies. You can't
heal unless you openly express your grief. Denying your grief will only
make it become more confusing and overwhelming. Embrace your grief and
grief will not happen quickly. Remember, grief is a process, not an
event. Be patient and tolerant with yourself. Never forget that the
death of someone loved changes your life forever. It's not that you
won't be happy again. It's simply that you will never be exactly the
same as you were before the death.