Joan, in her mid-fifties, has just experienced the death of her husband to cancer. They were married for 30 years and raised two children. Their son is married with a small child and their daughter is single. Both are close to their mother but have busy careers and lives. Joan had taken a leave from work to care for her husband. Though it has been two months since his death, she has not yet returned to work. Joan feels tired and sad most of the time. She tells friends and family she has trouble sleeping, and they notice that she is losing a lot of weight. Those who care about Joan worry that she is not moving on with her life. Joan herself wonders if she will ever feel good again.
Grief is different for everybody. Not everyone cries. Some people have feelings of overwhelming sadness. Others feel guilty, thinking that if only they had said or done something differently, things would not have turned out as they did. People may also feel angry, lonely, or confused. Such feelings can be frightening. We may feel a loss of control, or that expressing strong emotions is not appropriate. However, it is normal.
Those who are grieving describe themselves as in pain – a deep aching pain that leaves them feeling helpless, empty, and lonely. They yearn to have the thing that they lost back in their lives, and may blame themselves even though the death was not their fault. They may not sleep or eat well, have headaches and constantly feel tired.
Since grief can be overwhelming, it can be difficult to get organized both physically and emotionally. It may be hard to concentrate on one thing for any length of time. Those that grieve may be restless. Although they want to accomplish something, they are unable to decide what to do, how to do it, or how to finish a task. This can make them feel like they are going crazy.
Grief involves dealing with a major life change. All that was true before the loss has now become different. It takes time to come to terms with the effects of these changes. The familiar world has become unfamiliar, and this can be unsettling.
If you are grieving, you may feel fearful and despair that life will never be enjoyable again. It is true that life will not ever be the same, because loss has changed the life you once had. However, you will not feel this way forever. Eventually there will be relief from these powerful emotions, but it can take a long time. It often takes more than two years of ups and downs before the death is integrated into how we live our lives day-to-day. Most people come to accept that they will continue to have feelings of loss even as they begin to have new experiences.
Grief is a process that can take a long time. It may not appear right after a loss. Instead, grief may emerge months later when the reality of what has happened begins to hit home. Just as we think we are coping with life again, we are reminded of what or who is missing from life. We may experience a new wave of intense grief, something we thought we had moved past. We may be so overwhelmed by feelings of grief that we feel we cannot carry on. All of this is very natural. Eventually, such feelings lessen.
To move forward, it is important to talk about what has happened and how things have changed. If you are coping with loss, you need to express your thoughts and feelings over and over again. Telling the story helps you move through the grieving process and slowly take part in life again. You must admit what is hard about the loss. To do this, you need someone you trust to listen and accept your feelings without judgement.
If you have lost a loved one, you must come to terms with your loss in several ways. First, it is important to accept that the person has died. It is often necessary to talk about the person and the events around the death.
It is also necessary to experience the pain of grief. It is natural to feel pain when we lose someone we have been deeply attached to. The pain of grief needs to be expressed in a way that is comfortable for each person. Even within the same family, we may express grief in different ways.
Next, we must adjust to an environment without our loved one in it. We may not always have been aware of all of the things that person did. Often, gaps are noticed after a loss. We may notice the simplest things, like trash not taken out or groceries no longer being restocked.
Finally, we must begin to put less emotional energy into thinking of the person who has died. Then, we must reconnect and develop new relationships with others. This can be very difficult. We may be afraid that if we get too close to someone and lose them, we will have to go through all of the pain again.
Friends and family also experience grief. They care for the bereaved, and struggle with seeing those they love saddened and overwhelmed by grief. They may not want to cry in front of the bereaved for fear of adding to the sadness. It is easy to draw into ourselves and away from each other in the hope that no one will experience more pain and hurt. However, this leaves everyone alone with their grief and unsupported.
We deal best with grief when we have a good support system, preferably including someone who listens and says little. This person may be within the family, a friend, a doctor, a co-worker, a neighbour or a member of the church. The bereaved person should get in touch with whoever feels right at the time. This may vary from day to day, depending on how you feel and what you want to do or discuss.
As we watch someone we care about move through the grieving process, it is natural to want to relieve the pain. Yet the pain cannot be taken away. We each must experience the pain of grief in order to move through it. Trying to help, we may say that the loss was meant to be, that the person will get over it, that we know how they feel or that time will heal. Although these sentiments are commonly used to try to give support, they may not help. Rather, they may make those who are grieving feel that their strong feelings are unacceptable.
Grieving can be a powerfully emotional time. It creates fear and anxiety for some who go through it. However, those who have moved through grief often find that the process gives them a better understanding of themselves and what is important in life. The process of grieving is slow, to be done a little at a time. In this way, we come to realize that we have the skills to survive.
It takes courage to walk down a path we do not want to take. Every day we experience small losses. Once in a while we are faced with the death of someone we love. We need to grieve, each of us in our own way. With time and support from those who care about us, we can adjust to the change in our lives and emerge even stronger.