Last week I talked about positive change, unfortunately not all change is positive. Today I wanted to talk about bereavement. The only definite thing in life is that we will all die at some point, but dealing with death can be very difficult for some.
My Dad died suddenly when he was 59 and sufficed to say, I didn’t deal with his death very well. I didn’t know about the grieving stages and I was lost in my emotions, trying to deal with them.
I am hoping this blog might help others in understanding the process.
7 Stages of Grief
Shock & Denial
Your body’s protective mechanism kicks in to protect you from being totally overwhelmed by the death of a loved one. You may deny the reality of the loss at some level, in order to avoid the pain. This may last for weeks.
Pain & Guilt
As the shock wears off, it is replaced with the suffering of unbelievable pain. Although excruciating and almost unbearable, it is important that you experience the pain fully, and not to hide it. A sense of guilt can develop out of the bereaved persons lack of ability to keep their loved one alive.
You may lash out and lay unwarranted blame for the death on someone else. Anger is a natural feeling when life doesn’t go according to plan. The grieving person may be angry at themselves for not being able to prevent the death. You could be angry with God for not saving the loved one. This is a time for the release our bottled up emotion, it is far better to work through your emotions than to put them to one side.
Depression, Reflection & Loneliness
Just when your friends may think you should be getting on with your life, a long period of sad reflection will likely overtake you. This is a normal stage of grief, so do not be “talked out of it” by well-meaning outsiders. Encouragement from others is not helpful to you during this stage of grieving.
During this time, you finally realise the true magnitude of your loss, and it depresses you. You may isolate yourself on purpose, reflect on things you did with your lost one, and focus on memories of the past. You may sense feelings of emptiness and despair.
As you start to adjust your life becomes a little calmer. Your body doesn’t feel so heavy. There’s a shift towards feeling normal again.
As you start to adjust to life without your dear one, your life becomes a little calmer and more organised. Your physical symptoms lessen, and your “depression” begins to lift slightly.
As you become more functional, your mind starts working again, and you will find yourself seeking realistic solutions to problems posed by life without your loved one. You will find ways to laugh and enjoy life again.
During this, the last of the seven stages in this grief model, you learn to accept and deal with the reality of your situation. Acceptance does not necessarily mean instant happiness.
You will start to look forward and actually plan things for the future. Eventually, you will be able to think about your lost loved one without pain; sadness, yes, but the wrenching pain will be gone. You will once again anticipate some good times to come. Grieving can feel unbearable, but it’s a necessary process.
The way grief affects you depends on many things, such as the nature of the loss, your upbringing, your beliefs or religion, your age, your relationships, and your physical and mental health.
Grief consists of several key emotions, anxiety and helplessness often come first. Anger is also common, including feeling angry at someone who has died for “leaving you behind”. This is a natural part of the grieving process, and you shouldn’t feel guilty about that.
Knowing that these emotions are common can help them seem more normal. It’s very important to know that they will pass. Some people take a lot longer than others to recover. Some need help from counselling or their GP, but you will eventually adjust to your loss, and the intense feelings will subside.
There’s no instant fix, you might feel affected every day for about a year or 2 after a major loss. After this time, the grief is less likely to be at the forefront of your mind.
- Express yourself. Talking is often a good way to soothe painful emotions. Talking to a friend, family member or counsellor.
- Allow yourself to feel sad. It’s a healthy part of the grieving process. Crying enables your body to release tension.
- Sleep. Emotionally you might feel drained.
- Eat healthily, this will help you to cope with your emotions.
- Go to counselling if it feels right for you, but perhaps not straight away. Your emotions can overwhelm you at the beginning. Counselling may be more useful after a couple of weeks or months.
We call this being in a transition, it’s like being in no man’s land, we have no idea what we’re doing or where were going. This is okay and normal for a bereaved person. Or for a person with any kind of loss, for example loss of a job or relationship etc. Just stay with it until it passes and remember it could take 2 years. Don’t fight it!!