Feelings of loss are very personal because only the person involved in the loss knows what is significant to them. People commonly associate certain losses with strong feelings of grief. The solitude is always agonizing, especially for someone who has never lived alone. Many people lose their spouses each year. Because the modern society has few mourning rituals other than the memorial service, they may find themselves alone and disconsolate just when they are most in need of comfort.
Different Kinds of Loss Loss of ones partner can be due to various reasons including: Death of a partner/Bereavement Serious or dilapidating illness of a loved one If youor your loved onehas become sick or injured, expect a number of physical, emotional and financial changes in your life. Coping with these changes can be very difficbrt, even overwhelming at times, but the following strategies may help: Relationship breakup/Separation Relationship breakup. This involves losing a partner from a problematic relationship. Although it might seem easier to lose a partner when the relationship has been difficult or unsatisfying, the feelings of dissatisfaction can make the survivor vulnerable to guilt and second thoughts.
When he/she remembers the best times of the relationship, self-blame can convince the individual that if he/she had done things differently, they could have had good times. The grief then can be colored easily by regret and guilt. If the survivor’s friends and family are aware of the difficulties in the relationship, they may expect the person to quickly move on and they may not support her process of grieving. We have a cultural prohibition about speaking ill of the dead. Because of this prohibition, the survivor may find no opportunity to talk about the different aspects of her experience because only the positive aspects are acceptable.
Also, if she wants to begin a new relationship, she may have difficulty cultivating a positive identity as a partner because of the negative experiences with her lost partner. Bereavement Bereavement triggers a normal, natural, healthy process that often leaves the victim/bereaved partner feeling far from normal, natural and healthy. Indeed it can leave you feeling quite mad, suicidal, or even like harming others. Feeling like it for a period of time is one thing, if you think about acting on it, then it is time to get help and support from a professional who is experienced and trained in bereavement issues.
One of the most important things to remember, is that these feelings – whatever they are, won’t last forever. It is very frightening to experience such powerful and intense feelings that you have not perhaps, experienced before. People often describe feeling distant, alone, and isolated, that no one seems to understand them. They may feel they are going crazy, or just wish they were no longer alive. These are all very common, but are little spoken about, thoughts and emotions. Recent bereavement may trigger past losses. This can be very confusing and distressing.
Often, how we dealt with or witnessed others dealing with loss, colours our own current experience. Sudden versus Predictable Loss Sudden or shocking losses due to events like crimes, accidents, or suicide can be traumatic. There is no way to prepare. They can challenge your sense of security and confidence in the predictability of life. You may experience symptoms such as sleep disturbance, nightmares, distressing thoughts, social isolation, or severe anxiety. Sudden death is easiest for the person who dies, hardest for survivors, says author David Caroll, author of Living with Dying.
Survivors frequently experience a hysterical reaction or become stoically silent. Predictable losses These include losses like those due to terminal illness. Sometimes, they allow more time to prepare for the loss. However, they create two layers of grief: the grief related to the anticipation of the loss and the grief related to the final loss. Grief Grief is something that everyone will experience sometime in his/her lifetime. When a person experiences the loss of someone they love, either through divorce or death, they are forced to face grief. When a loss occurs, most of us are unprepared for how to handle it.
There is a lot to learn about grief, especially the necessity of grieving a loss. Symptoms of Grief How do you know if you are grieving? If you have suffered a loss through the death of a loved one or through divorce/ separation, death or due to an illness, you are probably grieving. If you exhibit or are feeling any or all of the following symptoms, you are dealing with grief. You must allow yourself to feel these feelings, and accept the fact that you are normal if you are engaging in any of these behaviors and signs of grief. You need to allow yourself time to grieve because it is an important aspect in your healing.
If you feel the feelings and work through them, your grief will lessen, and in time, fade. If you are severely depressed for too long a time, if you think about ending your life, or if you become so incapacitated that you can’t function day after day, you need to seek professional help until you are better able to deal with your grief. Seeking help is not a sign of weakness; rather, it is a sign that you want to move on with your life. Some symptoms of grief include: Feel physically drained Out of emotional control: feel good one minute; in the pits the next Can’t eat – food makes you sick.
People tend to lost up to 40 pounds while grieving Susceptible to illnesses “Zombie Effect” Feelings shut down due to your body’s natural coping mechanism Brain is scrambled; can’t think clearly or remember things Cry continuously Can’t cry — bottle it up (it will come out years later) Stay extremely busy so as not to have time to think Drink too much Take too many drugs Can’t sleep at night Take naps frequently and are constantly tired Sigh a lot Lose interest in work; house; physical appearance Neglect personal hygiene Fantasize about the past Suffer from extreme loneliness Have lots of guilt about things you did or didn’t do Lack of interest in sex Engage in self-criticism
Have a huge hole in your heart and soul Think you will never recover from your loss Suffer from severe depression See no reason to exist How Long Does Grief Last? The length of the grief process is different for everyone. There is no predictable schedule for grief. Although it can be quite painful at times, the grief process cannot be rushed. It is important to be patient with yourself as you experience the feelings and your unique reactions to the loss. With time and support, things generally do get better. However, it is normal for significant dates, holidays, or other reminders to trigger feelings related to the loss.
Taking care of yourself, seeking support, and acknowledging your feelings during these times are ways that can help you cope. Grieving in your own way It’s important to understand what grieving entails, because misconceptions complicate the healing process. According to the Center for Loss and Life Transition in Fort Collins, Colorado, there are three widespread myths about grief. Myth #1: There is a predictable, orderly stage to mourning. People adopt a rigid system of beliefs about grief that doesn’t allow for the natural unfolding of personal experience.
Just as people die in different ways, people mourn in different ways, and with different sets of feelings. There is a huge range of what is “normal” in the grief process. Myth #2: It’s best to move away from grief rather than toward it. Unfortunately, many mourners don’t give themselves permission, or receive permission from others, to express their anguish. Society is impatient with grief and expects survivors to quickly return to normal. If your grieving lasts more than several months, you may think you are abnormal or somehow to blame for your suffering.
But you’re not: In some societies you’d be expected to wear mourning garb for a year. Myth #3: Following the death of your loved one, the goal is to “get over” your loss. This belief suggests a total return to a previous vision of normality. Yet everyone is transformed by grief at some level. To assume that life will be exactly as it was is unrealistic and potentially damaging. Instead of “total recovery,” think of integrating the loss and moving forward in steps, without the physical presence of your loved one. Acceptance leads to rebirth, allowing you to become reinvolved in life in new ways and at your own pace.
The Tasks of Grief These are the tasks you must accomplish in order to work through your grief. It isn’t always easy, and each person must accomplish these tasks in his or her own time. But each task must be accomplished in order for you to heal and move on with your life. TASK 1 You must accept the reality of your loss. You must talk about the loss until you accept it. The more you talk about it, the more you will realize that the loss is real -that the person is really gone and will not come back. TASK 2 You must allow yourself to experience the pain of grief. In any loss, you must accept the painful reality and finality of the loss.
If you don’t, your grief will keep resurfacing throughout your life and interfere with a healthy emotional state of being. You have to feel the pain. You can’t avoid the pain. It will hurt. You will feel awful. But this pain must be felt in order for you to work through the pain and heal. If you push the pain away and refuse to feel it, it will fester for years and affect your entire future. TASK 3 You must learn to adjust to an environment in which the loved one is missing. You have to return to places you went together. You have to spend time in your home without this person.
You have to encounter each aspect of your life without that person. It will be hard. You will need to learn new skills and tasks in order to assume responsibility for your own life. You have to learn to function without the person at home and in your everyday life. In other words, you must keep going. You can’t withdraw from the world. TASK 4 Finally, after you have grieved all you need to grieve, you have to begin to withdraw emotional energy that you are investing in your grieving and the focus you have on your loss, and invest it in new relationships (not necessarily of the opposite sex, and certainly not right away).
If, after a reasonable amount of time, you constantly re-live your relationship, constantly go over “what I did wrong” and “what I should have done differently”, and refuse to try to move on with your life, you are investing too much energy in your grieving. The support and encouragement of a loving family and a good support group is necessary in order to move on with your life. New friends and new interests are important. The time will come when you will have to get on with your life. Acceptance and a determination to live your life fully will re-focus your energy in a more positive manner.
The Stages of Grief Psychologists did a great deal of work in the field of grief, and clarified the five stages of grief. Each and every stage of grief must be passed through and experienced before you can heal. They also made it very clear that these stages are not necessary, or usually, experienced in order. In fact, they usually aren’t. Be aware that even though you think you may have worked through a stage, you may suddenly find yourself back in it. This is O. K. It just means that there is something else that needs to be worked through. Let yourself do it.
It is important to remember that grieving is a process. We must emotionally work through each of the grief stages effectively, and we must overcome our fear of grief. It is not a sign of weakness to grieve. You must give yourself permission to grieve for as long as necessary. It takes some people longer than others, so don’t be hard on yourself if you have to grieve longer than you think you should. An old saying is, “When you get sick of tired of being sick and tired, you will do what is necessary in order to heal. ” When you are ready, you will do your grief work.
The Five Stages Please be aware that you may pass through each stage more than once, and you may be in more than one stage at a time. There is no particular order in which you will work through these stages. Even when you think you have reached the end, another loss may trigger you back into one of the stages. Stage 1: Denial The first reaction to a loss is Denial. You tell yourself that it isn’t happening. You tell yourself that your spouse will come back to you. With a divorce, you think that he / she is just going through a phase or mid-life crisis and will come to their senses.
You think that you cannot accept that it is ending, and you refuse to see the obvious signs that it is over for the other person. With a death, you just don’t accept it as final. When they are dying, you believe they will get well. You refuse to use the term, “died” or “dead”. You say that they have passed on. You don’t go to the gravesite to view proof of the death. In general, your mind refuses to accept what is happening. Stage 2:Anger Anger comes as you begin to accept reality. In a divorce or separation, the frustrations that have existed in the marriage begin to come out.
You become angry at the way you were treated, about the settlement offers, about your life that has suddenly changed about the way your spouse lied and deceived you, at the future you expected that will never be. In death or sickness, you become angry at fate, at God, at the doctors, at yourself for not doing enough. If anger is turned inward (not felt or expressed), one becomes depressed. Anger should be gotten in touch with, expressed properly and dealt with. It is important not to be destructive in your anger, but it is equally important to express your anger. Expressing anger is a sign that you are beginning to deal with your loss.
If anger isn’t expressed, it will make you bitter and hamper your recovery. It is important not to bury your anger, and it is important to express all of your anger before you try to forgive that person. Stage 3: Bargaining Bargaining is trying to get them back. With death, the bargaining comes before the death. You promise anything if God will just let them live. With divorce, you promise the person you will change; you will do anything they want if he or she won’t leave. You make elaborate plans for what you both can do to make it better. Sometimes people compromise their values and beliefs to try to keep a person from leaving.
Sometimes a couple will get back together and try again when one spouse is so insistent that they try again. Very few marriages make it after it has gotten this far because the real issues of the discontent aren’t dealt with, unresolved problems are not solved, unhealthy patterns have become ingrained, and usually one person is very unhappy with the marriage. Reaching the bargaining stage shows that you have begun to face the fact that the relationship is ending. You are past the denial stage. This is a necessary stage, and it helps you to look at what caused the problems in the first place.
Stage 4: Letting Go Letting Go is the beginning of the end. When the bargaining has failed, and you realize they are gone, you have to learn to let go. This isn’t easy, but it must be done in your own time. You enter a different type of depression, which makes you feel that your life is over. You wonder about you are worth, what you are here for, what will you do with the rest of your life. You feel all alone and think you will be alone for the rest of your life. This is a dangerous stage in which some people tend to give up, or even contemplate suicide. It is important to remember that you will get past this.
Just knowing about this stage helps. You can be prepared that this is a typical stage, and that you will pass through it. It is a necessary stage. If you don’t let go, you will hold on to an unrealistic dream for the rest of you life. Stage 5: Acceptance Acceptance means that you have reached the final stage. When you have worked through all of the other stages, you will come to acceptance. You will realize that it is final, and you are ready to get on with your life. In a divorce, you will come to realize that everything happened for the best, and that your life does have meaning.
You will begin to feel free from the pain and the hurt. You will be finished with your grieving. You are ready to move on to a new life and let the other life remain in the past. You will be able to remember the good as well as the bad. With a death, you accept it as what was meant to be. You accept death as an inevitable part of life. You will always love and miss that person, but you realize that you are alive, and you have to start a new life for yourself. There are a few more stages that you might go through, so be aware that they are also a natural and normal part of grieving.
Shock and Numbness. During this phase you don’t register any feelings. You know it has happened intellectually, yet emotionally it hasn’t registered yet. You go about your daily routines and tasks like a robot. It has happened, but you can’t function. You function automatically. This stage may last a few hours, a few days, or maybe a few weeks. Guilt. It is important to recognize this as a stage, too. It is normal and natural to feel guilty, both for things you did, and for things you didn’t do. Don’t beat yourself up too much. Everyone makes mistakes, and nobody is perfect.
It takes two to make a marriage, and it takes two to break it up, although in some marriages the reasons are more obvious in some than in others, and the fault is more clearly one person’s than the other’s. Even if you didn’t cause the break-up, you will feel guilty. Guilt is felt more by the person who leaves the marriage, although the other person feels guilty about what they think they did to chase their spouse away. Depression. Depression is an inevitable part of loss. It comes during the anger stage, and the bargaining stage, and in the letting go stage. It is characterized by many of the symptoms of grief.
Depression is normal. It may last longer in some people than in others. Emotionally healthy people won’t be depressed as long as emotionally unhealthy people or people who came from dysfunctional homes who haven’t dealt with childhood issues. It is perfectly okay to seek help from a physician and take anti-depressants for a time until you are better able to handle your grief. If you feel that your depression is lasting too long, you may benefit from the help of a therapist. Never be ashamed of taking medication or seeking professional help when you are grieving.
When you no longer need them, you will know and end your treatment. During the depression phase, you will cry a lot. Crying is normal, and tears are healing. Let yourself cry when you feel like it. If you cry constantly, everywhere, and it goes on for months and months, you probably need to seek medical help. Forgiveness. Forgiveness is a necessary part of healing. It is also a process. You can make up your mind that you need to forgive, but it sometimes isn’t easy, and it may take quite a while to completely forgive the other person. Don’t try to forgive too soon in your grief process.
You have go through the anger and the guilt and work through both thoroughly before you can forgive. You have to forgive both yourself and your spouse in order to heal. You have to forgive in order for you to heal. Do it for yourself, not for the other person. Forgiveness is very freeing, and it is necessary in order for you to get on with your life without carrying nasty baggage with you. Remember, each person grieves in his own way and in his own time. You will let go and accept your loss when you have worked through all of the phases of grief and dealt with each as long as you needed to.
Don’t let other people tell you, “It’s time to stop grieving and get on with your life. ” Give yourself time, but don’t expect time alone to heal. You have to do a lot of work. Read books, talk to people who understand, go to recovery programs, enter therapy, or do whatever you can to heal. You will be whole again one day. Normal Grief Reactions When experiencing grief, it is common to feel . . . Like you are “going crazy” Unable to focus or concentrate Irritable or angry (at the deceased, oneself, others, higher powers) Frustrated or misunderstood
Anxious, nervous, or fearful Like you want to “escape” Guilt or remorse Ambivalence Numbness Grief as a Process of Healing Grief is characterized by the stages of denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. It is important to note that the grief process is not linear, but is more often experienced in cycles. Grief is sometimes compared to climbing a spiral staircase where things can look and feel like you are just going in circles, yet you are actually making progress. Patience with the process and allowing feelings to come without judgment can help.
If you feel stuck in your grief, talking to a counselor or a supportive person may help you move forward in the healing process. Culture, Rituals, and Ceremonies Your cultural background can affect how you understand and approach the grief process. Some cultures anticipate a “time to grieve” and have developed rituals to help people through the grief process. Support from others can be a reminder that grief is a universal experience and that you are not alone. After a significant loss, some cultures have mourning rituals to mark the passage of time and help individuals reconnect with their ordinary lives.
A mourning ritual can occur during a meaningful time, like an anniversary, wake, or holiday, or at a distinct location, like a church, synagogue, or home. In North American cultures, for example, there are the Catholic anniversary mass, the reciting of Kaddish, and El Da de los Muertos. Many ceremonies have spontaneously grown up around the Vietnam War Memorial, and a special mourning project, the AIDS Quilt, traveled throughout the nation to enable mourners to participate in this expression of grief.
Grief rituals and ceremonies acknowledge the pain of loss while also offering social support and a reaffirmation of life. Moving on Living with loss As mental health counselors note, the death of a loved one and the end of caregiving mark a transition in life, both an ending and a beginning. Moving on involves coping with pain and grief, reestablishing priorities, and refocusing on what truly matters. Berkeley, California historian and author Theodore Roszak, who has been both a caregiver and the receiver of care in his older age, says, “The ordeal [of illness] teaches you something.
It brings you as close to death as you can come. If you don’t come back from an experience like that more philosophical than when you went into it, then nothing’s ever going to change you. ” Vent Your Feelings Make an agreement with a good friend to get together once a week for a month. Ask your friend if he or she will listen while you talk about your loss. If you need to talk more than once a week, make arrangements with two friends – perhaps, one for Monday and the other for Thursday.
Make sure that your friends realize that you’re not seeking advice. Tell them that by being there and just listening is supporting you. Join a Group People usually find it helpful to be with others who are going through a similar loss. People who have lost a child might want to join an organization for Bereaved Families. Those who have lost a spouse will find a number of self-help groups available for widows and widowers. Learn Something About Grief All of the different feelings that are experienced during a loss can be frightening.
Oftentimes, feelings are less frightening when we realize that they are common and others also experience similar feelings. It may be helpful to read some books on the subject or discuss grief with a counselor or your family doctor. This will help you to recognize when your feelings are normal or when you may need help to work through your feelings. Identify What Coping Strategies Have Worked Before If writing about your loss in a journal or talking about it with friends helped when you lost your job, the same thing may help when you are coping with the loss of a loved one.
Think About Helping Others Sometimes getting involved with a specific cause that may work towards the prevention of loss of someone else’s partner can help us redefine our loss. Spouses having lost a loved one in a motor vehicle accident involving a drunk driver have found comfort working with groups that attempt to reduce the incidence of such accidents for other spouses. When loss of a loved one is due to a particular illness, people have found comfort in volunteering for foundations such as the Heart or Cancer Society. Take Care of Your Physical Health
Coping with our feelings is always a little easier when we are in good physical health. Try to get adequate rest and eat a balanced diet. Exercise will also help you maintain a better grip of your life. HowElse Can You Cope with Grief? Besides the above mentioned ways including talking to family or friends, seeking counseling, reading books, engaging in social activities, exercising, eating good foods or even joining a support group, seeking spiritual support, taking time off to relax, listening to calming music and being patient with yourself by letting yourself feel the grief is important.
Each one of us has an individual style of coping with painful times. The clues above may help one generate ideas about how to manage your feelings of grief. Talking to friends who have dealt with loss in the past can help one to generate new ways of coping. Only the victim of the loss knows what coping skills will fit best with his/her personality and lifestyle. Other ways of coping may be hurtful or destructive to the healing process, like substance abuse or isolation. Healthy coping skills are important in resolving a loss. They cannot take away your feelings of loss.
They can, however, help you move forward in the healing process. After a while Feelings of having some emotional distance from the loss may appear. While the awareness of the loss is still present, it doesn’t seem so intensely painful. This doesn’t mean that you have come to love the person any less, only that a scar has begun to form over the wound that was caused by the loss. Most people notice that lost energy begins to return and that they are able to find new directions and joy in life. Several key things to keep in mind are: Be gentle with yourself.
Don’t compare yourself to others who have gone through the grief process. Reach out for support as required. You don’t have to go through the process alone. Strive for a balance between solitude and company – both can be beneficial. Find ways to express the feelings that you are having. While it will likely be the last thing on your mind, try to take care of your physical health. Proper nutrition, exercise and rest are very important. If it seems right for you, find ways to access your spiritual strength and use creative rituals to help yourself heal.
If you feel stuck in guilt, anger, despair or depression, seek professional help How Can You Help a Friend or Relative Who Has Suffered the Loss of a Partner? People who are grieving often feel isolated or lonely in their grief. Soon after the loss, social activities and support from others may decrease. As the shock of the loss fades, there is a tendency on the part of the griever to feel more pain and sadness. Well-meaning friends may avoid discussing the subject due to their own discomfort with grief or their fear of “making the person feel bad.
They may “not know what to say. ” People who are grieving are likely to fluctuate between wanting some time to themselves and wanting closeness with others. They may want someone to talk to about their feelings. Showing concern and thoughtfulness about a friend shows that you care. It’s better to feel nervous and awkward sitting with a grieving friend than to not sit there at all. How Can You Support Others Who Are Grieving? Listen! Listen! Listen! And be a good listener. No matter how independent a person appears, he or she still needs the support of family and friends.
When talking to a grieving person, ask about their feelings, their loss, let them feel sad, share your feelings, remember the loss, and acknowledge the pain. Provide practical help. Always be available when you can. Something as simple as a home-cooked casserole or cookies is not only helpful, but it also lets people know that you care about them. Help a bereaved person to make plans for getting through special occasions such as the first Christmas without his or her spouse.
The anniversary of a loss, either a death or divorce, is an especially sad time. Do not try to minimize grief Talk about your own losses There’s no question about it that loss is a necessary and painful part of life. But perhaps what matters most is that there are ways in which those who love you can help you say good-bye, and deal with loss. It is very difficult to think about what do when you are experiencing a loss, or want to help someone else who is. Often, even trying to make sense of loss is a daunting task for a person to do alone.