Healing begins after facing your grief, and realizing that you are not alone.
We each grieve in our own individual way. How we handle that grief depends on our personal backgrounds, how the person died, and who that person was. However, there are some common threads that are found in all kinds of grief. Understanding these basic elements will help you see that you are not alone in how you feel.
The following is a guide to coping with grief by Victor Parachin, an NFDA grief educator and minister:
On an emotional level, you will undoubtedly experience some of the following: disbelief, shock, numbness, denial, sadness, anxiety, guilt, depression, anger, loneliness or frustration. Physically, you may suffer from tightness of the chest or throat, chest pains, panic attacks, dizziness or trembling. You may even experience sleep disturbance, as in either too much or not enough sleep. All of these emotional and physical symptoms fall within the normal range of response to the loss of a loved one.
Grief is a deep wound, but it does heal over time. In fact, many experts say that the grieving process is complete when you are able to think of your loved one without pain. That doesn’t mean you won’t feel a sense of sadness when you think of someone whom you have loved and lost. It means that your sadness will be different, gentler, less wrenching.
While many aspects of grieving are universal – feelings of sadness, numbness, confusion, depression – there is no single prescribed way to grieve. Your approach to grieving will be as unique and multi-dimensional as the loved one who died. Sometimes you may want to have many people around you to share and explore your feelings. Other times, you may prefer to deal with your loss more privately. Most likely, you’ll find that grieving is much like being on an emotional roller coaster. The good news is that the “ride” down is usually the prelude to the “ride” up.
It is not unusual to feel angry. Sometimes your anger many be directed at the person who died; other times toward other family members, medical staff, or even your religious convictions. This anger will subside, but you can lighten the load through exercise or physical activity, such as housework or gardening, and by talking about your angry feelings.
This is perfectly normal. Indeed, grieving can be accurately described as a “crazy” time in one’s life. You may find that even everyday tasks become difficult or demanding – driving a car, paying bills, shopping for groceries. But you can rest assured, though, that this disoriented, crazy feeling is normal.
A good rule of thumb during this period is don’t exert yourself. Carry a small notebook with you and write down things you need to remember; don’t rely on your memory. Let your boss and coworkers know that you may not be operating at maximum efficiency. And be patient with yourself. These feelings will pass.
Even though it may be difficult to believe, your tears will end. This will not happen right away but gradually, and even after the crying ceases, there may be times when hearing a favorite song or seeing a certain place will bring a moment of sadness. But you should keep in mind that crying is healthy because it is an emotional and physical release. Centuries ago, Shakespeare had it right, “to weep is to make less the depth of the grief.”
What helps the grieving process?
Even though you will often feel helpless, there are important steps and actions you can take to make your grieving process a little easier. Victor Parachin offers the following as some ways to cope with your pain from loss:
Find a relative, friend, neighbor or spiritual leader who will listen non-judgmentally and provide you with support as you sort your way through grief.
Being with others who have had a similar loss is therapeutic. Express your feelings or possibly even keep a journal. Feelings expressed are often feelings diminished.
Eat balanced, nutritious meals. Rest properly. Find an exercise you enjoy and do it regularly. If you have physical problems, consult your physician promptly.
If your bereavement feels too heavy for you to bear, find a counselor or therapist trained in grief issues to offer some guidance.
Grief author and educator Dr. John Canine also contends that “there is such a thing as ‘good’ or ‘healthy’ grief.” He maintains that “people who cry are physically healthier than those who do not.”
Dr. Canine continues, “We should never make any apologies for our tears. They are tears of love and the best eulogy we can give our loved one. Crying is one of the many ‘things’ that we ‘do’ that helps us to know we have healthy grief.”
Dr. Canine offers these additional tips for your grief journey:
Talk about him or her. Make it real so you can embrace the pain. Some days you will feel like you are not going to make it, but you will.
You will have both physical and emotional pain. Physically, you may be nauseated, anxious, stunned. You may have a tight chest and experience difficulty in breathing. Emotionally you may feel guilty or angry. You may have days of horrible despair and extreme sadness. Don’t be afraid to keep a journal and write your feelings down. You may want to write notes to your loved one who has died. C.S. Lewis wrote love letters to his wife after her death, and that is why we have the book, “A Grief Observed.” Talk to a close trusted friend, a minister, a counselor about what you are feeling. Physically, you need to exercise and eat nutritiously. Emotionally, you need to identify the emotion and express it.
Building one’s self esteem holds a primary position throughout the healing process. Because the stress of your sorrow and grief can cause depression, your ego needs constant refueling. You need a pat on the back, an arm around your shoulder in comfort. Imagine how good that would feel. The warmth you feel from gentle care does more for your sense of well-being than anything else in the world.
To learn more about Dr. Canine’s work, go to: www.maximumlivingconsult.com
Always remember, you are not alone. There are others who understand and are ready to help. The grief resources available to you will vary by community. Your NFDA funeral director is a great place to start to learn about support available in your area.