Grief is the process of learning to live with the person we lost. It’s not easy, it doesn’t follow any specific timeline, and everyone experiences grief in their own, unique way. The following 12 facts about the grieving process describe some of the responses to loss that many people have. They are not meant to neatly package up the messy emotions that you may experience while grieving, but rather to provide a framework within which you can find comfort knowing that these feelings are all part of the healing process of grief.
1. RECOVERY FROM A LOVED ONE’S DEATH REQUIRES MORE THAN TIME.
Yet, if we allow ourselves the time to mourn, we can gradually break grief’s grip on us. Recognizing the role and value of the grieving process orients us to accept the fact of death. Acceptance marks a major step toward recovery.
2. GRIEF IS UNIVERSAL, BUT THOSE GRIEVING ARE DISTINCTIVE.
Grieving follows a pattern, but each person experiences it differently. Awareness of the basic pattern reveals common ground for mutual help and support. Recognition of uniqueness enables grievers to help themselves and guides sympathizers in what to say and do.
3. SHOCK INITIATES US INTO MOURNING.
We go numb when someone we love dies. We feel stunned, in a trance. This is nature’s way of cushioning us against tragedy. The length and depth of this state varies according to our relationship, the cause of death, whether it was sudden or expected, etc. Shock allows us time to absorb what has happened and to begin to adjust. The guidance of caring people can sustain new grievers. As numbness wears off and acceptance grows, we regain control of the direction of our lives.
4. GRIEF CAUSES DEPRESSION.
Those in mourning typically, but in varying degrees, experience loneliness and depression. This pain, too, will pass. Being alone need not result in loneliness. Reaching out to others is a key way to lessen loneliness and to overcome depression.
5. GRIEF IS HAZARDOUS TO OUR HEALTH.
The mental and emotional upset of a loss by death causes physical distress and vulnerability to illness. Grievers sometimes neglect healthy nourishment and exercise, or overindulge in drinking, smoking, or medication. We might need a doctor’s advice in regards to our symptoms, their causes, and their treatment.
6. GRIEVERS NEED TO KNOW THEY’RE NORMAL.
The death of a loved one makes the future very uncertain. We might panic in the face of the unknown and fear life without the one who died. Panic prevents concentration and defers acceptance of the finality of death. It temps us to run from life, to avoid people, and to refuse to try new things. We might even think we’re going crazy. Patience with ourselves and a willingness to accept help enable us to subdue panic and outgrow its confusion.
7. GRIEVERS SUFFER GUILT FEELINGS.
Many blame themselves after a loved one’s death, for the death itself or for faults in the relationship. We have all made mistakes, and sincere regret is the best response to them. However, self-reproach out of proportion to our behavior affects our mental health and impedes our recovery. Close friends or a trusted counselor can aid us in confronting and dealing with guilt feelings, whether justified or exaggerated.
8. GRIEF MAKES PEOPLE ANGRY.
People in grief naturally ask “Why? Why Him? Why Me? Why Now? Why Like This?” Most of these questions have no answers. Frustration then causes us to feel the resentment and anger. We want someone to blame: God, doctors, clergy, ourselves, even the one you died. If we can accept the lack of answers to “Why?” we might begin to ask, instead, what can we do now to grow through what has happened. Then we have started to move beyond anger toward hope.
9. EMOTIONAL UPHEAVAL CHARACTERIZES GRIEVERS.
A loved one’s death disrupts emotional balance. The variety and intensity of feelings seems overwhelming. Other grievers and counselors can help us interpret and deal with these feelings. As we come to understand what we experience, we can find appropriate ways to ventilate our emotions and to channel them constructively.
10. GRIEVERS OFTEN LACK DIRECTION AND PURPOSE.
At times in the grieving process, a kind of drifting occurs. Mourners find familiar and necessary activities difficult. We prefer to daydream about what was or fantasize about what might have been. If we can foster gratitude for the past and begin to asses our potential for the future, this will prove a passing phase, not a permanent state.
11. HEALING BRINGS HOPE TO THOSE IN MOURNING.
It takes time and effort, but gradually hope dawns for bereaved people. We learn to express emotions without embarrassment or apology. We cherish memories, bittersweet though they are. We begin to feel concern for and show interest in others. We make decisions and assume responsibility for ourselves. The example of other recovered grievers help us discover and develop our own potential.
12. SURVIVORS REAFFIRM THEMSELVES AND CHOOSE LIFE.
Eventually, those in mourning recognize and embrace the healing truth: Grief has changed me, but has not destroyed me. I’ve discovered new things about myself. I can build on strengths developed through adversity. I’m no longer my “old self,” but I’m still me, and I face the future with confidence. Life is worth living because I can love and be loved.
Our hope is that as you experience these stages of the grieving process, you will become better equipped to cope with life and loss. Just remember, there’s no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to grieve—it is as unique as you are.
We understand that making the many decisions that come at a time of loss can be difficult and overwhelming. At Georgia Funeral Care, we want to make the arrangement and pre-arrangement process as simple as possible. Give us a call or send us a message – We are here to help.