Are you wondering if you are coping with grief and loss? Are you having an of the following feelings? Confusion? A sense of despair? Sleep disturbances? Frequent periods of crying? Physical responses? Any normalcy of grief relating to various losses and their appropriate responses can be very confusing. Loss is an inevitable part of life. Grief is a normal response to a loss and the natural part of the healing process. The intensity of an individual's grief will depend on the significance of the loss. While most people associate grief with the loss of a loved one causing the most intense feeling of grief-you may experience grief from other losses.
- Divorce/breakup of a relationship - a sense of loss may occur even if you made the decision to end a relationship.
- Loss of a job - it is often difficult to see anything positive with hope for the future, when one door closes, another opens.
- Changing jobs - even choosing to make a change can create turmoil, most people feel safe in what they know.
- Death of a pet - the loss of this family member, the unconditional love.
- Loss of dreams - your hopes and what you planned for the future.
- Retirement - most people have not planned for this stage in their life.
- Loss of health/independence - with longevity, it is most likely to have health issues and the need for assistance/care.
- Selling the family home - saying good-bye to memories, downsizing to live in a facility.
- Financial losses - with longevity, people's nest egg may not last to cover future expenses
- Graduating from college/wedding - changes the balance in the family structure.
Sudden losses may be due to events such as crimes, accidents or suicide and are often more traumatic. These losses might trigger feelings of insecurity that life is not predictable. Predictable losses such as terminal illness allow more time to prepare for the loss, with grief based on the anticipation of the loss as well as grief relating to the loss itself.
EVERYONE GRIEVES DIFFERENTLY
No two people grieve the same way, it is a highly individual experience. It may depend on your personality, how you've coped in the past, and the nature of the loss. There is no timetable for grief, it can take weeks, months or years. Healing happens gradually., you can't force it or rush it.
You may be told to "be strong." Just because you cry, feel lonely or frightened doesn't mean you are weak. You may feel that you have to be strong in order to protect other loved ones. Sharing your feelings with family and friends can actually help everyone heal.
Crying is a normal response to the pain of the loss. For one person crying may be a healthy release. Just because someone doesn't cry does not mean they don't feel the pain as intensely. Grief responses are individual.
Ex. An older couple I saw many years ago for therapy had lost their adult son. The mother cried all the time and went to the cemetery daily. The father, retired military, only shed a few tears at the funeral but was feeling the loss with the same intensity. At times they were both intolerant of the other's response to the loss, feeling their individual response was the only appropriate one.
Some people feel that if you ignore the pain it will go away. Suppressing your feelings doesn't mean they go away. You may have a stronger reaction in the future and have more difficulty coping if you deny your feelings. To heal it is necessary to face your pain and deal with it.
Grief over the loss of a loved one never disappears completely. While the daily pain may not be as intense, there may be frequent reminders which can bring back the pain even years later. Reminders may include the anniversary of the death, holidays, and birthdays. Emotions may be impacted when you hear a special song, pass a place of shared memories.
Ex. Someone I knew had lost her grandmother when she was 15 years old. Years later, when listening to music in her car she heard a song which brought back strong memories of her grandmother. She started sobbing without any warning.
Some of the emotions relating to your grief may include: disbelief, sadness, guilt, anger, fear. Grief impacts both emotional and physical problems. If you are having difficulty coping with your grief don't hesitate to get support.
- Disbelief: There may be the feeling that this didn't really happen. You may have a feeling of numbness and believe that your loved one will walk in the room.
- Sadness: You may have an overwhelming feeling of loneliness and periods of crying.
- Guilt: Do you worry that you didn't do something or say something. There may be a sense of relief when someone dies after a long illness.
- Anger: You may feel angry that the person died and blame yourself, the doctor, even the person who died
- Fear: This can include concern about the future and being alone.
This is the time to turn to family members and friends. Don't avoid people. Ask for assistance. Draw comfort from you faith. Religion and mourning rituals can be meaningful and comforting. If the intensity of your grief doesn't lessen and you aren't moving forward it may be time to talk to a therapist. If your grief is overwhelming and too much of a burden, if you are blaming yourself for the loss, you feel like life isn't worth living and feel disconnected from the world it is not too soon to make that phone call.