I have had many messages recently regarding the topic of grief. The main question I have received, being whether there is a best way to grieve for a loved one. If only there was a formula I could give so that we could avoid the pain and anguish of loss.
The reality is, that grief is a complex and somewhat mysterious process. It is painful and sad and difficult and at times it can turn our world upside down. Be mindful that grief is a personal process. Whilst there is no best way to grieve, we can be mindful about the typical symptoms of grief in order to ensure that we have a semblance of understanding about the pain and the difficulty we may well encounter.
There are documented stages of grief that are experienced across many cultures. The stages of grief can arise in no particular order and occur in no particular time frame. You may experience all of them or indeed none of them. So what can you expect to feel?
The stages of grief
Denial: You may experience a sense of denial upon hearing about the death of a loved one. It is likely to be but a temporary response. It is in fact a logical defence mechanism to employ as it allows you to numb the initial shock and first instance of pain experienced upon receiving the unwanted news.
Anger: You may experience a sense of intense anger. The anger itself may not be rational. It is important to appreciate that the anger is often resultant as a reaction to intense pain or sadness. Often it is easier to feel angry than it is to feel vulnerable. Waves of anger may be a beneficial way of releasing the intensity of the emotions and feelings that are experienced in the offset of grief. However, if the anger is prolonged or of course felt on are such a level that it is destructive or violent, it is essential that support be attained. Therapeutic support is a wonderful way to tackle anger issues stemming from grief.
Bargaining: This stage of grief is often due to the need to establish a sense of control. Usually, the person experiencing this stage of grief may feel a sense of guilt for the death itself. ‘‘If only I had known’’ or ‘‘I should have done something’’ are examples of statements somebody may use if adopting blame for the death. There is an overwhelming sentiment that if we had acted or behaved differently then we could have perhaps saved our loved one.
Depression: It is obviously entirely natural to experience depression following the death of a loved one. One must allow time to process the pain and the sadness in your own time and on your own terms. If however, you are concerned about your wellbeing, or the wellbeing of someone else, do not hesitate to seek help. This is particularly relevant if the person has been severely depressed for a long period of time and is unable to take care of themselves or participate in their regular day to day lives.
Acceptance: Reaching a sense of acceptance may or may not occur. It is considered by many to be a gift as it accounts for an overwhelming feeling of calmness or peace when thinking about the loved one who has passed away.
Don’t suffer in silence
Once an extended period of time has passed, there are signs that you or a loved one may need some additional support with conquering the grieving process. These signs include an inability to sleep, and impacted diet, or a low, debilitating mood that impairs you from enacting your general day to day activities such as going to work. Other symptoms may include a desire for isolation, heavy drinking as a means to cope or an inability to take care of yourself with regard to fundamental self-care tasks such as brushing your teeth or showering which may feel like an impossible chore.
Grief is a journey unique to all of us. There is no concrete timeline and there is no right or wrong way to process your emotions. If only there was a pragmatic solution in which to sufficiently manage our pain! If you are struggling to cope, do not hesitate to ask for help. Speak to a trusted family member or friend, a doctor or a therapist. The therapeutic process will support you through your experience as well as offer coping mechanisms to manage your pain and attain a greater understanding as to how best to handle your feelings or grief symptoms.
Just as there is no shame in grief, there is no shame in asking for help. There will be bad days and there will be good days. Have patience and be sure to extend kindness to yourself during moments of darkness.
Wishing you strength,