At some point all of us experience the loss of someone important in our lives. Dealing effectively and positively with grief caused by such a loss is central to a healthy and fulfilling life. Many people choose hospice services as their loved one’s health declines. Others do not. Wesley Hospice provides ongoing bereavement follow-up to family members and friends for 13 months following the patient’s death.
Below is information to help you understand some of the emotions you are likely to go through after the death of a loved one, and to offer some suggestions on how to cope and deal with these emotions.
Good Grief….What is Grief and Am I Experiencing It?
“To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; … a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.” Ecclesiastes 3:1, 2, 4
Grief – Natural Response to Loss
Grief is the normal and universal reaction humans have to the loss of those they love. Our culture envisions healing from grief the same way we think about healing from the flu…..that grief is something we get over completely….that if we take a few days off or take some medication, then we should be “cured” in no time. This is not true!
When your loved one dies, you go through a period of bereavement and experience grief that is individual to your experience and yet shares many aspects with all others who grieve. There is no right or wrong way to grieve. It is thought that intense grieving could last from months to years.
You will grieve in your own unique way, and a general pattern will emerge as you do so. Those around you may be full of ideas about how you are supposed to grieve, and how not. You may be told that grief comes in clear-cut stages, and you may even be given a name for the stage you are supposedly going through. You may hear advice like “Be strong!” or “Cheer up!” or “Get on with your life!” rather than be encouraged to allow your grief to run its natural course. It is important for you to be clear that this is your grief, not theirs. You will grieve in no one’s way but your own.
You may have times of disbelief that your loved one actually passed away; your mind may be confused and your thinking muddled, or have feelings of being in a fog. You may find it difficult to concentrate on just about everything. You may be able to focus your attention, but all you can focus on is the one who died, or how they died, or your life together.
Healthy grief has many possible faces and can express itself in many different ways. You are an individual, with your own personality, life experiences, relationship with the one who died, and understanding of life and death. You are unique and should not expect a “one-size-fits-all grief” to suit you. Despite your individual uniqueness, you will probably discover an overall pattern to your grief as it progresses. It often begins with a time of shock and numbness, especially if the death was sudden. Everything seems unreal. This is usually followed by a time when pain sets in. Sadness, loneliness, helplessness and fear may come over you in powerful waves. Anger and guilt may do the same, and continue for a while. In time, there comes a slow growing acceptance of what has happened, but it is not necessarily a happy acceptance.