By Mira Khatib
Usually our most traumatic experiences of loss are when a loved one dies. We can find ourselves bewildered by unexpected strength and intensity of feelings that overtake us. A sense of loss and pain that is so profound that it tears one apart; making many feel like they have lost some part of themselves.
Following loss of any kind we go through a period of adjustment and grief. It’s important to remember that grief is natural and necessary. Though the range and intensity of grief may come as a surprise, it is an entirely normal process. And, of course, as we adjust and the bits of our emotional life start to settle into a new pattern, the grief gently recedes.
But we must remember that everyone is different and there are many factors that effect the way we grieve, some are cultural, some are religious. Not everyone experiences the same feelings; some people feel more strongly than others, however grief usually follows the same pattern.
How we grieve
At first there is the shock and disbelief, a feeling of numbness and detachment… then comes the wave of intense sadness and pain, the looking back over the past, the regrets, the longings, the loneliness and perhaps even anger and depression. Then finally the time comes when it is possible to rebuild our lives again. Yet all along there seem to be a conflict between the adult whom seeks to make sense of loss and tries to do all the appropriate and sensible things, alongside this is the emotional inner child; that lives in all of us, with a different agenda, who usually feels confused and abandoned. While the adult struggles bravely on, the dependent inner child is desperate for consolation. So that grieving is often a seesawing between these two parts of ourselves, as we try to be reasonable, but we actually feel at sea, lost and awash in anguish.
There is no right way to grieve and we each have our own way of coping. Some people are able to carry on normally, while others feel for a time as if they are completely falling apart. The duration and its intensity depend on individual circumstances: the relationship with the deceased, the network of support that sustains us, previous experience of loss and all the other business of our lives. The grieving period can last from several weeks to months and sometimes years. There is a sense in which the grieving never ends, but fades gradually into the background of our lives, to be felt in occasional poignant moments. Even the worst feelings will eventually pass, so it’s vital that we don’t let ourselves feel too overwhelmed or too isolated.
When a death occurs many people find their whole way of life has changed. All their hopes and dreams for the future are shattered; their day to day routine is turned upside down. A grieving person might be tempted to crawl away like a wounded animal and hide in a dark corner; that is why it is essential to allow family and friends to help during difficult times.
However we should remember that grief comes in waves and effects us all differently family members may be struggling with their own grief and find it hard to understand the needs of others, some members of the family may feel that they have to be strong and support everyone, giving little time for them to talk or cry. Often children’s needs are overlooked and adult’s attempts to protect them can make them feel shout out and unable to express their grief.
Friends and neighbors are a great support and their warmth and kindness often carries us through our darkest days. However, they too may find it difficult to cope when faced with someone else’s deep grief and many people just do not know what to say or they may be embarrassed, uncomfortable or too painfully aware of their own losses. It may help to seek out someone to talk to outside your circle of family and friends; perhaps a counselor or a doctor or someone else you feel will understand.
How to get through it?
- Accept your feelings, they are normal and it is okay to feel such sorrow, it is part of the healing process.
- Allow yourself to cry, don’t bottle up emotions.
- Give yourself time to grieve, remember such strong emotions need to take their course. It can not be hurried or avoided.
- Accept help from others, but don’t be pushed into doing anything you are not ready for.
- One should attend the funeral if possible and talk about their loved one, remembering the times of love and laughter, even if that is difficult. In seeking out memories of time spent together past happiness can begin to soften the burden of grief.
- One should take plenty of rest, eat light, frequent meals, and make time for relaxation and a little exercise. It’s not self-indulgent. You need to be kind to yourselves.
- Try to keep your life as normal as possible, with some sort of routine. If you can, try and avoid major changes in the first year, such as moving house.
- Take things a day at a time.
- Find someone you can trust, maybe a friend, a colleague, a tutor or a counselor, who can really listen to what is going on inside you.
- Be ready to try new things and meet new people as time passes.
- Remember there is no right way to grieve; there is only that which brings comfort and resolution.
Photo credit: _HAAF_ via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND