The work of grief cannot be hurried. It takes a great deal of time, usually
a year or more. It may be the purest pain you have ever known. The death
of a loved one is considered the most stressful of all life change situations.
What is happening to you is normal
The following are stages of grief that are commonly experienced after the
loss of a loved one. You may not experience all of these, and you may
not experience them in this order. However, it is important to believe
that what you are feeling is natural and with time will begin to heal.
Some people experience shock after a loss, saying things like "I feel
numb," displaying no tears or emotion. Sometimes there is denial.
Gradually the bereaved becomes aware of what has happened and the or she
is able to express emotions. Other people never go through a prolonged
stage of shock. They are able to express their emotions immediately.
At some point a person begins to feel and to hurt. It is very important
not to suppress your feelings, including anger, sadness or fear. Suppressed
feelings often surface at a later time in unhealthy ways. Shared feelings
are a gift and bring a closeness to all involved.
Preoccupation with the Deceased
Despite efforts to think of other things, a grieving person may find it
difficult to shift his or her mind from thoughts about the deceased person.
This is not unusual and, with time, will lessen gradually and will not
be a problem.
Symptoms of Some Physical and Emotional Distresses
These distresses may come in waves, some lasting 20 minutes or longer.
The most common physical distresses are:
- Tightness in the throat
- A choking feeling, with shortness of breath
- A need for sighing
- An empty hollow feeling in the stomach
- Lack of muscular power (e.g. "It's almost impossible to climb
the stairs." "Everything I lift seems so heavy.")
- Digestive symptoms and poor appetite.
Closely associated with the physical distresses may be certain emotional
alterations. The most common are:
- A slight sense of unreality
- Feelings of emotional distance from people - that no one really cares or
- Sometimes people appear shadowy and very small
- Sometimes there are feelings of panic, thoughts of self-destruction or
the desire to run away; these emotional disturbances can cause many people
to feel they are approaching insanity, but these feelings are actually normal.
You may catch yourself responding with a great deal of anger to situations
that previously would not have bothered you at all. These feelings can
be surprising and very uncomfortable. They often make people feel that
they are going insane. Anger may be directed at the doctor, the nurse,
God or the minister.
Often, too, there may be feelings of hurt or of hostility toward family
members who do not or cannot, provide the emotional support the grieving
person may have expected from them. Anger and hostility are normal. Do
no suppress your anger. However, it is important that you understand and
direct your anger toward that which you are really angry at: the loss
of someone you loved.
There is almost always some sense of guilt involved in grief. The bereaved
think of the many things they felt they could have done and didn't.
They accuse themselves of negligence. Furthermore, if a person was hostile
toward the deceased, there will be guilt. It is important to note that
no two people can live together without some sort of hurt being done.
This is part of life and does not warrant your guilt. These hurts pop
up in grief. Guilt is normal and will
pass with time.
Many grieving people feel total despair, unbearable loneliness and hopelessness;
nothing seems worthwhile. These feelings may be even more intense for
those who live alone or who have little family. These feelings are normal
and will also pass with time.
The grieving person often tends to withdraw from social relationships.
Life may seem like a bad dream. This is normal and will take some effort
to overcome. The rewards are worthwhile.
After time, effort, airing of feelings and a lot of love, the grieving
person readjusts to his or her environment, reestablishes old relationships
and begins to form new ones.
Resolution and Readjustments
Resolution comes gradually; the memories are still there, the love is still
there and the wound begins to heal. You begin to get on with your life.
It's hard to believe now that you will be better. However, by experiencing
deep emotion and accepting it you will grow in warmth, depth, understanding