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Grief After A Significant Loss
Losing someone you love can be very painful. We often do not know what to expect of our own grief and how to assist those that are grieving. Here are a few guidelines that might help you in your healing process or in knowing how to reach out to those that are grieving:
What to expect from the grief process:
Grief is a natural process after a loss. It affects the way we define ourselves. We go through a process of change from one identity to another. That takes time.
Some people say that grief occurs in stages. Others describe it as riding a roller coaster or ascending a spiral staircase. Grief can be a bumpy ride of emotions and often feels like you are covering the same ground over and over again. The truth is that it is a process ideally towards some acceptance.
There are common emotions associated with the initial stages of grief: shock, disbelief, anger, sadness, fear, anxiety and guilt. The body may also experience physical symptoms (abdominal pain associated with stress) as well as some cognitive difficulties (confusion). These are normal human reactions.
There is no normal timetable for grieving and everyone grieves differently. Most importantly, there is no right or wrong way to grieve but only healthier ways to cope with the pain associated with grief. Facing your grief and actively dealing with it is necessary for long term healing.
Having the support of other people can be very healing. Sharing your loss makes the burden of grief easier to carry. You can achieve this through your faith community, family, friends, and community grief support group. Often a person that is heavily grieving will seek the assistance of a private therapist in conjunction with these sources of support.
Sticking to a routine and staying with a schedule can be beneficial. Structure helps maintain a sense of normalcy, especially if you are the caretaker of young children.
Get enough sleep or at least plenty of rest. Try and get some regular exercise. This can help relieve stress and tension. Keep a balanced diet. Drink plenty of water.
Creating rituals to commemorate the deceased (such as continuing to honor their birthday) can prove to be a way of long term healthy maintenance to the loss. You may find a way to contribute to your community that continues to honor the loss of your loved one (by creating or contributing to a cause in their name).
Grief that is expressed and experienced has a potential for healing that eventually can strengthen and enrich life. Although it may be difficult to see at first, as time passes these emotions will most likely become less intense as you may come to accept the loss and start to move forward. The sadness of losing someone you love never goes away completely, but it often does not remain center stage.
Share these ideas with those that support you in your grief:
They can offer concrete help that includes: meal preparation, purchasing groceries, cleaning, help with child care, answering the phone, running errands, etc. After a few months is when support is also needed.
They can assist by being available to provide a listening ear. It's best to accept and acknowledge all feelings. Be willing to sit in silence. Let the bereaved talk about how their loved one died. Offer comfort and reassurance without minimizing the loss. Provide unconditional support with little guidance or advice.
Remember anniversaries, holidays, the birthday or the death day of the deceased. People like to know that others still remember their loved one, because they remember.
Physical and emotional touch can often bring great comfort to the bereaved. It brings them back to the living.
Understand that the pain of bereavement may never fully heal. Be sensitive to the fact that life may never feel the same for them. Their life has changed. The bereaved person may learn to accept the loss and the pain may lessen in intensity over time, but the memories will always be present. Assist them by remembering with them.
© Copyright 2013 by Beckett Franklin-Gray, therapist in Austin, Texas. All rights reserved.