Text Size

The Grieving Process


The only cure for grief is to grieve.  There is no getting around the pain.  Grief is an emotion, not a disease.  It’s as natural as crying when you are hurt, eating when you are hungry, and sleeping when you are tired.  Grief is nature’s way of attempting to mend a broken heart.Grief Wooden

No one can tell you how to grieve.  There is no normal time span during which adjustment takes place.  Some may loudly protest that the death has occurred; others may quietly resign themselves to the reality.  Some may refuse to think about the death at all; others may think of nothing else.  Some may cry hysterically; others may remain outwardly passive and emotionless.  Some may blame themselves for the death; others may project the guilt upon God, the physician, the nurse, a friend, or even a member of the family.  The grief process is never the same for any two people.  Don’t compare yourself with others in similar situations.  Their smiles may not reveal the depth of their sorrow.  Be your own timekeeper.  The adjustment to what has happened has to be in your own way and in your own time.  Each person’s grief is different.

Feelings  You May Experience :

In the beginning you may be in shock.  You are bewildered, literally stunned.  “I feel like a spectator at a play.  But the drama is about me and the person I loved.”  You may feel numb all over, almost paralyzed in a world of unreality.  Shock is a kind of insulation, cushioning you for the full impact of the death until your mind and body system can absorb it.  Sometimes your hands and feet may tingle during the first hours or days.

You don’t want to believe it.  “It’s a bad dream.  When I wake up, I’ll find it really didn’t happen.”  Denial is when you secretly think or pretend the person will return and life will go on as before.  It is so strange.  You feel as if the death did not really occur, even though you know it really has.  Many people need time before they can face the harsh truth.  It is so hard to realize that in your lifetime you will never see or touch that person again.

You may think you are losing your mind.  Just know you are not crazy.  It takes time and effort to regain your ability to function more effectively.

Emotional suffering often brings physical distress.  You may feel tightness in your chest, or an inability to draw a good, deep breath.  You may not sleep well.  Your stomach may be tied up in knots.  Your back may be hurting.  The pain is not imaginary; it is real.  Your body is feeling your emotional loss.

One common reaction to loss is guilt.  “ I should have been there.  I should have said (‘good-bye,’ or ‘I love you,’ or I’ll take care of things.’) I should have done more.  If only I had!”  In most cases there is little or nothing anyone could have done to prevent the death.

Relief is a common response.  “Thank God, the suffering is over.”  You are glad the person doesn’t have to suffer any more.  Accept this relief and don’t allow it to grow into guilt.

Pouring out your heart is extremely important and therapeutic at this time; that is, sharing both pleasant and unpleasant memories of the person.  When each event is reviewed, a pang is felt at the thought that you will never experience that again.  As pain is felt, you begin slowly to loosen your emotional ties to the dead person.  A gradual working over of old thoughts and feelings is a necessary part of the mourning process.

Learning to Cope With Your Loss :

Accept Your Grief  - Expect the physical and emotional consequences of the death.  Grief is the price you pay for loving and caring.

Express Your Feelings  - Don’t mask your despair.  Cry when you have to; laugh when you can.  Your emotional needs must not be ignored.

Monitor Your Health
  - Eat as well as you can, for your body needs nourishment after the physically grueling experience of your grief.  Depression can also be lightened by biochemical changes through proper exercise.  Take a walk.  Put balance back into your life with work and relaxation.  Get medical care when necessary.  You have suffered enough.  Don’t cause further damage to yourself and those around you by neglecting your health.

Be Patient with Yourself  - Your mind, body, and soul need time and energy to adjust to this event.  Grief is like weeding a flower bed in the summertime; you may have to do it over and over again until the seasons change.  Sometimes the loneliness and sadness may come back for no special reason, but by doing your grief work and allowing yourself time, you will be better able to cope.

Share Your Pain with a Friend or Friends  - It’s important that you don’t withdraw from others.  By remaining silent, you deny friends the opportunity to share your inner self, bringing on more isolation and loneliness for you.

Join a Group of Others Who Are Grieving  - Learning about the experiences of others who have gone through similar experiences can offer valuable insight into your own feelings, while also providing support, encouragement, and friendship.

Help Others  - After a time, try devoting your energies to people and causes.  You learn to better relate to others, face reality, become more independent, and begin to detach gently from the past by living in the present.

Determine to Find the Joy in Life Again - Readjustment does not come overnight.  Make a start to put the stars back into your sky.  Hold on and keep trying.  Resolve to survive each new day and do your best.  Take time to think through which activities can bring some degree of purpose.  Start slowly and move carefully with friends who are supportive and understanding.  The goal is to assimilate the experience of grief and grow because of and through it.  Your life will never be the same again, but you can choose to begin to live again.  That is the greatest evidence of the unquenchable spirit that fires the soul of humankind.
                        -Compiled and edited from the writings of Earl A. Grollman-