When we lose a loved one through death, we experience grief. There is no healthy way to avoid going through those painful waves of emotion.
When we first allow our hearts to open and connect in a loving way with another, we become vulnerable to the possibility of loss. Sometimes we have many years to enjoy this loving bond. Sometimes we have just a short time. How sad it would be, though, to keep our hearts closed tight because we fear the pain of loss!
I wanted to write this post on grief, because almost all of us, at some point in our lives, will experience grief. As my regular readers know, my family and I have been dealing with grief for about 3 weeks now. I wrote a post on the sudden death of our much loved nephew, Michael, and another one on finding some comfort in our grief. Our family is large, and we each have our own unique way of grieving. It’s that way with all people. There is no one right way to grieve.
In 1969, Elizabeth Kubler- Ross wrote “On Death and Dying.” In it, she wrote about the 5 stages of grief. Those stages are: 1) Denial 2) Anger 3) Bargaining 4) Depression 5) Acceptance.
Denial is a defense mechanism that helps us deal with the initial shock of death. Once we move past denial, we may feel anger. It’s not at all unusual to feel anger at the person who has died and left us. We might, also, be angry at others who still have their lives intact. Bargaining is expressed by praying, wishing, etc, wanting desperately to find some way to have our loved ones back. Depression come when we begin to feel overwhelmed with hopelessness, sadness, and an understanding that our lives will never be the same. At some point we experience acceptance. We accept our loss. We begin to find some comfort and experience moments of happiness. We realize that we are changed by our loss, but we begin to move forward with our lives.
These stages are common to people who grieve, but they don’t happen in an orderly sequence, and not everyone experiences every stage. Sometimes we move in and out of the stages multiple times. We can be feeling pretty good, and then all of the sudden, when we don’t expect it, a wave of extreme sadness can come over us. We can be missing our loved ones, and the next minute be full of anger at them for leaving us. This back and forth, in and out, of a range of emotions is normal.
There’s no right length of time to grieve. Grief just takes as long as it takes. Sometimes, though, a person can feel stuck in the deepest grief, and unable to move forward after an extended period of time. When a person’s emotional, mental, and/or physical health seems to be declining, it is important to reach out for help from a professional.
Remember — there is no one right way to move through grief. If you’ve recently experienced a loss, be gentle and patient with yourself, as you find your way. Ask for help from friends and family. Accept offers of help. Allow yourself to lean for comfort on those close by. Let others express their love and concern for you. Try not to shut people out, but at the same time, listen to your inner knowing, about who you want to see, and when you want to see them. Get as much rest as possible. Try to eat healthy food. Go for walks. This deep grief will in time pass. Until it does, it’s particularly important to take very good care of yourself.
Each of us is unique, and we each experience life in our own unique way. Grief is sadly often a part of life. We have times of joy, and we have times of sorrow. When sorrow comes into our lives, we need to honor our uniqueness, and allow ourselves to move through the feelings in a way that is honest and true for each of us.
Until next time,