About Grief & Loss
The death of a loved one is probably the ultimate, biggest loss an individual can experience.
There are so many cultural, societal, religious and gender 'norms' that you have probably formed an expectation of how you're 'meant to feel' and how long you're 'meant to grieve'.
In reality, though, each person's grieving process is completely unique. Although much is now understood about the stages of grief and loss, it's also important to remember that just as we are all individuals, so too are our experiences of and responses to grief and loss.
Back in the 1960's Elisabeth Kübler-Ross wrote a book, 'On Death and Dying', which introduced the now famous 'five stages of grief'. These stages form the most well-known and established framework for learning to live with loss. Please bear in mind this is a framework only and we may neither go through each stage nor pass from one to another sequentially. We may flip and flop between each of them for days, weeks and months. But understanding them can be helpful to give context to what can seem like unusual and upsetting reactions.
This first stage - denial - helps us to survive the loss. In this stage, the world becomes meaningless, overwhelming and life makes little sense to us. We are in a state of shock and denial. We feel numb. We wonder how we can go on, if we can go on, why we should go on. Getting through each day seems a major task. Denial helps us to pace our feelings of grief. It's our in-built mechanism to ensure we only let in as much as we can handle at the time. As you accept the reality of the loss and start to ask yourself questions, you are unknowingly beginning the healing process. You are becoming stronger, and the denial is beginning to fade. But as you proceed, all the feelings you were denying begin to surface. This can be a very distressing time.
Anger is a necessary stage of the healing process. Feeling anger can be scary at any time and particularly during grief because it can be hard to understand. How can I feel angry when I have just lost someone/something? Anger can also give rise to guilt because we think we shouldn't feel angry. Being willing to feel your anger is important, but it can also be difficult. It may feel like it is uncontrollable, undirected and may never end.
Before a loss, it seems like you will do anything if only your loved one would be spared. During this stage we may become transfixed with questions such as ' If only ' and ' What if? ' Guilt often goes hand-in-hand with bargaining. The ' if only ' can haunt us and keep us locked in the past. Moving out of the past and into the present is when our grief becomes its most real.
Once we move into the present, feelings of emptiness and depression may ebb and flow. We may withdraw from life, have intense feelings of sadness and wonder how we'll cope with the loss. It's important to understand this depression is not a sign of mental illness. It is the appropriate response to a great loss. When you suffer a great loss, it is understandable you'll feel depressed. Experiencing such sadness is another necessary step in the healing process.
This stage is when we can accept we have experienced a loss and there is now a new and permanent reality. It's likely there's a part of you that will always wish it wasn't this way, that you had never experienced the loss. But in this stage you accept this is how it is, and you are able to get on with your life in a different way. You are able to readjust, make changes and establish new connections.
Dealing with grief and loss
Allowing yourself to grieve is critical to your healing process. If you are having problems or are concerned for someone who may be having problems, please seek professional help.
Think of me as one at rest,
for me you should not weep
I have no pain no troubled thoughts
for I am just asleep
The living, thinking me that was,
is now forever still
And life goes on without me now,
as time forever will.
If your heart is heavy now
because I've gone away
Dwell not long upon it friend
For none of us can stay
Those of you who liked me,
I sincerely thank you all
And those of you who loved me,
I thank you most of all.
And in my fleeting lifespan,
as time went rushing by
I found some time to hesitate,
to laugh, to love, to cry
Matters it now if time began
If time will ever cease?
I was here, I used it all,
and now I am at peace.