Grief is a process, not an event. Be gentle with yourself as you journey along that sacred path known as grief.
While these words are used interchangeably, they have different meanings. Knowing how each relates to loss will help broaden your understanding of what it means to be a survivor.
Bereavement is an objective fact. It is the event of loss. You are bereaved when a person close to you dies. Bereavement is also a change in status. A child becomes an orphan, a wife a widow, a husband a widower.
Grief is a response to the loss. It is a process. It is how survivors feel, think, and make it through the day. It is not a word that can be taken as a simple explanation of what is experienced and why. Grief permeates all aspects of life.
Mourning is the expression of a bereaved person’s thoughts and feelings. It describes the process by which a bereaved person integrates the loss into ongoing life.
Grief and mourning are the natural pathways toward coping with bereavement.
The Progression of Grief
Grief is challenging, difficult, and at times exhausting. You will grieve in an individual and personal way. There is no pattern to follow, timetable to adhere to, or models to measure yourself against. You own your grief, and what feels right to you is the right thing to do.
Some days you may feel that you are doing well, only to wake up the next morning and seemingly start the process from square one again. The goal is not to get over grief, but to live with it and to figure out a way to incorporate the loss into living and to keep your loved one alive in your memory.
There is no timetable for grieving. Only you know how much time you need to grieve.
HOW GRIEF FEELS
After your loss, you may feel some or all of the symptoms of grief, listed below. These feelings may come and go and vary in intensity.
- Shortness of breath
- Irregular heartbeat
- Loss of appetite
- Physical aches and pains
- Sleep disruption [too much or too little]
- Sense of heaviness, as if you are carrying a burden
- Lack of energy
- Short-term memory loss
- Difficulty concentrating
- Sense the world has become “unreal”
- Disconnection from people and life
- Lack of interest in social activities
- Feelings of sadness, anger, loneliness, guilt, anxiety
Grief can make you physically ill. If it does, you should not hesitate to seek medical assistance from your physician.
What you can do:
- Take it one moment at a time, one hour at a time, one day at a time.
- Try to maintain a normal routine.
- Get enough sleep or at least enough rest.
- Exercise regularly to relieve stress and tension
- Eat a balanced diet. Drink plenty of water
- If possible, postpone making major decisions, like selling your home or changing jobs, until after the first year of grieving.
- Find creative outlets to express your feelings, such as a journal, art, photography, needlework, or scrapbooking.
- Write a letter to your loved one telling him or her how you feel.
- Honor the memory of your loved one by engaging in an activity or project he or she held dear.
- Start a new family tradition in your loved one’s memory.
- Think about other times you have experienced a loss and the coping skills used to survive that loss.
- Allow yourself to feel all feelings – sadness, anger, guilt, helplessness, pain.
- Cry as much as you want to. Tears help release pain and tension.
- Forgive yourself for real and imagined transgressions or missed opportunities.
- Be patient with your grief. Don’t let others hurry you through your grief or tell you how you should feel.
- Attend a support group or talk to others who have lost a loved one.
- Seek out your most trusted friends or family for support when you need it. Choose to spend time with those who comfort, sustain, and recharge you.
- Accept the assistance of your close friends when they offer help. Don’t go it alone.
- Take a break from your grief and do something fun – try to keep your sense of humor. See a movie, read a book, listen to your favorite music, buy a new album, get a massage.
- Above all else, take care of yourself.
CARE & SHARE
Those who have lost a loved one typically experience shock, sadness, depression, loneliness, anger, denial and guilt. These emotions are common even before the loss occurs. Everyone’s experience of the grieving process is different and the depth and duration varies widely. For a time, life may lose its joy and meaning.
The HeartsWay Hospice Bereavement Program is designed to support each family member who has lost a loved one during their own individual grieving process. Care and Share, our grief support group, is available to anyone who needs help with the grieving process. We also have individual group sessions if needed
WHAT ABOUT CHILDREN?
If children are sharing your grief, you should help them, even though it is hard to comfort others when you are in the midst of your own grieving. Many times children are ignored because adults want to protect them and shield them from death or adults are too upset themselves to consider what children are experiencing.
Adults may think children are too young to understand what is going on and are too young to remember the loss. Even under the ages of three, however, children feel loss. They sense that routines are disrupted, adults are sad, and someone they love is missing. Very young children may not comprehend death, but they understand sadness.
When a death occurs, children watch from the sidelines, not knowing how to participate and feeling abandoned.
Teens are often the most neglected when there is a loss because adults assume teens are old enough to handle grief themselves. This assumption often leaves teens without a source of comfort or an outlet for their feelings and fears. Even independent teenagers distancing themselves from adults need adult support in dealing with loss.
Teens may try to ignore their grief and act as if everything is normal. They may not want to upset parents, or seem childish and dependent. Regardless, teenagers need someone to talk to and also need reassurance that they are loved and cared for.
Coping with impending death may also stress your value systems and spiritual beliefs. The hospice spiritual counselor visits each home to assess your spiritual needs according to your own beliefs and desire for support. The spiritual counselor is available to pray with you, to read scripture or to act as a spiritual advisor. The spiritual counselor can sometimes help with strengthening your relationships with your spiritual community. The spiritual counselor may help you plan for the funeral service or even conduct the service. Most of all, we all need a kind, loving and understanding ear during these times.
As you journey through your grief, remember that there are numerous resources that can help you. Explore what your community has to offer, such as support groups and counselors. Many community organizations offer free grief support groups. There are books for adults, teens, and children on every aspect of grief and loss and websites that provide a wealth of information.