When a person dies, his or her suffering is over, at least in life on earth. They have moved on but those who are still living are faced with huge pressures, devastating trauma, important decisions, and powerful emotions. The survivors' grieving process has just begun. The attention of friends and relatives has been focused on the one who was dying. Now the ones living, left behind and most closely affected by the death need the concern and caring of family and friends.
Most of us don't know what grief will be like until we experience it firsthand. We expect to be sad and hurt, but we may be surprised to feel other emotions like anger and guilt. We may discover that after someone dies, our relationships with others change. Our families and friendship may not be the same because of the changes we undergo after a loss.
In recent years, research has shown that there are identifiable patterns of emotions in grief. Knowing what those are can help you recognize that the turmoil and pain you feel are part of healing the injury that death has inflicted. Grieving is the process that heals the emotions related to loss and the subsequent changes in your life, and they won’t last forever.
Emotional reactions to the death of a loved one follow a fairly defined course. By giving in your feelings and letting them occur in their natural timing, and being aware of things you may do that block the process, healing will take place. Death is a wound - a severe and painful psychological wound. As with any injury to the physical body, healing requires tender loving care, gentleness, and time.
Change in the key. Some changes including happy events like graduation, marriage and the birth of a child, all require adjustment leaving the past behind and moving into the new situation. Painful changes like the death of a loved one, separation, and abandonment require adjustment. Grief is the process of accepting the inevitability of this type of change and is an important, necessary part of being alive.
Successfully dealing with change, allows you to reach higher levels of growth, sensitivity and understanding of self and others. The death of someone important in our lives is a change, a major one, sometimes a sudden one--- sometimes an expected and anticipated one.
The relationship you have to the person dictates the intensity of your grief. Loss of someone through death is a particularly painful change especially if you felt deep love for that person. The more intense your love for her, your dependence on and hopes for him, the more your loss.
There's no getting around the emotional pain of grief you must go through it. Avoiding your feelings of grief can be dangerous leading to illness and serious distress. Worst of all, not dealing with our emotions leaves you stuck psychologically, unable to change and grow. As you proceed through the grieving process, slowly you will let go of the past and go forward with your life.
Some say “time heals,” but the truth is that it is how you use the time. If you allow yourself to feel, and express your emotions you will release the pain and replace it with acceptance and hope for the future.
There is no right way or wrong way to grieve. We’re all unique in the way we manage our emotions. Healing your emotions includes expressing them, crying, getting angry, journaling and talking about the person and the circumstances are a few ways to cope with your loss.
There is danger of complicated grief by internalizing strong feelings or by getting stuck in anger or depression or guilt that arises during grief. It is like having an open wound that continues to fester and bleed preventing the wound to heal. Eventually infection sets in and leads to worse problems. I have had clients who never changed the bedroom furniture, continued to wear a wedding ring years after the death or divorce.
The grieving progress is gradual and takes time, don’t try to rush it. Eventually it is better. Healing is accomplished by grief work. It's work and you can't approach it passively; you have to manage it. You will sometimes feel pain and resistance. At times you think that you'll never recover from this loss. But by doing the work - experiencing, expressing and managing the emotions that you feel - you will recover. You'll be able to move from the past, to live in the present and envision the future.
Surviving grief doesn't mean that you no longer miss the one who died. That person is in your life forever, but his role in your life must change. You can continue to love him, but the love eventually becomes a smaller part of your life. You must say the final goodbye to him viii so that you can move on. You must let him go with love.
I wrote my book Letting Go With Love: The Grieving Process after many years of experience as a counselor and a human being. My own life had contained a number of losses. My father committed suicide when I was a young woman. I had a baby who died. I have said goodbye to dear friends who died from accidents or illness. And, while I was writing this book, my mother died after several years of failing health. I've also experienced loss through divorce, moving, watching my children grow up and leave home, retirement and other personal and professional changes.
In counseling people who are grieving for their own losses, I've been able to draw on my experiences to assure them that others have felt similar pain and that one does survive. I've learned much from my clients about suffering and surviving. Now I'd like to share that knowledge and understanding with you. People going through grief and loss have some things in common, such as the stages of the grief process. Learning the stages and timing of the grieving process is empowering, because you know what to expect. The first three chapters of my book cover these universal experiences. The material in these chapters can help you with any grieving situations, whether for death in you own life, or when a friend has a loss, or when you are faced with a change through illness, separation or financial crisis.
During your lifetime you will have happy times and sad times. You are likely to experience the death of a mother, of a father, a son or a daughter, a sister, brother, grandparents, friends. Perhaps the death of a wife or husband. If you live long enough most of your peers will die before you.
Although grieving follows a predictable pattern, the experience of losing a wife after fifty years of marriage is not the same as the death of a teen-age son who commits suicide or a best friend. Each loss-death is different.
You can identify your personal ways of coping with change and use this knowledge to heal yourself and choose to continue living. The most important thing I can tell you is that you can choose. Life can go on in a rich, exciting way - you are the one who has the power to make it happen.
My wish is to help you understand your process as you grieve, to realize that grief has a progressive course and to assist in knowing that through all your current pain you will survive and, in time, once more experience joy in living. You have a choice of how you will heal yourself, although it may not feel like a conscious choice in the beginning. One choice is to allow yourself to feel, to feel all of the anguish and fear and pain as they present themselves to you. This is the choice that eventually allows you to go on with your life.
The other choice is a move toward non - feeling toward your own psychological death and eventually toward your physical death. Previous grieving patterns and individual personality traits contribute to the way you will naturally react to bereavement in the beginning. These are your natural predispositions, but you can change if old patterns do not serve you well.