During this difficult and trying time, it is normal to experience a range of emotional and physical problems.
Emotionally, you may experience the following:
- Sadness and/or depression
- Feelings of guilt or anger about things that happened or didn’t happen in the relationship with the deceased
- Crying easily and/or unexpectedly
- Mood swings
- Feeling uncomfortable around other people
- Not wanting want to be alone
- Feeling a sense of the death being unreal, or that it didn’t actually happen
- Feelings of emptiness, or having been cheated
- Haunted by thoughts “if only things had happened differently”
- Fearing what will happen next
- Doubts or questions concerning why the death occurred
- Desire to run away, or to become very busy in order to avoid the pain of loss
- Feeling like you’re “going crazy” when overwhelmed with the intensity of feelings
Physically, you may experience the following:
- Tightness in the throat or in the muscles
- Heaviness or pressure in the chest
- Inability to sleep
- Periods of nervousness or even panic
- Lack of desire to eat, or desire to overeat
- Experience of visual or auditory hallucinations of the loved one who has died
- Headaches or stomach/intestinal disorders
- Lack of energy
- Inability to concentrate
Taking Care of Yourself
Recognize that grief is a process. People need to work through grief at their own pace. Be gentle with yourself! Here are some suggestions to help you work through the grief process:
- Be willing to surrender to the grief process. Allow yourself the time and the right to grieve.
- Be a healer. Listen to others with compassion and without judgment.
- Allow people to have their own grief experience.
- Talk about it. Find someone you can talk to. This helps to process the feelings you are experiencing.
- Create a Ceremony. A ceremony can take many forms. Consider an actual ceremony or something creative, like writing a poem, keeping a journal, planting a tree, writing a letter to the deceased, praying or adopting a cause (MADD, e.g.), etc. There are healthy ways to develop closure on this chapter of your life and help you create the desire to move on with a healthy, happy, productive life.
The Grief Process
Grief is not something that any of us want to work through. However, an understanding of the process can help to normalize what we are feeling and reassure us that we can once again experience a fulfilling life. Grief can be quite complicated and diverse.
The following grief process guides us through common stages. Not all stages are sequential and we may revisit some stages.
It is normal to experience a state of disbelief or numbness about a loss. We try to keep painful feelings at bay until we are ready to process them. When we are ready, acknowledging feeling of loss will help begin the healing process.
With any sense of loss, we want to withdraw from life. Life seems to lack the spark it once had. Taking time to experience the loss also aids in the healing process.
Often, we ask ourselves, “What could I have done differently?” The feeling that “they left me/us” is very common.
During reconstruction, we develop a sense of closure and acceptance of the death. We develop a feeling of beginning a fresh new chapter in life.
What happens if we do not allow ourselves to work through the stages of grief?
People who do not work though their grief may display behavior such as: overeating, overspending, acting out, lashing out, burying themselves in their work, etc., all to avoid the difficult or painful feelings. Not acknowledging the grief can negatively affect the quality of our lives. It is critically important to allow ourselves to grieve. There are many support groups available to help process grief. It can be of great value to know that you are not alone.
Are there resources if I’m feeling overwhelmed and don’t feel like I can cope?
Yes. Call the Mental Health Hotline for help at 211