Grief in any light is a heavy burden to bear. At times, it will make you feel as though you were punched in the stomach, drowning in a rough sea, never able to inhale enough air to keep yourself afloat. Other times, you may feel you can put one foot in front of the other and take on your day, albeit with a heavy heart. Understanding that going through grief will be like riding waves of emotion, and being good to yourself during the process, will be what holds you together as you make your way toward healing.
Grief comes in many different forms and affects people in various ways. Family members may deal with loss of differently, which can challenging to support each other.
However difficult, acknowledging loss is important, as ignoring it delays the grieving process and can make it more painful. Grief is not linear, and some people may need to be left alone as they process it, while others may need support in the form of attention.
Do not feel pressure to cheer up someone in mourning. Instead, sit with them in their sadness, acknowledging the great pain they are feeling in that moment. Providing silent support in terms of homemade meals, childcare and house cleaning is invaluable; grief can give impossible weight to these seemingly thoughtless everyday tasks.
FOR THE GRIEVING
The various stages of bereavement come and go in waves and are intense. Denial, anger, bargaining and depression will be accompanied by loneliness, sadness, anxiety and hopelessness. While the final stage is acceptance, when you are first embarking on your journey, it will feel a world away.
“Understanding that going through grief will be like riding waves of emotion, and being good to yourself during the process, will be what holds you together as you make your way toward healing.”
Allow yourself to go through the stages at your own pace. There will be times the best thing you can do for yourself is to curl up in a ball and let your feelings out through crying.
Sometimes grief will be so great that one can suffer from physical symptoms. You may feel generally unwell, as extreme stress can cause the immune system to decrease in function. It is normal to experience a loss of appetite, insomnia, lethargy and apathy. Aggression is also common, particularly when the death of a loved one is sudden and unexpected.
Loss is traumatic and brings to the surface unanswered questions and unresolved feelings. Although it may be your natural instinct to isolate yourself, it is important not grieve alone. Find support in those who have been there before and can offer empathy. Above all, grief requires you to be kind and patient with yourself. Utilize local networks to find a therapist and/or support group to help you heal.
Kerry Hart, LLMFT is a couple and family therapist in private practice. She is located in both East Lansing and Grand Rapids. www.kerryhartcounseling.com