The loss of a loved one can take its toll on you both
physically and mentally. You may experience a rollercoaster
of emotions. One moment may find you incapacitated by grief, whereas in the next you may
feel almost normal. Anger, fear, guilt, and panic are
just a few of the emotions you may experience. This is completely normal.
The physical effects of grief can include sleeplessness, excessive
fatigue, headaches, general malaise, intestinal upsets, and dizziness. During
periods of extreme stress such as grief, it is crucial that you try to eat regularly and to
rest, since stress can suppress your immune system, making you more prone to illness.
Your grief reaction and subsequent recovery can depend on the
quality of your relationship to the deceased, your capacity to handle stress,
and the type of support network that you have. If your relationship was strained or you have
never experienced the loss of a loved one, your grief may be overwhelming.
Do not be afraid to seek the support of friends and family. They
will want to help but might not be sure how. All too often, those who are grieving
keep their feelings to themselves and feel that others will be able to anticipate their
needs. As difficult as it may seem, it may be necessary for you to take the initiative.
Talk to your local funeral director. Funeral directors are listeners,
advisors, and supporters. They assist those who are grieving every day. Many
funeral homes offer aftercare programs, which are programs designed to help you through
the initial stages of grief.
Your funeral director can also recommend local support groups and reading materials
that can help you understand and cope with your grief.
Even if you weren't directly involved with the funeral arrangements, you can contact your local
funeral home. Family funeral homes are committed to the communities they serve and willingly help those in need.
Normal Stages of the
Since there's very little grief
training in our culture, people are often surprised by how hard their grief
hits them. We usually don't know what to expect until we experience a major loss and begin to suffer the consequences.
It's important to understand that grief is a pervasive experience that impacts the whole person--physically,
mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. It's also important not to be afraid to experience grief symptoms--many people
try to put their grief aside and "get over it," but this only delays
the healing process. As you go through the grieving process, you'll probably
experience three distinct phases of grief.
Most people experience this as their initial
reaction--shock, a feeling of numbness or unreality, and possibly
even denial that the loved one is gone. In this initial phase, our minds begin to adjust to the loss of
our loved one.
Because this is such a difficult time, thinking about or experiencing grief
constantly is too painful, so we go back and
forth between believing the loss has happened and a sense of denial or unreality. It's
critical to give yourself time to adjust to
the loss and to come to terms with it. This stage can last as long as several weeks.
This is a time of chaos for individuals experiencing grief at the loss of a loved
one as they try to adjust to the world without the person in it. During
this phase, we are intensely aware of the reality of our loss, but will try
almost anything to escape it.
This is a period of exhaustion
and intense emotion, and the grieving person will often experience mood swings,
sometimes dramatic ones. Normal emotions at this stage include
anger, extreme sadness, depression, despair, and extreme jealousy
of others who haven't suffered the same loss.
this stage, people begin to understand all the implications of the loss and begin to rebuild
their life. This stage can last a year or
This stage is also known
as acceptance or reorganization. The disrupted stage people go through comes to an
end as they find a new balance. People in mourning become
aware that the physical signs of their grief are beginning to fade
and that they are less exhausted than they once were.
The pain of the loss remains, but the unbearable intensity of it
recedes, and people begin to experience hope
again. Life begins to seem possible again.