Help with the Grieving Process:
Losing a loved one hurts terribly. You may have painful, frightening, and confusing feelings come over you in sudden, unexpected waves. Whenever possible, don't fight your feelings. Recovering from a death or a major loss (e.g., divorce, health problem, unemployment, financial crisis, broken dream) is a process that takes time and naturally includes cycling through the feelings and responses that are part of the five stages of grief described below.
You don't need to be alone with your grief. There is help! There is hope! Talk with God and people you trust, seeking comfort and support, and in time you will heal and recover, discovering the truth of Jesus' words, "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted." (Matthew 5:4)
At first you may react to the loss with emotional detachment, finding yourself remarkably calm or strangely disassociated from all feeling and saying things like, "This couldn't have happened to me" or "I can't believe this." You're not going crazy, you're in shock. Your psyche is giving you a cushion to help you assimilate the painful event.
- Denying the Loss:
Death and loss are harsh realities that we don't want to accept. This is why it is common to think that you have seen or heard the deceased, to set his or her place at the table, or to find yourself looking for him or her. Similarly, again and again you may think, "If only I had _______ or so and so had _______, then this wouldn't have happened."
- Anger and Guilt:
We can't control death and loss, but we want to. So it's natural to feel angry about it for a season, and to try to place blame for the loss on someone - yourself (called "survivor's guilt"), another, God, or even the deceased. Again and again you may ask, "Why has this happened? Why didn't he _________? Why did God allow this?" You may also be irritable, prone to lose your temper, and have a low frustration tolerance.
During your time of grieving you may lose your interest and zest for living and feel that you can't go on living without your loved one. You may struggle with sadness, emotional overload, discouragement, tiredness and lethargy, difficulty concentrating, eating or sleeping too much or not enough, lack of pleasure, self-pity, and isolation. You may have other feelings too, ranging from panic to relief.
With time, talking through your feelings and memories, and receiving the comfort you need, you will recover from your loss and return to living your life with happiness and purpose. The pain of your loss will diminish, even at times of reminiscing and spontaneous remembering. At first, it might seem disloyal or somehow wrong for you to be happy without your loved one, but you need to press through this. This is a time to rediscover yourself and your life. A time to renew your old interests and friendships and to start new ones too. A time to make plans for your future. Having participated in the grief process will help you to be able to maintain a strong, loving connection with your departed loved one (or your loss) in your heart.
Tips to Help You With Your Grief:
- Consider the year after your loss as a "season of grief," a time to cycle through important dates and memories and to progress through the stages of grief.
- Get help from a grief recovery support group, pastor, or psychotherapist.
- Take the initiative to talk about your grief over and over again with people you trust. (Don't feel sorry for yourself or isolate if people seem to be avoiding you, this is simply due to their embarrassment of not knowing what to say.)
- When your grief is "triggered" by your associations with your loved one (e.g., special dates, places, experiences, songs, smells) go with it (as long as you're in a safe place) by feeling your feelings and reminiscing over your memories.
- Facilitate your grief recovery by doing things like revisiting the grave site or the place where the deceased's ashes were disbursed, listening to a tape of the memorial service, reminiscing over past memories and associations, and reviewing old pictures and memorabilia. 6. Write and share with a support person a letter or series of letters to your loved one and/or to God to help you sort through your feelings.
- Pray and read the Psalms in the Bible for comfort (e.g., the Psalms of Lament, Psalm 3, 7, 13, 25, 44, 74, 79, 80).
Remember, God loves you and so do we at New Hope!
By Dr. Bill Gaultiere
© 2001 NewHopeNow.org. Used by permission.