Grief is not so much good or bad as it is healthy or unhealthy. It doesn’t feel good as we are going through it, but it can be healthy. No one goes through life without experiencing loss; the passing of a loved one, the breaking of a relationship, the death of a pet, the termination of a job all can elicit deep emotions within us. Sorrow is a universal feeling. It is a price we pay for the gift of love. It is a suffering that can, through compassion and empathy, bring us closer together or because of indifference or feelings of awkwardness, distance or even isolate us.
Sorrow makes us all children again — destroys all differences of intellect. The wisest know nothing. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
The burden of grief cannot be parceled. Each will confront it in his or her own way. In 1969, psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross introduced what became known as the “five stages of grief.” These stages of grief were based on her studies of the feelings of patients facing terminal illness.
The five stages of grief are:
Denial:“This can’t be happening to me.”
Anger:“Why is this happening? Who is to blame?”
Bargaining:“Make this not happen, and in return I will ____.”
Depression: “I’m too sad to do anything.”
Acceptance:“I’m at peace with what happened.”
Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak whispers the o'er-fraught heart and bids it break. ~William Shakespeare
There may be other feelings as well. Remember that feelings are not right or wrong, feelings just are. It is important to acknowledge the emotion and not suppress it. Putting words to the emotion felt at any moment will help in the healing process..
Once acknowledged then you can decide how you will deal or respond to your feelings rather than react to them.. Example:
I feel angry – I am not going to answer you right now.
I feel lonely – can you just stay with me awhile.
I feel stressed – I need time to relax and recompose.
I feel insecure – what is it that I fear? What can I do about it?
I hate myself – what needs to change? What needs to be accepted?
The grieving process is more of a roller coaster ride rather than a series of emotional stages. It may be full of ups and downs, highs and lows. Like many roller coasters, the ride tends to be rougher in the beginning; the lows may be deeper and longer. The difficult periods should become less intense and shorter as time goes by, but it takes time to work through a loss. As with any process, it’s purpose is to come to some end. The end of the grieving process is to come to point of acceptance and to feel whole again, to come to a place where you can enjoy life to its fullest.
We all grieve differently so there may be a number of other emotions that an individual may experience during the grieving process albeit not all of them need be experienced by any individual nor at the same depth or in any particular order.
Some other emotions that may be experienced are:
Can’t feel anything
Often functions like a robot
Don’t seem to be able to react to anything
Anger may be directed to God, self, spouse, children, etc.
Anger may surface very often and upon little provocation
Of former relation, of self, of everyone, of God
Afraid of being left alone
Afraid that you won’t be able to carry the burden
Afraid of going out alone
Afraid of establishing new relationships
Afraid that current life style won’t be maintained
Afraid that career plans will have to change
Afraid of being rejected by friends and family
Assumes full responsibility and burden for the death/divorce/ tragic event
“What if --- I had, I hadn’t
“I should be sad, but at this moment, I am not”
Unable to accept anyone else’s joy
Resents own situation
Lashes out at those who imply “things could be worse”
Unable to see the silver lining of any cloud
Everything is dark
A negative attitude prevails
Being left alone creates a feeling of rejection
I’m not wanted even by the people who are supposed to care most
Friends and family don’t know how to react and often leave the person alone thus intensifying feelings of rejection
Afraid everyone is talking about the incident
Sense of failure
Feels responsible for all family members
Has unrealistic expectations for self
Is afraid to break under all the pressure
Everything is different
Not sure about financial standing
Nervous about what others are thinking
Not confident of succeeding in anything
Feels alone / abandoned (especially at certain times of the day/ night)
Seems to have an empty cavern in self that cannot be filled
If there is anything good that comes from grief it is that this shared experience offers us a chance to exercise compassion. Compassion is the consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it.
“When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand.” - Henri Nouwen
It is common to feel awkward when trying to comfort someone who is grieving. Many people do not know what to say or do. Here are some suggestions.
Acknowledge the situation. Example: "I heard that your_____ died." Use the word "died" That will show that you are more open to talk about how the person really feels.
Express your concern. Example: "I'm sorry to hear that this happened to you."
Be genuine in your communication and don't hide your feelings. Example: "I’m not sure what to say, but I want you to know I care."
Offer your support. Example: "Tell me what I can do for you."
Ask how he or she feels, and don't assume you know how the bereaved person feels on any given day.
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