Grieving Process

The Grieving Process

Grief is a normal response to loss. But because most of us experience it deeply only a few times in our lives, it can be frightening and confusing. Grief is a powerful and sometimes overwhelming experience. It has both emotional and physical effects on us. Because grief is such a personal process, there is no "right way" to grieve. The important thing is to allow our feelings to flow and to talk - talk with someone who can really listen and allow us the time we need to talk or cry. "Being strong" will only make matters more difficult. To grieve is like suddenly being pushed into a cold and swiftly flowing river in which there are rapids and rocks and logs and other submerged objects. As we are carried along in the current, we bump into things in the river. Some of them hurt a lot and some are just annoying. Just as not two persons floating in a river will bump into the exact same things, no two people who grieve will experience exactly the same things. If we do the work of grief, we will be able to swim to the bank and climb out of the river. 

 

Normal Feelings While Grieving

A feeling of numbness - no feelings at all.
A sense of abandonment and desolation.
A sense of protest - "No, this did not happen."
Loss of appetite, an empty feeling in the stomach or "nervous eating" even when not hungry.
Difficulty sleeping.
Guilt - awareness of aspects in the relationship that were less than perfect.
A feeling of "If only. . ."
Anger - at God, at the people around us, at the person who died for leaving us, at those who took care of the one who died, at things which did or did not happen in the relationship.
Restlessness and a desire to be busy, but difficulty in concentrating or finishing what is started.
Aimless activity and forgetfulness.
Wondering if you are "going crazy."
Searching for or expecting the loved one to walk in the door or call on the phone; hearing his or her voice; seeing his or her face; frequent dreaming about the loved one.
A need to tell and retell the details of the death.
Crying at unexpected times and experiencing mood changes for minor reasons.
A desire to remember and talk about life experiences with the loved one.
An awareness that other people are uncomfortable around us and don't know what to say for fear of "upsetting us."
A desire "not to be a bother" to other family members, while at the same time, needing to express the feelings of loss.
Difficulty enjoying special days, like birthdays, weddings, anniversaries and holidays.  Feelings of loss seem acute at these times.
Inability to feel comfortable in church.


It is important to cry and talk when we need to.  Some people are uncomfortable with tears and talk, so we must choose where and with whom to release our feelings.

The most important resource in the grieving process is a good listener - someone who will just let us talk.  this kind of person is not always easy to find.

 

Mourners Code

The Mourner’s Code
Ten Self-Compassionate Principles                        
By Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph.D. from  Understanding Your Grief

Though you should reach out to others as you journey through grief, you should not feel obligated to accept the helpful responses you may receive from some people.  You are the one who is grieving, and as such, you have certain “rights” no one should try to take away from you.

The following list is intended both to empower you to heal and to decide how others can and cannot help.  This is not to discourage you from reaching out to others for help, but rather to assist you in distinguishing useful purposes from hurtful ones.

1.        YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO EXPERIENCE YOUR OWN UNIQUE GRIEF.
No one else will grieve in exactly the same way you do.  When you turn to others for help, don’t allow them to say what you should or should not be doing.

2.        YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO TALK ABOUT YOUR GRIEF.
Talking about your grief will help you heal.  Seek out others who will allow you to talk about your grief as much as you want, as often as you want.  If at times you don’t feel like talking, you also have the right to be silent.

3.           YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO FEEL A MULTITUDE OF EMOTIONS.
Confusion, disorientation, fear, guilt and relief are a few of the emotions you might feel as part of your grief journey.   Others may try to tell you, for example, that feeling angry is wrong.  Don’t take these judgmental  responses to heart.  Instead, find listeners who will accept your feelings without condition.

4.           YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO BE TOLERANT OF YOUR PHYSICAL AND EMOTIONAL LIMITS.
Your feelings of loss and sadness will probably leave you feeling fatigued.  Respect what your body and mind are telling you.  Get daily rest.  Eat balanced meals.  And don’t allow others to push you into doing things you don’t feel ready to do.

5.           YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO EXPERIENCE “GRIEFBURSTS”.
Sometimes, out of nowhere, a powerful surge of grief can overcome you.  This can be frightening, but it is normal and natural.  Find someone who understands and will let you talk it out.

6.        YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO MAKE USE OF RITUAL.
The funeral ritual does more than acknowledge the death of someone loved.  It helps provide you with the support of caring people.  More important, the funeral is a way for you to mourn. If others tell you the funeral or other healing rituals such as these are silly or unnecessary, don’t listen.

7.        YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO EMBRACE YOUR SPIRITUALITY.
If faith is a part of your life, express it in ways that seem appropriate to you.  Allow yourself to be around people who understand and support your religious beliefs.  If you feel angry at God, find someone to talk with who won’t be critical of your feelings of hurt and abandonment.

8.          YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO SEARCH FOR MEANING.
You may find yourself asking, “Why did he or she die?”  Why this way?  Why now?”  Some of your questions may have answers, but some may not.  And watch out for the clichéd responses some people may give you.  Comments like, “It’s God’s will or “Think of what you still have to be thankful for” are not helpful and you do not have to accept them.

9.           YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO TREASURE YOUR MEMORIES.
Memories are one of the best legacies that exist after the death of someone loved.  You will always remember.  Instead of ignoring your memories, find others with whom you can share them.

10.          YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO MOVE TOWARD YOUR GRIEF AND HEAL.
Reconciling your grief will not happen quickly.  Remember, grief is best experienced in ‘doses’. Be patient and tolerant with yourself and avoid people who are impatient or intolerant  with you. Neither you nor those around you must forget that the death of someone loved changes your life forever.               


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