Grieving the Loss of a Loved One
What is grief? How long should you grieve the loss of a loved one? What can you do to heal your grief? Guest blogger Rosanne Burke explains.
David Kessler, one of the foremost experts on grief and healing says that “grief is a reflection of a connection that has been lost”. You grieve the loss of a loved one because your connection to that person is no longer there. There is no right or wrong way to grieve, and everyone experiences grief differently. Your grief is as unique as your fingerprint. There is also no specified length of time for how long you should grieve. One of the worst things you can say to someone who is grieving is “you should be over this by now.”
Kessler, along with Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, wrote about the five stages of grief in their book On Grief and Grieving: Finding the Meaning of Grief through the Five Stages of Loss. The five stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. It is important to understand that the stages are not linear, and it is perfectly normal to move back and forth between the stages.
As you travel through the stages of grief, you may experience a wide range of emotions including sadness, loneliness, anger, guilt, anxiety, fear, and relief. You may even feel thankful if you believe that the person is in a better place, no longer in suffering, and reunited with other loved ones who passed before them. Allow your emotions to come to the surface and feel whatever it is that you feel. Don’t stuff your emotions down and think that they will just go away. The only way to get to peace and healing is by working through your emotions.
People express grief in different ways. Some people will cry, and others don’t. One of the myths about grief is that if you’re not crying, you’re not really grieving. That is simply not true. Crying is only one way to express your emotions related to the death of a loved one.
At times you may wish to withdraw and be alone, and at other times, you may feel like being around people. Create a network of support for yourself that includes friends, family members, a minister or rabbi, close colleague, therapist, or counselor. You may also find it helpful to attend a bereavement support group if there is one where you live.
Here are some other tips for dealing with grief:
Don’t put grief on a timeline. Your employer may expect you to be back to work in three days but that doesn’t mean that your grief should be over with.
Talk to someone if you think that will help or spend time alone in solitude. Do what is right for you.
If someone else close to you is also grieving, give them the space they need. Don’t expect them to have the same experience as you.
Take the time to commemorate your loved one in a special way. Plant a tree in their memory, dedicate a park bench with an engraved plaque, or create a scrapbook of your favorite photos and mementos.
Sit, listen and be present for yourself and for others.
Don’t judge your or anyone else’s grief. Don’t think that someone else is doing a better job at grieving than you.
The sadness at times may seem unbearable and you may feel that you will never be happy again. Over time, however, the intensity of sadness lessens, and most people find that it is possible to have a life again after experiencing a loss. Most of all, be kind and gentle with yourself as you travel the healing journey.