Grief is not easily discussed or thought about, yet it is something we all experience. My Sunday post, The Dreaded Phone Calls, caused me to reflect on the grieving process. Twenty-three years ago I had limited experience with grief and I’m still learning about the grieving process. I’ve done some research and realize it’s helpful to know what you’re facing and to know you’re not alone. For that reason I’d like to share what I have learned through my experience and research.
1) Grief is a normal part of life. If you love, it is inevitable and it doesn’t take the death of a loved one for it to come. It can appear with the loss of a job, relationship, and opportunities. A life altering accident or illness will cause one or possibly all three, which compounds the grief.
2) The pain is intense. I was not prepared for the emotional pain level I felt. It far out-weighed the physical pain of a broken collarbone and bruised body. Don’t be surprised when emotional pain manifests itself more severe than any physical pain you have experienced.
3) It takes time to heal. My world as I knew it ended, but life does go on, slowly. A new normal does come. You may be okay one minute, one hour or one day and not the next. Learn to accept what your heart and mind are feeling and work through it. Each of us grieves differently. Some situations and circumstances take longer than others. Be patient with yourself and others.
4) It’s okay to cry. No apology is necessary and you should do it as often as you need without feeling weak or embarrassed. But it’s okay to laugh, too. Don’t feel guilty for feeling positive emotions even when dealing with a loss.
5) Take care of yourself. Do healthy things you love even if you don’t feel like it. Eat healthy and take time to exercise. You may feel like you’re just going through the paces of life. Remember, you are still living and need to take care of yourself.
6) Don’t shut people out. It may appear by doing so you will save yourself from more pain and the self-pride of doing it alone. Most people want to be strong and do things on their own. However, cutting yourself off from relationships or refusing someone’s help can hurt you and others. It’s okay to ask for help and it’s okay to need people. Tell friends and family specifically what you need. They will probably thank you for doing so.
7) Grief is a mixture of emotions. I felt despair, numbness, emptiness, guilt, anger, confusion and sadness. These emotions materialized at different times and in different ways. I didn’t like it or want it, but there was no going around it. The only way to get through it is head on.
8) Don’t hide from the pain. If you do, it will fester and grow and consume you. It’s tempting to rationalize, if I don’t think about it, it’ll just go away. While I do believe being busy helps—it’s not an escape from grief. Some people use hobbies, work, relationships or even liquor, sex, drugs, in hopes it will take the pain away. If you are using anything to try to numb the pain, it will make things worse in the long run. Seek help if you’re dealing with the sorrow in unhealthy ways.
9) No one will respond perfectly to your grief. People, even people you love, will let you down. Possibly they are too full with their own grief. Friends you thought would be there won’t be there and people you hardly know will reach out. Be prepared to give others grace. Be prepared to work through hurt and forgiveness at others’ reactions.
10) God will be there for you. Prayer is the gateway of communication with Him. He understands your emotions better than anyone. Your prayers may not be answered the way you want them to be, but without a doubt, He is near to the brokenhearted.
11) You will ask “Why?” If you’re like me, you’ll ask it many times and you may never get an answer. What helps is asking, “How? How can I change and grow from this, how can I become better, how can I embrace others?”
12) Grief changes you. Life will not be normal and routines may need to be different. Try to keep as much structure as possible in your life and minimize the amount of change. Grieving takes most, if not all, of your strength. Do not worry if you don’t have as much energy as you did before your loss. Don’t feel guilty about doing less. Realize anniversaries, holidays, birthdays, places, objects and people may all trigger memories surrounding your loss. Be prepared for a gush of grief during these times. The process of grieving makes a person change who they are emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually. It is okay to change. Embrace the change rather than fight it.
What things have you learned about grief that you wish you’d known before your loss?
“What To Know About Grief” by Kelly Baltzell M.A. & Karin Baltzell Ph.D “15 Things I Wish I’d Known About Grief” by Teryn O’Brien