Hey, guys, to say it’s been a stressful week is a huge understatement. So current update: I will be done with college in December, so if you are in South Carolina and know job openings please let me know. I got baptized Saturday as well; in a river, like Jesus!
Good news typically is followed by storm of bad news and bad news came crashing to my family. I ask for prayers. This post is going to be about death and how to cope with loss, because eventually we will all need to cope the loss of a loved one. Losing someone or something you love or care deeply about is very painful. You may experience all kinds of difficult emotions and it may feel like the pain and sadness you’re experiencing will never let up. These are normal reactions to a significant loss. But while there is no right or wrong way to grieve, there are healthy ways to cope with the pain, and in time the coping can renew you and permit you to move on.
Grief is a natural response to loss. It’s the emotional suffering you feel when something or someone you love is taken away. You may associate grief with the death of a loved one which is often the cause of the most intense type of grief, but any loss can cause grief, including:
Divorce or relationship breakup
Loss of health- this is a really big one if the illness becomes part of the person’s identity.
Losing a job – also a big one because it can lead to:
Loss of financial stability
A miscarriage- the loss of a loved one, Yes I am pro-life.
Death of a pet- yes, losing my pet would cause great grief. I already have a mental hospital where I will go to be treated for depression when Kookie passes.
A loved one’s serious illness- clearly
Loss of a friendship
Selling the family home- this is so true, when I moved from my home of 10 years, I felt like I was losing a close friend.
The more significant the loss, the more intense the grief. However, even subtle losses can lead to grief.
Let’s talk about some myths before anything else:
MYTH: The pain will go away faster if you ignore it.
Fact: Trying to ignore your pain or keep it from surfacing will only make it worse in the long run. For real healing it is necessary to face your grief and actively deal with it.
MYTH: It’s important to be “be strong” in the face of loss.
Fact: Yes, because when your leg is broken, if you ignore it, the leg will heal by itself just how it was before. Feeling sad, frightened, or lonely is a normal reaction to loss. Crying doesn’t mean you are weak, it means you are not a robot but human. You don’t need to “protect” your family or friends by putting on a brave front. Showing your true feelings can help them and you.
MYTH: If you don’t cry, it means you aren’t sorry about the loss.
Fact: Crying is a normal response to sadness, but it’s not the only one. Those who don’t cry may feel the pain just as deeply as others. They may simply have other ways of showing it either through anger or busyness.
MYTH: Grief should last about a year.
Fact: There is no right or wrong time frame for grieving. How long it takes can differ from person to person.
Okay, so grief can last as long as a life time, and it usually in stages.
In 1969, psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross introduced what became known as the “five stages of grief.”
The five stages of grief:
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.”
Contrary to popular belief, you do not have to go through each stage in order to heal. You can go from depression to anger to acceptance. In fact, some people resolve their grief without going through any of these stages. And if you do go through these stages of grief, you probably won’t experience them in a neat, sequential order, so don’t worry about what you “should” be feeling or which stage you’re supposed to be in.
Common symptoms of grief
Grieving is a personal and highly individual experience. How you grieve depends on many factors, including your personality and coping style, your life experience, your faith, and the nature of the loss. The grieving process takes time. Healing happens gradually; it can’t be forced or hurried—and there is no “normal” timetable for grieving. Some people start to feel better in weeks or months. For others, the grieving process is measured in years. Whatever your grief experience, it’s important to be patient with yourself and allow the process to naturally unfold.
While loss affects people in different ways, many experience the following symptoms when they’re grieving. Just remember that almost anything that you experience in the early stages of grief is normal and this includes feeling like you’re going crazy (you are not going crazy), feeling like you’re in a bad dream, or questioning your religious beliefs (please don’t remember that He has a plan for us all, and sometimes He slams doors close so the right one will remain open).
Shock and disbelief – Right after a loss, it can be hard to accept what happened. You may feel numb, have trouble believing that the loss really happened, or even deny the truth. If someone you love has died, you may keep expecting him or her to show up, even though you know he or she is gone. This is denial (not the river in Egypt).
Sadness – Profound sadness is probably the most universally experienced symptom of grief. You may have feelings of emptiness, despair, yearning, or deep loneliness. You may also cry a lot or feel emotionally unstable (depression usually arises from these feelings).
Guilt – You may regret or feel guilty about things you did or didn’t say or do. After a death, you may even feel guilty for not doing something to prevent the death, even if there was nothing more you could have done.
Anger – Even if the loss was nobody’s fault, you may feel angry and resentful. If you lost a loved one, you may be angry with yourself, God, the doctors, or even the person who died for abandoning you.
Fear – A significant loss can trigger a host of worries and fears. You may feel anxious, helpless, or insecure. You may even have panic attacks. The death of a loved one can trigger fears about your own mortality, of facing life without that person, or the responsibilities you now face alone.
Physical symptoms – We often think of grief as a strictly emotional process, but grief often involves physical problems, including fatigue, nausea, lowered immunity, weight loss or weight gain, aches and pains, and insomnia.
Here are a few ways to cope with grief.
Coping with grief and loss tip 1: Get support
I hate to be the one to break the bad news, but you are not Superman or Wonder Woman (I’m Wonder Woman). I’m kidding, not even I am. The single most important factor in healing from loss is having the support of other people. Even if you aren’t comfortable talking about your feelings under normal circumstances, it’s important to express them when you’re grieving. Sharing your loss makes the burden of grief easier to carry.
Tip 2: Finding support after a loss
Turn to friends and family members. They want to help you. Now is the time to lean on the people who care about you, even if you take pride in being strong and self-sufficient. Draw loved ones close, rather than avoiding them, and accept the assistance that’s offered.
Tip 3: Draw comfort from your faith
If you follow a religious tradition, embrace the comfort its mourning rituals can provide. Spiritual activities that are meaningful to you such as praying, meditating, or going to church can offer solace. If you’re questioning your faith in the wake of the loss, talk to a clergy member or others in your religious community.
Tip 4: Join a support group
Grief can feel very lonely, even when you have loved ones around. Sharing your sorrow with others who have experienced similar losses can help. To find a bereavement support group in your area, contact local hospitals, hospices, funeral homes, and counseling centers.
Tip 5: Talk to a therapist or grief counselor
If your grief feels like too much to bear, call a mental health professional with experience in grief counseling. An experienced therapist can help you work through intense emotions and overcome obstacles to your grieving.
Tip 6: Take care of yourself
When you’re grieving, it’s more important than ever to take care of yourself. The stress of a major loss can quickly deplete your energy and emotional reserves. Looking after your physical and emotional needs will help you get through this difficult time. Look after your physical health. The mind and body are connected. When you feel good physically, you’ll also feel better emotionally. Combat stress and fatigue by getting enough sleep, eating right, and exercising. Don’t use alcohol or drugs to numb the pain of grief or lift your mood artificially.
Really, the last thing you need is to get the cold or the flu. Please care of yourself. Remember you can’t pour from an empty glass.
Tip 7: Face your feelings
You can try to suppress your grief, but you can’t avoid it forever. In order to heal, you have to acknowledge the pain. Trying to avoid feelings of sadness and loss only prolongs the grieving process. Unresolved grief can also lead to complications such as depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and health problems. It’s like having a broken bone, only one way to heal and that is will expressing the fact that it is broken.
Tip 8: Express your feelings in a tangible or creative way.
This is actually my favorite form of therapy. Write about your loss in a journal. If you’ve lost a loved one, write a letter saying the things you never got to say; make a scrapbook or photo album celebrating the person’s life; or get involved in a cause or organization that was important to him or her.
Tip 9: Don’t let anyone tell you how to feel, and don’t tell yourself how to feel either.
Your grief is your own, and no one else can tell you when it’s time to “move on” or “get over it.” Let yourself feel whatever you feel without embarrassment or judgment. It’s okay to be angry, to yell at the heavens, to cry or not to cry. It’s also okay to laugh, to find moments of joy, and to let go when you’re ready.
Tip 10: Plan ahead for grief “triggers.”
Anniversaries, holidays, and milestones can reawaken memories and feelings. Be prepared for an emotional wallop, and know that it’s completely normal. If you’re sharing a holiday or lifecycle event with other relatives, talk to them ahead of time about their expectations and agree on strategies to honor the person you loved.
It’s normal to feel sad, numb, or angry following a loss. But as time passes, these emotions should become less intense as you accept the loss and start to move forward. If you aren’t feeling better over time, or your grief is getting worse, it may be a sign that your grief has developed into a more serious problem, such as complicated grief or major depression.
The sadness of losing someone you love never goes away completely, but it shouldn’t remain center stage. If the pain of the loss is so constant and severe that it keeps you from resuming your life, you may be suffering from a condition known as complicated grief. Complicated grief is like being stuck in an intense state of mourning. You may have trouble accepting the death long after it has occurred or be so preoccupied with the person who died that it disrupts your daily routine and undermines your other relationships.
Symptoms of complicated grief include:
Intense longing and yearning for the deceased
Intrusive thoughts or images of your loved one
Denial of the death or sense of disbelief
Imagining that your loved one is alive
Searching for the person in familiar places
Avoiding things that remind you of your loved one
Extreme anger or bitterness over the loss
Feeling that life is empty or meaningless
The difference between grief and depression
Distinguishing between grief and clinical depression isn’t always easy as they share many symptoms, but there are ways to tell the difference. Remember, grief can be a roller coaster. It involves a wide variety of emotions and a mix of good and bad days. Even when you’re in the middle of the grieving process, you will have moments of pleasure or happiness. With depression, on the other hand, the feelings of emptiness and despair are constant.
Other symptoms that suggest depression, not just grief:
Intense, pervasive sense of guilt
Thoughts of suicide or a preoccupation with dying
Feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness
Slow speech and body movements
Inability to function at work, home, and/or school
Seeing or hearing things that aren’t there
When to seek professional help for grief
If you recognize any of the above symptoms of complicated grief or clinical depression, talk to a mental health professional right away. Left untreated, complicated grief and depression can lead to significant emotional damage, life-threatening health problems, and even suicide. But treatment can help you get better.
Contact a grief counselor or professional therapist if you:
Feel like life isn’t worth living
Wish you had died with your loved one
Blame yourself for the loss or for failing to prevent it
Feel numb and disconnected from others for more than a few weeks
Are having difficulty trusting others since your loss
Are unable to perform your normal daily activities
Remember you are not alone while suffering. Please seek if you or anyone you know shows signs of complicated grief or depression. Remember you are loved, and the love you had for that person is always with you.
“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” ~ Revelations 21: 3-4