The loss of a loved one can take its toll on you both physically and mentally. You may experience a rollercoaster
of emotions. One moment may find you incapacitated by grief, whereas in the next you may feel almost normal. Anger, fear,
guilt, and panic are just a few of the emotions you may experience. This is completely normal.
The physical effects of grief can include sleeplessness, excessive fatigue, headaches, general malaise, intestinal
upsets, and dizziness. During periods of extreme stress such as grief, it is crucial that you try to eat regularly and to
rest, since stress can suppress your immune system, making you more prone to illness.
Your grief reaction and subsequent recovery can depend on the quality of your relationship to the deceased,
your capacity to handle stress, and the type of support network that you have. If your relationship was strained or you have
never experienced the loss of a loved one, your grief may be overwhelming.
Do not be afraid to seek the support of friends and family. They will want to help but might not be sure how.
All too often, those who are grieving keep their feelings to themselves and feel that others will be able to anticipate their
needs. As difficult as it may seem, it may be necessary for you to take the initiative.
Talk to your local funeral director. Funeral directors are listeners, advisors, and supporters. They assist
those who are grieving every day. Many funeral homes offer aftercare programs, which are programs designed to help you through
the initial stages of grief.
Your funeral director can also recommend local support groups and reading materials that can help you understand
and cope with your grief. Even if you weren't directly involved with the funeral arrangements, you can contact your local
funeral home. Family funeral homes are committed to the communities they serve and willingly help those in need.
Normal Stages of the Grieving Process
Since there's very little grief training in our culture, people are often surprised by how hard their grief
hits them. We usually don't know what to expect until we experience a major loss and begin to suffer the consequences.
It's important to understand that grief is a pervasive experience that impacts the whole person--physically,
mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. It's also important not to be afraid to experience grief symptoms--many people try
to put their grief aside and "get over it," but this only delays the healing process. As you go through the grieving process,
you'll probably experience three distinct phases of grief.
Shock and Denial
Most people experience this as their initial reaction--shock, a feeling of numbness or unreality, and possibly
even denial that the loved one is gone. In this initial phase, our minds begin to adjust to the loss of our loved one.
Because this is such a difficult time, thinking about or experiencing grief constantly is too painful, so
we go back and forth between believing the loss has happened and a sense of denial or unreality. It's critical to give yourself
time to adjust to the loss and to come to terms with it. This stage can last as long as several weeks.
This is a time of chaos for individuals experiencing grief at the loss of a loved one as they try to adjust
to the world without the person in it. During this phase, we are intensely aware of the reality of our loss, but will try
almost anything to escape it.
This is a period of exhaustion and intense emotion, and the grieving person will often experience mood swings,
sometimes dramatic ones. Normal emotions at this stage include anger, extreme sadness, depression, despair, and extreme jealousy
of others who haven't suffered the same loss.
During this stage, people begin to understand all the implications of the loss and begin to rebuild their
life. This stage can last a year or more.
This stage is also known as acceptance or reorganization. The disrupted stage people go through comes to an
end as they find a new balance. People in mourning become aware that the physical signs of their grief are beginning to fade
and that they are less exhausted than they once were.
The pain of the loss remains, but the unbearable intensity of it recedes, and people begin to experience hope
again. Life begins to seem possible again.