Achieving a Successful Grief Experience
By Dee Hudgens and Valerie Rhodes, Leawood Counseling Center –
We live in a society where every-one is touched by grief and loss. Many are still in shock from the recent Boston Marathon Bombings and the Oklahoma Tornados. When death or illness disrupt our lives, we may then be deprived of the peace we want.
After any loss, you may experience all kinds of difficult and surprising emotions, such as shock, anger, and guilt. Sometimes it feels like the sadness will never go away. While these feelings can be frightening and overwhelming, they are normal reactions to loss. Accepting them as part of the grieving process and allowing yourself to embrace what you feel is necessary for healing.
Grief: a Natural Response to Loss
There is no right or wrong way to grieve, but there are healthy ways to cope with the pain. You can get through it. Grief that is expressed and experienced has a potential for healing that eventually can strengthen and enrich life. Grief is a natural response to loss. It’s the emotional suffering you feel when something or someone you love is taken away. We have a basic need to grieve and mourn our losses.
You may associate grief with the death of a loved one and this type of loss may cause the most intense grief, however, any loss can cause grief, including some less recognized:
. Loss of health or job
. Relationship breakup
. Loss of a friendship or cherished dream
. Loss of financial stability
. Critical illness of a loved one
. Death of a pet
The more significant the loss, the more intense the grief may be. However, even subtle losses can lead to grief. You might experience grief after moving away from home, graduating from college, changing jobs, selling your home, or even retiring from a career you love.
Healing Happens Gradually
Grieving is a personal and highly individual experience. How you grieve depends on many factors, including your personality, coping style, life experiences, faith, and the nature of the loss. The grieving process takes time. Healing happens gradually, and there is no “normal timetable” for grieving.
Some people start to feel better in weeks or months, but for others, the grieving process may take years. Whatever your grief experience, it is important to be patient with yourself and allow the process to unfold naturally.
Common Grief Symptoms
Loss affects people in different ways and many people experience the following symptoms when they are grieving. It is common to feel like you are going crazy, in a bad dream, or even question your religious beliefs.
Sadness: You may have profound sadness, feelings of emptiness, despair, or deep loneliness. You may cry a lot and feel emotionally unstable.
Guilt: You may regret or feel guilty about things you did or didn’t do. You may feel guilt about certain feelings, such as feeling relieved when a loved one dies after a prolonged illness.
Anger: Even if the loss was no one’s fault, you may feel angry and resentful. If you lost a loved one, you may be angry with yourself, God, the doctors, nurses or even the person who died for abandoning you.
Fear: A significant loss can trigger lots of worries and fears. You may feel helpless, anxious, or insecure. Panic attacks are common. The death of a loved one can trigger fears about your own mortality.
Shock and Disbelief: Immediately following the loss, it can be hard to accept what happened. You may feel numb, have trouble believing the loss really happened or even deny the truth. You may even keep expecting them to show up.
Physical Symptoms: We often think of grief as an emotional process, but grief may involve physical problems, such as fatigue, nausea, weight gain or loss, aches, pains, lowered immunity and insomnia.
Grief Compared to Depression
Grief and clinical depression share many symptoms. Grief is like a roller coaster with a wide variety of emotions and a mix of good and bad days. Even in the grieving process, you will have moments of pleasure and happiness.
Depression, on the other hand, leaves you with feelings of constant emptiness and despair. 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. Left untreated, complicated grief and depression can lead to significant emotional damage, life-threatening health problems, and even suicide. Contact a grief counselor or professional therapist if you are:
. Unable to perform your daily activities
. Having difficulty trusting others since your loss
. Feeling numb and disconnected from others for more than a few weeks
. Blaming yourself for the loss or for failing to prevent it
. Wishing you had died with your loved one
. Feeling like life isn’t worth living
Grief You Can Use Workshop
Begins August 15, 2013
In addition to individual counseling, Dee and Valerie conduct a 6 session Workshop offered in a group setting entitled Grief You Can Use. The Workshop is designed to teach individuals skills and tools to help cope with grief and continue life after any type of loss. Topics covered include: coping skills; appropriate expectations; handling multiple losses; dealing with holidays and special days; and concludes with The Mourner’s Bill of Rights.
Previous Workshop participants have expressed a deep appreciation for the knowledge gained and the affordability of the group. Having two therapists available at each session, plus all the printed materials, are a great benefit to a grieving person. The next session begins on Thursday, August 15, 2013. Contact Dee or Valerie to register.
Dee M. Hudgens, RN, BSN, LSCSW
Valerie Rhodes, BA
Certified Grief & Loss Christian