In our society we often do not discuss, or understand feelings of grief and loss until it happens to us. One important thing to understand is that these feelings are normal. The stages of grieving are marked by feelings which seem confusing or even “crazy” to you and to those around you. There is no set time limit for any of the stages, and they can occur in any order. The duration of each stage can be affected by individual situations and circumstances. Do not feel it is a weakness if you are unable to cope with your feelings alone. Try reaching out to others such as your Clergy person, a counselor, or a friend. Don’t hold things inside, instead, discuss your feelings with someone. Seek healthy ways to cope with your loss.
Below is a list of some of the common symptoms we experience when we encounter a loss. You may see yourself in one of these, some of these, or all of these. Understand that you need to care for yourself first, and that someday you will feel better.
Listed below are some of the common symptoms that people experience when encountering the loss of a loved one.
Shock and Denial
Initially, most people experience shock, or feelings of numbness or unreality. Occasionally, we might deny that the person has died. Such feelings are normal. These feelings help our mind to adjust to the loss of a loved one. This stage of grief may last for a short time, or last for several weeks.
When the pain of your loss emerges you may feel angry. The anger can be directed at most anything including the person you lost, friends, family, medical personal, and even yourself. If you are feeling these emotions, seek positive ways to work through this. Go for a walk, talk to a counselor, or friend. Understand the feelings will pass with time.
It is normal to have feelings of helplessness and vulnerability. This is one way of regaining control. Thoughts like “if only they had gone to the doctor sooner” or “if only they had not changed their mind about treatment” are common during this time. Our mind can create many different “what if” scenarios. Like anger, it is one way that our mind is trying to deal with the pain of loss.
At times you may cry or feel sad. This stage usually lasts about six months. If symptoms of depression last longer than six months, it is time to seek professional help. Changing your routine may be helpful. Try going for walks, visiting a friend, going to a public place, and doing things you enjoy. It is normal during the first year or two to feel the loss more intensely on holidays, birthdays, and anniversaries. Try to plan something special on these days to help you make it through this time. Accept that these feelings are normal.
Acceptance comes when we feel begin to feel calm. We have accepted the loss and have made peace with our self. The pain is often still there, but it doesn’t have the same intensity, and we begin to experience hope again.