Loss and Grief

What is grief?
Grief is the process a person goes through in coping with a loss. Grief is a deep sadness we feel after the death of a person we love. This deep sadness is different for every person and no one can know exactly what you are experiencing in your grief. While no two people respond to a loss in exactly the same way, the following are often seen as immediate reactions to a loss:

  • shock, numbness
  • denial or inability to acknowledge the death has occurred
  • feelings of being in a fog, appearing dazed
  • confusion
  • loss of appetite
  • difficulty concentrating or making decisions
  • irritability
  • change in sleep patterns
  • feeling that you are “going crazy”
  • anxiety/fear

Most of these reactions are temporary. They are a natural and normal response to a loss.

Understanding the grief process
While the following stages commonly occur in the grief process, it is important to remember that grief does not follow a defined pattern. Grieving is as different as people are different. Certain experiences are common, others may not be. A person may go through the stages in order or they may be all mixed up and repetitive.

Shock/Denial
You feel numb at first. The realization of what has happened comes in waves. You have trouble believing the loss has occurred. People often say they feel like they are walking around in a fog.

Release/Anger
You begin to release feelings, crying, talking about the loss. Often have questions like Why would this happen? How could it happen? Typically feel angry about the loss and may blame others for what has happened or blame self.

Depression/Anxiety
Often alternate between feeling depressed and feeling anxious/fearful. May feel like being left alone, have little energy, trouble sleeping and no appetite. May have physical symptoms such as headache, backache, nausea.

Facing Reality
You begin to talk more about the loss and how it has affected you. Shift of focus to meaning of life, how to honor and remember the loved one.

Acceptance/Adjustment
You begin to resume life, do normal activities. Memories are less painful-more comforting. You begin to feel more hopeful and are able to focus on the present. Acceptance in not a matter of forgetting the person or minimizing the pain. It is a full acceptance that the loss was real, significant, and painful.

How to Take Care of Yourself
Grieving is painful, hard work. It is important to find ways to care for yourself during this difficult time. The things you normally do to release stress are helpful during this time. Some tips:

  • Maintain as normal a schedule as possible, but don’t overdo it. Acknowledge to yourself that you will not be functioning at top form for a while.
  • Spend time with others, even though it may be difficult at first. It’s easy to withdraw when you’re hurt, but now you need the company of others.
  • Express your feelings. Tears are cleansing and healing.
  • Write/draw your feelings/thoughts.
  • Talk about your loss. Seek support from others.
  • Pamper yourself-eat your favorite “comfort” food, wrap yourself up in a special blanket etc.
  • Even though it may be the last thing you want to do, try to get some form of exercise each day.
  • Read a book/listen to music.
  • Find a special way to remember/honor the person you lost. A poem, memory book, art work, involvement in a cause etc.