When a loved one dies, the grieving process is very emotional; recovering is slow and painful. Often, we don't know what to expect when we are faced with death and the consequences that arise. The grieving process can be less painful if you try to understand that loss and grief is a natural part of life. As you go through this process, you may experience certain symptoms. It is important to learn about these stages and begin to cope with your loss. Everyone who experiences a death goes through these three stages during the grieving process:
These are the stages of grieving and mourning. It is important to know that everyone's experience of grief is unique to them and their loss.
Denial and Shock
At first, it may be difficult for you to accept your own dying or the death of a loved one. As a result you will deny the reality of death. It is a difficult time period as we go back and forth between believing the loss has occurred and denying reality. However, this denial will gradually diminish as you begin to express and share your feelings about death and dying with family and friends.
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.
Normal Experiences During Grief
♦ erratic appetite
♦ feeling overwhelmed
♦ feeling drugged
♦ feeling "crazy"
♦ disinterest in life
♦ feeling out of control
♦ distortions in time
♦ easily distracted
♦ embarrassment about feelings
♦ hallucinations or visions
♦ disturbed sleep patterns
♦ bargaining with, or anger at God
♦ comparing the loss to other’s losses
♦ feeling disconnected from family or friends
♦ feeling like you’re "falling apart"
♦ unwilling or incapable of making decisions
♦ seems like nothing matters or has meaning
♦ overwhelming panic that nothing will be the same again
♦ feeling of spinning around, but getting nowhere
Ways to Cope with Death and Dying
- Discuss feelings such as loneliness, anger, and sadness openly and honestly with other family members and friends.
- Maintain hope.
- If your religious convictions are important to you, talk to a member of the clergy about your beliefs and feelings.
- Join a support group.
- Take good care of yourself. Eat well-balanced meals. Get plenty of rest.
- Be patient with yourself. It takes time to heal. Some days will be better than others.