I will survive! Coping with Grief
Like a storm that uncontrollably washes wave after wave and threatens to drown you, sorrow and grief may engulf you and devastate you so that you are no longer able to function as you should. This is particularly true if the sorrow is combined with other similarly debilitating emotions – anger, guilt, bitterness and shock. Feelings of sorrow and grief may be caused by the loss of a loved one, dealing with a divorce, receiving news of a terminal illness, losing a home to foreclosure, the death of a pet, irreparable damage to an important relationship or friendship.
Although it seems like one will never fully recover from the grief and pain of loss, going through the grieving process is necessary for one to heal. Although everyone grieves in their own way, there are common reactions to grief. These include:
– Denial or shock. The first reaction would either be shock or denial. “That’s not true.” “I can’t believe this is happening.” “This is all a dream.” People who have lost a loved one sometimes feel that he can go home and see his lost loved one waiting there, safe and sound. As the shock of the moment fades, the grieving person will start to take in the reality of the loss.
– Despair. During the early stages of grieving, the sadness may weigh too heavily that it seems too hard to bear. This is natural. When left unmanaged, though, this sadness may turn into depression. Although the sadness will never quite go away, over time, it will lessen in intensity.
– Bitterness and anger. Grief may cause you to feel angry or bitter and question the unfairness of what happened, why bad things happen to good people. The grieving person may look for someone to blame – God, the person who caused the accident that killed your loved one, or even the person who died.
– Guilt. “The last words we exchanged were angry ones.””I never even got a chance to say goodbye.” Guilt over the grief may be doubly debilitating. You may also blame yourself somehow. The grieving person may go over the things he should have done while the person is alive.
– Acceptance. Reality will start to set in that the loss is permanent and that there is nothing to be done but to accept it. Accepting the loss will help the person move on and heal.
When the negative feelings are left uncontrolled, it may result in some negative and hurtful behaviors. It may also result in physical symptoms. These include nausea, the inability to sleep, heaviness of the body, a tendency to overeat or to starve yourself.
Grief can be hard to bear but it can be managed. Here are some ways you can cope with your loss:
– Surround yourself with friends and loved ones who support you. There is a time when you want to be alone with your grief. But it is important to find people who share your loss and who can grieve with you. These people will be invaluable as you deal with the arrangements necessary immediately after the loss (scheduling funeral services, arranging for the burial, packing your ex-spouse’s things, etc.).
– Don’t disregard your physical needs. Grief will take its toll on you physically. It will make you more susceptible to illness. In order for you to heal and cope with your grief, make sure that you get the sleep and food you need.
– Go get help. If as parents, you have to cope with the loss of a child, it is good to visit a couples counselor for you to be able to deal with the loss as spouses. Don’t be afraid or ashamed to get professional help. When the grief is particularly overwhelming that it negatively affects how you relate with other people and how you get on with your life, it may be time for grief counseling. Getting grief counseling will help you through the healing process. It is better to get help before it is too late and you find yourself getting depressed, develop severe anxiety or other psychological disorders.
– Find other outlets for your grief. Use a journal, start a scrapbook project, learn pottery or painting or do something that will memorialize your lost loved one in a special way. Honoring your lost loved one’s memory creatively will help speed up the healing. That is why grief and loss counselors may use various kinds of therapy involving art, music or writing to help you. Avoid negative outlets such as alcohol and drugs. Go to a Provo substance abuse counselor when you find yourself seeking a drug high or alcoholic oblivion as a way to “forget”.
– Be patient. There is no set time limit for grief. So don’t rush things for yourself.
Be comforted in the fact that you can survive a tragic loss. You will heal and find happiness in life even without someone you hold precious. Dr. Triston Morgan, who has a practice in Provo, Utah, can help you come to terms with your loss in a healthy manner. Dr. Morgan is a licensed Utah marriage and family therapist who has extensive experience helping couples and families establish stronger bonds and experience healing even in the face of a tragic loss.