Getting Grief Right

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Loss is inevitable. In a death denying society like ours, individuals need information about grief and grieving.

When someone finds themselves confronted with the death of a loved one, or another type of loss, they struggle to come to terms with grief. Grief is one of our most challenging experiences, and we often need help to come to terms with it.

We are unaccustomed to being sad and weighed down by sorrow. Our culture has conditioned us in the so-called stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance and these stages of grief lead us to believe that grief will be temporary and somewhat predictable, even with an enormous loss.  We expect to be able to put it behind us and get on with our life.

More often than not, grief takes much more time than society has been willing to allow.  We identify people as “doing really well,” meaning someone who has experienced a loss but looks as if they were finished grieving. Within a few days of the death they are back at work and seem to function largely as before.  We have often forced unrealistic expectations on people.  We expect them to be “over it” in a relatively short time.

While it is commonly accepted that the intense reactions of grief will subside within six to twelve months, it is also widely acknowledged that some may take years to resolve their grief.  We are all different. Not everyone goes through the identical process, and no one travels at the identical speed.

Every grief or loss experience is unique. Some people take longer than others to work through their experience and emotions.  Some experience an emotion, while others experience a range of emotions.  In addition, our emotions may differ in intensity that what others experience.  Do not compare yourself to others or allow anyone to compare your experience to another situation. Be patient with yourself.  You cannot choose your feelings.  They choose YOU.  So feel what you are feeling.  Try to keep big decisions to a minimum at this sensitive time.  Do not rush yourself as your body, mind and heart require all of your energy just to mend.

The need for us to understand and legitimize grief as a long term process is real and emotions and reactions need to be validated. People need to know that grief is a journey and though it does not end, it evolves into something that we can live with.  Grief is a complex process so you may require guidance to work through it.

Hope brings us comfort. While we must not minimize the pain and difficulty of grief, we need to trust that someday this pain will subside and life will have meaning again.  There is a purpose, even though we may not see it right now. As you are given the grace and the strength to carry on, the feelings of grief will become less painful and occur less often. You will begin to pick up the threads of your life.  You will look toward the future with hope and even pleasure.

Attending a support group can help bring you hope.  People whose loss is recent, who see nothing but despair and darkness, can share with others who have experienced the anguish and recovered. When our pain seems so great, we may question whether others know how we feel.  To see the possibility of recovery will provide that first glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel.

Choosing a hospice that will be ready to meet your family’s needs during a sudden, unexpected loss, or a prolonged illness, is a similarly proactive step that will ensure all surviving loved ones have the resources they need to recover and heal. You have a choice. Hospice of Northwest Michigan provides free grief and loss support for any type of trauma, for children and adults. For more information, call (231) 547-7659 or visit www.hospicenwm.org.