Allow Yourself to Mourn
Someone you love died. You are now faced with the difficult, but important, need to mourn. Mourning is the open expression of thoughts and feelings regarding the death and the person. It is essential to healing.
You are beginning a journey that is often frightening, painful, overwhelming and sometimes lonely. Here are practical suggestions to help you move toward healing in your personal grief experience.
Talk About Your Grief
Express your grief openly. Healing occurs by sharing with others. Ignoring grief won't make it go away; talking about it makes you feel better. Allow yourself to speak from your heart, not just your head. It doesn't mean you are losing control, or going "crazy." It is a normal part of your grief journey.
Find caring friends and relatives who listen without judging. Seek out people who will "walk with," not "in front of" or "behind" you in your journey through grief. Avoid people who are critical or who try to steal grief from you. They may tell you, "keep your chin up," "carry on" or "be happy." While these comments may be well-intended, you do not have to accept them. You have a right to express your grief; no one has the right to take it away.
Expect to Feel a Multitude of Emotions
Experiencing a loss affects your head, heart and spirit. You may experience a variety of emotions as part of your grief work. Confusion, disorganization, fear, guilt, relief or explosive emotions are just a few of the emotions you may feel. Sometimes these emotions will follow each other within a short period of time, or they may occur simultaneously.
As strange as some emotions may seem, they are normal and healthy. Allow yourself to learn from these feelings. Don't be surprised if, out of nowhere, you suddenly experience surges of grief, even at the most unexpected times. Grief attacks can be frightening and leave you feeling overwhelmed. They are a natural response to the death of someone loved. Find someone who understands your feelings and allows you to talk about them.
Allow for Numbness
Feeling dazed or numb when a loved one dies is often part of your early grief experience. This numbness serves a valuable purpose: it gives your emotions time to catch up with what your mind has told you. This feeling helps create insulation from the reality of the death until you are more able to tolerate what you don't want to believe.
Be Tolerant of Physical and Emotional Limits
Your feelings of loss and sadness will probably leave you fatigued. Your ability to think clearly and make decisions may be impaired. And your low energy level may naturally slow you down. Respect what your body and mind are telling you. Nurture yourself. Get daily rest. Eat balanced meals. Lighten your schedule as much as possible. Caring for yourself doesn't mean feeling sorry for yourself; it means you are using survival skills.
Embrace Your Spirituality
If faith is part of your life, express it in ways that seem appropriate to you. Allow yourself to be around people who understand and support your religious beliefs. If you are angry at God because of the death, realize this feeling is a normal part of your grief work. Find someone to talk with who won't be critical of whatever thoughts and feelings you need to explore.
Someone may say, "With faith, you don't need to grieve." Don't believe it. Personal faith does not insulate you from needing to talk and explore your thoughts and feelings. To deny your grief is to invite problems that build up inside you. Express your faith, but express your grief as well.
Allow a Search for Meaning
You may find yourself asking, "Why did he die?" "Why this way?" "Why now?" This search for meaning is another normal part of healing. Some questions have answers. Some do not. Actually, the healing occurs in the opportunity to pose the questions, not necessarily in answering them. Find a supportive friend who will listen responsively as you search for meaning.
Treasure Your Memories
Memories are one of the best legacies that exist after someone loved dies. Treasure them. Share them with your family and friends. Recognize that your memories may make you laugh or cry. In either case, they are a lasting part of the relationship that you had with a very special person in your life.
Move Toward Your Grief and Heal
The capacity to love requires the necessity to grieve when someone dies. You can't heal unless you openly express your grief. Denying grief only makes it more confusing and overwhelming. Embrace your grief and heal.
Reconciling grief will not happen quickly. Remember, grief is a process, not an event. Be patient and tolerant with yourself. Never forget that the death of someone loved changes your life forever. It's not that you won't be happy again. Simply, you will never be exactly the same as you were before.
Dr. Alan D. Wolfelt