Grief is perhaps an unknown territory for you. You might feel both helpless and hopeless without a sense of a ‘map’ for the journey. Confusion is the hallmark of a transition. To rebuild both your inner and outer world is a major project. – Anne Grant
Book after book has been written about grief. You can google “types of grief” and millions of results will instantly appear. Researchers spend entire careers trying to analyze and dissect it.This makes it a little difficult to summarize what you need to know. Thus, I will give you a small slice of what I think is important and, if something stands out, encourage you to research what others have also said about it or make a comment and I will try to provide you with more information.
What is grief?
Grief is a multifaceted response to loss. In most cases it is applied to the period of mourning after the death of a loved one. This can also be labelled as bereavement. Grief is a completely natural process. There are many types of grief to include: normal or common grief, complicated grief, anticipatory grief, chronic grief and more.
How long will I feel like this?
Everyone grieves differently. Because of this there is no “normal” timetable for grieving. Grief is an emotional roller coaster. It is full of ups and downs, highs and lows. However, most people who have been through the loss of a loved one will tell you the beginning tends to be the roughest, then over time (even years) the experience of grief will lessen allowing us to live with the pain of loss. This is completely unique to the individual. Therefore, focus on how you feel. If you are happy, sad, angry or content, that is ok.
Is it normal to randomly start crying?
Yes, you are running through a strong range of emotions. Later down the road, something seemingly small or benign might trigger you to tears. Triggers can be common reminders of the person you love. Triggers are ideas, thoughts, moments, objects or anything that reminds you of your loss. If something triggers you, such as a fleeting thought, and you instantly breakdown, note what it was a try to understand why it made you break down.
Is it normal not to cry?
Yes. While crying is the common response to sadness, it is not the only one. Not crying does not exclude people from the pain of loss.
How should I cope with grief?
The highest factor in healing from loss is having support. Support suggestions are:
- friends and family members
- Religious and Spiritual comfort
- Join a support Group
- Talk to a therapist or grief counselor
Do whatever you need to take care of yourself. Here are a few suggestions:
- Face your feelings
- Express those feeling in a tangible way.
- Eat, Sleep, and Exercise
- Plan ahead for how you want to handle significant anniversaries, holidays, and dates.
- Try to avoid self-medicating with alcohol and drugs.
***Personally, I spent a lot of time writing simple words in a journal because my brain couldn’t string coherent sentences together. After a time, I started photographing myself as I felt different emotions. Eventually I wrote poetry and combined the poems with the photographs. I lived across the Pacific Ocean from my family, but called and talked to my parents whenever I was really hurting. I went to a therapist. I created a bucket list of the things I wanted to do and started checking them off the next day. I also self-medicated with alcohol when things became too much. Now, five years later I am creating a blog to pass on my experiences as well as, trying to get into grad school for clinical psychology focused on complicated grief. Figure out what works for you.
How do I deal with other people?
Other people will have no idea what you are going through. Try to be kind. Some people will want to help you. Let them. Others will take advantage of you. It happens and is unfortunate. Hold on to the people who care about you. Keep in mind they may not know what to say or do. Let them know, how you are feeling and try to guide them. You don’t have to talk about how you are feeling or what happened with everyone. If someone is trying to talk about what happen with you and you don’t want to, try saying “I understand that you are concerned and are simply trying to help, but I don’t want to think about this right now. Can we talk about something else or _______?” If that doesn’t work just walk away. Most will wait for you to determine their interaction. In short, set boundaries and guide them.
What is normal?
Kübler-Ross model(1969) determined that there are fives stages of grief. They are
While these are well known and considered normal stages, they are simply a theory. The theory states that they are not linear stages and not everyone goes through every stage. Another well-supported theory created by George Bonanno’s research points to four trajectories of grief instead:
- Chronic dysfunction
- Delayed grief or trauma
***Overall, anything you feel or do is normal.
Will I recover?
Yes, you will.
If there is something you have learned about grief please share it in the comments below.