Coping with Grief
Grief comes to us all at some time in life but understanding how to cope with it can go a long away to healing the hurt.
When people lose someone very close to them, or with whom they have shared a lifetime, it is often hard to believe that it has really happened. There is a wide range of intense feelings that follow. The sadness can be overwhelming; people are often surprised when they feel angry or guilty, but all these emotions are common. There may be unpleasant physical symptoms that should be checked, but which will be normal for the circumstances. In the early weeks there are often concentration problems and confusion. People may feel anxious and fearful for a time.
Initially there are often many people around who can offer support, but as they disperse and get back to their busy lives there may be a long period of loneliness and gradual readjustment when it is better not to make hasty decisions.
There are many local services where those suffering from grief can find out how to deal effectively with their pain and lessen it. Through a range of counseling, nursing, psychological and even psychiatric help, the person stricken with grief can learn how to cope with everyday life and build a future that is positive and fulfilling.
There are three stages of recovery from physical or emotional loss and most experience them all. They are: shock/denial, anger/depression and understanding/acceptance.
It is of vital importance that the person be allowed to express his or her feelings in whatever way they wish (within reason). Talking about the loss to friends, counselors and family can go a long way to beginning the healing process. If you keep your feelings bottled up inside, this process will take much longer.
Hurt is normal and acceptance of the pain can lead to the realization that others are in the same boat as you. This is often a comfort to know you are not alone.
Surround yourself with things that are alive; enjoy your garden, take in a stray kitten, talk to small children. Or take up a new sport. Reaffirm your faith either in religion, spirituality or other ideals that you might hold dear. And, when you're feeling a bit better, don't forget to pamper yourself with a little treat. This will work wonders for the morale.
When you are standing beside some who is grieving
Standing beside someone who is grieving is something that we are all involved in from time to time. At some time, each of us is close to someone else who is experiencing loss. Grief may be caused by the death of a loved one. It may be experienced through retrenchment, separation or divorce, sudden or increasing disability, loss of a pet or separation from home or friends. Grief can have many causes.
A problem we may encounter is that we do not know what to say to the grieving person. This can make us shy away from doing anything. That is sad because, when other people are helpful and supportive, they participate in the healing process which brings purpose and pleasure back into life.
When standing by children and young people in times of grief, understand that their grief is as real as that of adults. Treat their questions and their feelings honestly, seriously and sensitively. Allow them to benefit from the reality of going to the funeral, participating in the sadness and thanksgiving. Like adults, they feel it as well.
People feel the way they feel. If you give permission to people to express and show their feelings, they can then start dealing with them. Please, no ‘should’ or ‘should nots’. If feelings can’t be shared freely and honestly, they may become increasingly difficult to deal with.
Don’t avoid talking about the loss or the person who has died. The other person may get upset when talking of the loss, but it is not you that is upsetting them—it is the loss that is upsetting. The person grieving probably wants to talk about their loss or the loved one who has died. They think about them all the time. Why shouldn’t they want to talk about them? So don’t avoid talking about the loss. They may even need you to raise the subject.
Time heals nothing
What time does do, is allow people to adjust to the new circumstances. Usually the loss can never be replaced. The wound may never be completely healed. Eventually, however, people can reach a point when they can finally go for an hour, a day, a week, even longer without the pain that the absence and emptiness brings.
People do not need your advice. What they need is to know that there is someone who accepts them and their feelings, someone who is willing to share their grief without any ‘should’ or ‘should nots’.
Knowing how someone else feels
No one knows how another person feels so don’t say, “I know exactly how you feel.” You don’t, so don’t say it. Saying this could make the grieving person quite angry even though they say nothing. Don’t impose or project your reactions and feelings onto the other person. It is not helpful.
Be honest and open
If you feel helpless, it is appropriate to say so. Being honest helps others to be honest as well. It is appropriate for you to say that something is sad if that is the way you feel. However, don’t dwell on your feelings. You have come to share the feelings of the grieving person.
Say you’re sorry and then keep quiet. Listening is the way to stand beside someone who is grieving. Grieving people do not need your advice or judgements. They need the support of someone who is willing to listen. They often need another to let them talk and know that they will be accepted and loved. They need YOU more than your words.